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In the APS Division Operational Definition of Giftedness, APS defines giftedness as:

Learners within the school population who demonstrate or have the potential to demonstrate exceptional aptitude and talent in specific academic areas ( English, mathematics, science, or social studies) in grades K-12 and/or visual and performing arts (vocal or instrumental) in grades 3-12.

APS has created an identification process that aligns with this definition of giftedness. When identifying students, we use a multi-faceted approach.

The Operational Definition Of Giftedness also states:

We seek to identify and serve the diverse population of Arlington Public Schools by providing services to children of all socioeconomic, language, and unique cognitive and artistic needs through the use of multiple criteria to identify students’ individual characteristics, unique learning styles, and affective needs.

In order to accomplish these goals, we follow a three phase process:

  • Referral
  • Screening
  • Placement


Callahan (2018) states that best practices in referral will give consideration to multiple approaches when determining the pool of students that will go through the identification process. The referral process is ongoing. Referrals can be made throughout the year and at any grade level. This approach recognizes that giftedness can take time to develop and behaviors/ characteristics may present over time and with exposure to new opportunities.

Students may be referred in the following areas:

  • Specific Academic Aptitude (K-12):
    • English
    • Mathematics
    • Science
    • Social Studies
  • Visual or Performing Arts (3-12):
    • Visual Arts
    • Vocal Music
    • Instrumental Music (string or wind instruments taught in APS)

Students may be referred for services by their classroom teacher, school personnel, parents/guardians, community leaders, and self or other students until April 1st of the current school year. A referral form must be filled out and given to the Advanced Academics Coach. Referral Forms are also available in SpanishBengaliAmharicMongolian, and Arabic.

Please note there are also instances of automatic referral.  This can occur when students are assessed with a Universal Screening Tool or have taken a private ability test. APS screens students in the 2nd and 4th grade (more information below). Students that are new to APS are also screened.


Each year, the total population of our school is screened by school staff to create a pool of eligible, highly able candidates based on students’ participation and performance in various academic and arts activities.

 Screening is formal: We review all test scores following standardized testing, and scholastic academic performance.

Screening is also informal: We note students’ competitions, awards, honors, and participation in school events.

These components of screening help the committee make an educated decision on the need for services. The AAC works with and supports teachers in creating a portfolio for each student. This portfolio is a collection of work chosen to exemplify and document a student’s learning progress over time (Matthews, 2018, 142).  The screening process takes place in the Spring.

There are four main components for a holistic case study approach. 

  1. Ability Assessments (Normed Referenced)-Assessments used by APS are current, valid, and reliable instruments.
    • Your APS middle school student has taken:
      • Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (Given in 2nd grade)
      • CogAT (Given in 4th grade)
    • Other Test Scores, such as..
      • Ability tests like the WISC (parent provided), Kaugman-Brief Intelligence Test (KBIT) (Kindergarten referrals), etc.
  2. School-Based Achievement Test
    • County Level
      • SOLs and other available achievement data
    • School Level
      • Ongoing formative and summative assessments
    • Individual Level
      •  Honors or distinctions
  3. Student Behaviors/ Characteristics
    • Local screening committee completes a Gifted Behavior Commentary (GBC)
      • Documents gifted characteristics/ behaviors observed in a variety of settings.
    • Parent Information Sheet
      • Documents gifted characteristics and behaviors observed in a variety of settings across four categories.
      • Provides an opportunity for parents to share examples that the school team may not have had an opportunity to observe during the day.
  4. Demonstrated Performance
    • Distinguished levels of performance when working with advanced content.
      • Examples may include:
        • Advanced mathematics or problem solving
        • Unique interpretive responses in language arts and reading
        • Critical analysis of primary source documents in social studies
        • Creative problem solving and unique approaches to science projects and experiments
    • Visual and Performing Arts (VPA)
      • Referrals for Visual/ Performing Arts begin in grade 3.
      • Art and Music Teacher observations of artistic behaviors
      • Student products provided by art/ music teachers
      • Grades
      • Parent Information Form


In the final stage of the identification process, a school-based screening committee will meet and review the portfolio using a holistic, case study approach to look for a trend of consistent, demonstrated strengths with the academic area(s) in order to determine eligibility for gifted services.  Callahan (2018) recommends, “the [committee] making the decision should reflect expertise in gifted education and the gifted services offered in the school, expertise in interpreting tests scores and subjective student data, a deep understanding of cultural differences in the manifestation of giftedness, and administrative commitment to providing appropriate services based on student need” (p.97-98).  These recommendations are followed as we comprise our committee.

  • Identification decisions are sent to parents via mail.

If students are found eligible:

  • To find out more about delivery of services, please visit this link.

An Appeals Process is available to families following the eligibility process. An appeal begins at the school level with the principal. The second level of appeals involves a county-wide Gifted Services Administrative Appeals Committee.

Click Here for Terms Related to Identification


Arlington Public Schools. https://www.apsva.us/gifted-services/

Arlington Public Schools. (2017). Local Plan for the Education of the Gifted. https://www.apsva.us/gifted-services/2017-2022-gifted-services-local-plan/

Board, K. (2020). Williamsburg Middle School. https://williamsburg.apsva.us/gifted-services-williamsburg/

Callahan, C.M. (2018). Identification of gifted and talented students. In C. M.     Callahan & H.L. Herberg-Davis (Eds.), Fundamentals of gifted education:     considering multiple perspectives (2nd Edition, pp.94-102). New York, NY:     Routledge.

Matthews, M.S. (2018). Utilizing non-test assessments in identifying gifted and talented learners. In C. M. Callahan & H.L. Herberg-Davis (Eds.), Fundamentals of gifted education: considering multiple perspectives (2nd Edition, pp.135-145). New York, NY: Routledge.

Partington, K. (2019). Dorothy Hamm Middle School. https://dorothyhamm.apsva.us/gifted-services/