DCSD Advanced Academics & Gifted Ed

November, 2021

Douglas County School District Advanced Academics & Gifted Education

Equity of Access

Opportunity ~ Agency ~ Empowerment


We seek out, surface, and nurture the potential in each student from all races, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, gender identities, and sexual orientations.


We partner with staff, students, families, and our community to design/refine/implement equitable and culturally responsive systems of identification and programming for high potential/advanced/gifted students from all demographic groups in all schools.

Director's Corner

As we engage in a holiday season celebrated in rich and diverse ways across our district, I extend my personal gratitude. Thank you for entrusting your beautiful children to our schools and teachers. Your children bring strong values, respect, and curiosity to their learning communities, and we appreciate your commitment to ensuring their success and our success.

Thank you to all who engage with us through community service and partnerships. Your support for our district and our schools brings opportunities that benefit each student in DCSD. Your ongoing partnership and generosity is invaluable as we learn and grow together to support our gifted learners. Our team extends its thanks and blessings to you and your families.

With gratitude,

Natasha Langjahr Straayer

Parenting Gifted Children

Why Nurturing Creativity in Kids Is So Important

Written by Stacia Garland By Ben Michaelis, Ph.D. from Exquisite-Minds.com

Recent academic studies have shown that American kids are no longer as creative as they once were. This should not come as a shock to anyone, as we live in an era obsessed with numbers, data, and test scores, especially as they apply to our kids and their education. Seeing the decline in creativity should make us concerned about our children’s capacities to innovate, problem-solve, and navigate new and unfamiliar situations. What should parents, educators, and professionals do to help bring back our children’s natural creativity?

Continue the article HERE.

Podcast: How to Motivate Kids & Build Their Stress Tolerance

with William Stixrud and Ned Johnson from TILT Parenting: Raising Differently Wired Kids

They’ve written a new book called What Do You Say: How to Talk with Kids to Build Motivation, Stress Tolerance, and a Happy Home, which covers everything from giving constructive feedback, to handling anxiety (both ours and our kids’), to talking about sleep, screens, and the pursuit of happiness, all based on Bill and Ned’s core beliefs in autonomy, empathy, and connection.

Host Debbie Reber states: "What I love so much about this book is both Bill and Ned’s compassionate approach to educating parents, and that they draw on decades of experience working with and parenting kids just like ours. We cover so much ground in this conversation, more than I can list here."

Read the full description and listen to the podcast HERE.

District News

Universal and Referral CogAT Testing

DCSD is committed to implementing equitable practices to increase access to advanced/gifted learning opportunities. Based on state and national recommendations and requirements, we implement Universal Screening for students in 2nd grade (February) and 5th or 6th grade--a student's final year of elementary school (November).

Universal Screening: As part of this process, ALL students in either 5th or 6th grade (last year of elementary school) who have not been identified for gifted programming will take the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) during November. This assessment indicates the level and pattern of cognitive development of a student in comparison to grade and age mates. These general reasoning abilities, which start developing at birth and continue through early adulthood, are influenced by experiences gained both in and out of school. If your child will be testing, specific information from your child's school should have been provided.

If your child missed their regular universal CogAT screening last year, they will be assessed during this window. This would pertain to students currently in 3rd and possibly 6th or 7th grade (depending on the last grade in elementary).

If your child is already identified for gifted programming, they will not participate in this universal screen testing. Your Gifted Education Facilitator will contact you directly with more detailed information about this process.

Referral Testing: During November, we will provide opportunities for students in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades to take CogAT if they are not currently identified and have been referred for the gifted identification process. In our February window, we will provide opportunities for students in kindergarten and 1st grade who have been referred for the gifted identification process.

For more information, please contact your child's teacher or your school's GT Facilitator.

Reminder: Elementary Discovery Program Application Process Is Open for Round 1

The Discovery application process for the 2022-2023 school year is now open!

The Douglas County School District Elementary Discovery Program is designed to meet the needs of gifted elementary school students who require intensity of instruction and acceleration beyond what can reasonably be expected from regular school gifted programming.

If you think your child may need this level of gifted programming, please find out more on our website linked HERE.

You can view the Facebook Live Informational Session HERE.

Engagement Opportunities

Neurodiversity Podcast: Special Episode--We need your help!


We are putting together a special episode focused on gratitude to release in a few weeks. We'd like you to reflect on how your life has been influenced by neurodiversity and why you are grateful for its impact.

  • How has understanding neurodiversity changed you or your life?
  • Has it influenced your relationships for the better? Your awareness of self?
  • Are you grateful for a person in your life who supported you or someone you loved?

Be creative with your reflections. We want to hear all of them.

Record your reflections using the voice recorder on your phone. Don't forget to introduce yourself first! Then, send it to us at info@neurodiversitypodcast.com. We may use your clip on an upcoming episode of the podcast.

Oh - and we are so incredibly grateful for you.

Douglas County Gifted Education Advisory Council (DCGEAC)

The members of our district team and DCGEAC are collaborating to dig more deeply into Family and Community Engagement. Please consider responding to this survey to give us your input on areas in which you are interested and how you prefer to receive new information.

