RISD Gifted Referral Process

Kindergarten - 6th grade

Audio/Video Presentation

Please click HERE for a video presentation of this information.

Introduction and Intended Outcomes

Thank you for joining us to learn more about the referral process for gifted services in kindergarten through 6th grade. We will share the purpose of gifted services, characteristics of students with GT instructional needs versus high achievement, and the timeline and deadlines for referrals and testing. Please keep in mind that with Covid-19, there is a chance the timelines would change. We will notify you of any changes that impact your child(ren).

What is Advanced Learning?

Advanced Learning Services is the name of our department. The portion of the department that facilitates gifted services is Advanced Learning Programs and Services. These names were instituted in the 2019-2020 school year.

The Texas State Plan for the Education of Gifted/Talented Students

This document is used to provide guidance to campuses and districts on how to implement gifted services in Texas. It states that gifted services provide "self-directed learning, thinking, research, and communication" and that the students identified for these services are "advanced in relation to students of similar age, experience, and environment." Students must qualify for services based on quantitative data such as test scores as well as qualitative data such as referral information. You may access the State Plan HERE.

Is there a difference between "gifted" and a need for "gifted services"?

Gifted is a term used in various settings and contexts so for this conversation we will avoid the term and focus on gifted services. One is not better than the other, much like the ice cream and chocolate cake you see here. Both are delicious desserts but each may fulfill a different need.


Because a school district is tasked with educating students, gifted services are provided to students who have instructional needs beyond the scope of the general education classroom. Sometimes that means having more complexity or rigor added to the core curriculum like extending a science lesson or unit. This is called Core+. Sometimes students have such a need that they receive additional services in a different setting with an Advanced Learning Teacher. These Pullout lessons last about two hours each week. Finally, some students need acceleration of up to two years in all the core areas of instruction and they may need Responsive Acceleration Pathways to ensure they are challenged appropriately.

What do we assess?

  • The verbal section measures a child’s ability to remember and transform sequences of words, to understand them and to make inferences and judgments about them.
  • The quantitative section measures a child’s understanding of basic quantitative concepts and relationships.
  • The non-verbal section measures reasoning using pictures and geometric shapes.


Capacity can vary by person, topic, subject, or skill. We all have different capacities to learn. For example, I may have a larger capacity to grasp complex concepts in math than I do in other areas like English or art.

Let's apply this to Michael Phelps...

Michael Phelps won 28 medals at the Olympics and 23 of them were gold. He has set record upon record for swimming and awards. Many attribute his success to four characteristics: exceptional lung capacity, relatively short legs, relatively large wingspan, and a relatively long torso. I'm sure you all agree that he has quite the capacity to do well in swimming because of the way his body was built. However, he also had great coaching and he worked to his capacity. That's like our students. They can have the ability to learn faster or deeper but they still must have a "coach" and work hard.


Now, for just a moment ask yourself this. What if you had his coach? Would you have Olympic gold medals? Maybe, but I can tell you I wouldn't. I don't have his capacity, his ability, to swim so having his coach would not be needed. I would never be an Olympic swimmer. We can apply this to some of the high achieving students we have in our schools who do not qualify for gifted services. They do not have the demonstrated need.

What supports Multiple Pathways for qualifying for gifted services?

The Texas State Plan and the RISD Equity Policy support Multiple Pathways of Identification. The State Plan includes the following:


1.11 For any standard of service for which the district is out of compliance, develop a written plan specifying actions and timelines for achieving compliance.


2.25 The population of the gifted/talented services program is closely reflective of the population of the total district and/or campus.


The Equity Policy includes the following:

E. The District will equitably distribute resources, opportunities, transportation, facilities, supports, and teachers/staff, to meet the identified needs of a campus, even if carrying out the commitment results in differentiated resource allocations.


J. The District will use disaggregated qualitative and quantitative data to monitor and address practices that could result in disproportionality in student success and achievement, including the use of assessments and assessment data, which could lead to overrepresentation of students of color in areas such as, but not limited to, special education and discipline, and their underrepresentation in programs such as, but not limited to, Gifted and Talented and Advanced Placement.

What are the RISD Multiple Pathways?

Using the Verbal Ability, Quantitative Ability, and Nonverbal Ability scores, students may qualify for gifted services in one of the following ways:


  1. 95%ile in 2 of the 3 domains using national norms, OR
  2. Top 5% on their campus in 2 of the 3 domains using their campus norms, OR
  3. Top 5% of allowable subpopulations in two of the 3 domains using district norms.

What is a percentile?

A percentile demonstrates where a student performs compared to other students. In our case, we use the age norms so the comparison is in a three-month window. Remember, the Texas State Plan requires that we consider students who are advanced "when compared to others of the same age, experience, or environment."


In this graphic, you can see that 95%ile is the same as 5 out of 100 students.

What kind of information is important to share in the referral?

This is a question we are asked all the time. Click HERE for a list of characteristics that may help you determine if your child has a need for gifted services. Most importantly, sharing examples of the observed characteristics is most helpful for the placement committee to determine if the student has an instructional need for gifted services.

What kind of information is not helpful to share in the referral?

Many families find it helpful when I share non-examples, things that are not helpful to share, and provide ideas about how to share information about their children.

How do I refer my child?

After you have reviewed all the information in this newsletter, you can click the link in the question just below this one. That link will take you to another SMORE which will give you information on testing protocols, guidelines, timelines, and results.


You will need your child's student ID number. This is a 6-digit number and it is not their lunch number. If you do not know your child's student ID, you must visit the school to get it. You also can look at your child's g.risd.org email as it contains the ID number.


You will provide information in a questionnaire about your child. You will have the opportunity to write a paragraph about your child's learning characteristics at the end. It is best if you prepare for this before you start the form.

What is the timeline for referrals, testing, and results?

Please click HERE for all the information you need for referring your child. You also will find information on testing timelines and results posting.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What happens if my chid is absent on the day of testing? We will schedule makeup testing as time is available.
  2. Does my child need to be retested if s/he is already receiving services? Your child does not need to be retested once s/he has qualified for services; however, we do retest in 2nd for updated scores to determine if the child needs Responsive Acceleration Pathway and in 6th to determine secondary courses. Regardless of the scores, students are not removed from services.
  3. My child did not qualify last time s/he was tested. Can s/he be tested again? Yes, students have annual opportunities to be referred for gifted services. In deciding if you should refer your child multiple times, consider the child's instructional needs and his/her response to potentially testing and not qualifying. Sometimes students internalize this as a failure because they do not understand the nature of this kind of assessment and process.