Our next quarterly DCGEAC meeting is scheduled virtually Wednesday, November 17, 4:30-6:30 P.M. Meetings are open to the public so if you are interested, you are welcome! Send an email to Heather Groff at hagroff@dcsdk12.org to receive the link.


  • Provide information, support, and resources to empower students, families, and educators toward successful lifelong learning/development through a variety of outreach methods, opportunities, and activities.

  • Serve in an advisory capacity to DCSD regarding new policies, trends, programming, and concerns.

  • Provide a collaborative voice to advocate for gifted students, policies, programming, and issues and act as a liaison between families/community and DCSD.

#MYGIFTEDSTORY: An Experiment with Visual Storytelling from Every Zip Code

THE G WORD is delighted to be launching our newest social media initiative, #MyGiftedStory. In tandem with producing our documentary film THE G WORD, we're experimenting with a visual storytelling project that focuses on our nation’s gifted and talented population at every stage of life - from urban, suburban, and rural settings, representing zip codes from all 50 states.

Go HERE to learn more about the story behind it and how to participate.

Connect with Other Parents of Gifted Children

Calendar of Events

Douglas County Association for Gifted and Talented (DCAGT)

Douglas County Association for Gifted and Talented (DCAGT) is our district's GT parent advocacy group. We want to reach and connect the gifted community with opportunities to share experiences and exchange information. We hope that you will join us in our community events.

We will be holding a DCAGT Facebook Live on Monday, November 8th from 6 to 7 P.M. We will be talking about Getting Involved at YOUR School. Are you interested in helping bring enrichment to your child's school? Do you have some time to volunteer but not sure what you could offer? We will discuss some of our favorite before/after school activities as well as other opportunities you could initiate or participate in at your school. Please join us on our Facebook page or our YouTube channel to join the conversation. You can even send questions to info@dcagt.org prior to the event and you can indicate if you prefer to remain anonymous.

Find our current newsletter here. Subscribe to our newsletter here.


by Dr. Kate Bachtel from Soul Spark Learning (full article HERE)

Previously, SoulSpark Learning partnered with leaders, including the Rogue Valley Brainery & Ludoteca, to try and “Rebrand Gifted.” This culminated in a grassroots campaign at the National Association of Gifted Children’s convention in 2015. Attendees were invited to share words they use to self-describe – some of the most frequent mentioned were complex, intense, sensitive, creative and compassionate. We fell short. Our timing was wrong. No one word emerged with consensus. There were lessons yet to be learned.

Now, the documentary film The G Word, has a similar “My Gifted Story” social media campaign (see above in Engagement Opportunities) and Gifted/Talented/Neurodiverse (G/T/N) Advocacy Week October 25-29. SoulSpark Learning invites you to participate and connect with us at the National Association of Gifted Children’s convention in Denver this November. Each of SoulSpark Learning’s directors will be presenting sessions and facilitating conversations on how we can unite to be more effective in our advocacy efforts. To prepare, we will be facilitating a virtual conversation on this same topic with The G Word director and producer, Marc Smolowitz. Will you join us on Sunday November 7th at 4pm mountain time? Click HERE for more information and to register for this free event.

We are grateful for you and love connecting with you – here’s to the work ahead!

Free Webinar: Books and More for Promoting Literacy and Thinking in Kids

Thursday, November 18, from 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Eastern time (Parent Focus)

with Dr. Susannah Richards - Eastern Connecticut University

Looking for recommendations to ignite, delight, and cultivate lifelong readers? This session will highlight recently published books that kids will want to binge read. It will include suggested fiction and nonfiction, middle grade and young adult novels, picture books, graphic novels, and more.


Colorado Association for Gifted Children Conversations with CAGT

Join us for sessions from amazing gifted experts from Colorado, the nation and around the world. We hope you can tune in each week on Tuesdays to our Facebook Live page for our Conversations with CAGT live at 5:00 P.M.!

November 9: There will not be a session due to the NAGC Conference

Archived webinars from Season 2 are HERE.

You can also watch the recording of archived webinars from Season 1 HERE.

Enrichment Opportunities

Get Involved at YOUR School: Volunteering

For the past two newsletters, we have shared ideas of clubs or after school activities you could help organize and run at your child's school. This month, we are focusing on volunteering during the school day. Some of these activities could also be turned into short running after school activities.

Join us on November 8 during Facebook Live for a review of some of our favorites and ask questions to learn more. See detailed information above in Calendar of Events.

Volunteering Ideas: Be a Guest Presenter Written by Stacia Garland

With so many people concerned about our educational system today, it is time to get more citizens into the classroom. Acting as a guest presenter in your local school is a great way to add a fresh face, new information, and an enriching experience for students.

Taking the time to visit a classroom can be rewarding for you and the students who will learn something new. Perhaps one of those students will make a future career choice or choose a hobby based on what you teach them. At the very least, you will have a better understanding of our current educational system and the children will have a better understanding of the world around them.

Read the full article HERE.

Specific Interest Resources