Our Mission

To support social and emotional development and provide challenging learning opportunities responsive to the needs of high-ability students using research-based, differentiated instructional practices applied, but not limited to, grade-level standards.


GES Parent Education Nights 

Click to download and view the GES Parent Information Night Presentation for May 04, 2022- Math Differentiation - Google Slideshow, Presentation Recording 

Click to download and view the GES Parent Information Night Presentation for March 31, 2022 - Addressing Students' Social Emotional Needs and Twice Exceptional Students - Google SlideshowPresentation Recording 

Click to download and view the GES Parent Information Night Presentation for January 6, 2022 - Transitioning to Junior High - Presentation Recording

Click to download and view the GES Parent Information Night Presentation for December 10th, 2021- Differentiation 101 - Google Slideshow - Presentation Recording - Spanish Translation of Slideshow 

Click here to download and view the GES Parent Info. Night Presentation for February 10th, 2020-A Brief Overview of GUSD's Elementary Academics.

Click here to download and view the GES Parent Info. Night Presentation for October 3rd, 2019-An Overview of GUSD's Gifted Education Services.

Click here to download and view the GES Spring Site Presentation for all 9 Goleta Schools- May 2019. 

Click here to download and view the GES Parent Night from March 14, 2019- Dave Mochel's Social-Emotional Needs Presentation.

Click here to download and view the GES Parent Night Powerpoint presentation "Elementary Academics" and for "Next Generation Science Standards" from January 17, 2019.


GES Orientation 

Is your child newly identified as gifted? If so, you may want to check out the resources below:

GES Orientation Spring 2022 Slideshow

Presentation Recording  


Frequently Asked Questions About Goleta's Gifted Identification Process

Q: How does the Goleta Union School District (GUSD) identify students with unique and high-ability?
A: GUSD administers the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) to all students in third grade. The CogAT is a norm-referenced test wherein the national average is the 50th percentile. The primary goal of this assessment is to understand acquired, abstract reasoning capabilities of students and include this information in the student’s learning profile. Students scoring in the 97th percentile and above on one of three composite scores are designated as having high-ability in our district. Students who are English Learners and/or are socioeconomically disadvantaged are designated when they score at or above 90% on those same composites.

Q: How can I learn more about the CogAT?
A: Click here to download the FAQ document to learn more about it.

Q: Can my child be retested in GUSD?
A: It is possible. We have an appeal process in place when a teacher, parent, psychologist or administrator feels that a child in 4th-6th demonstrates characteristics of high- ability and is not designated. A Gifted Education Support (GES) committee considers all 4-6th applicants and decides whether or not the district moves forward with retesting. Due to remote learning during the pandemic, 3rd graders were not tested. These 3rd graders will be tested in-person during their 4th grade year and approved appeals would be scheduled then as well. 

Q: Can I have my child privately tested?
A: Private assessment is considered in the identification process, as required by law.

Q: What percentage of students is identified in Goleta and how does it compare to the national recommendation for identification?
A: The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) says that the number of students identified should be between 6-10%. Nationally, the United States averages 7.5% of the population identified as having high-ability. Currently, GUSD has identified 16% of its population.

Q: Once my child is identified, what does it mean for him/her in GUSD?
A: Goleta teachers in grades K through 6 have received extensive professional development in gifted education (equivalent or on par with GATE certificate programs offered by university extension departments.) Our teachers understand the characteristics, needs, and social-emotional issues that arise within populations of gifted students. A student’s designation of having high or unique ability in GUSD results in adjustment on the teacher’s part of an educational approach. Differentiation takes many forms in the classroom and is flexible, based on the teacher’s understanding of what is needed for the student.

Q: What gifted education strategies are utilized in GUSD?
 GUSD teachers utilize three main strategies in their classrooms in order to support the needs of students with high-ability. They are:

-Depth and Complexity

Depth and Complexity is a set of 11 prompts used by GUSD teachers to deepen and enrich learning. These prompts came from research on: (1) Advanced Placement exams, (2) the needs of high-ability students, and (3) the structure of academic fields of study.  The concepts of Depth and Complexity represent what experts know about their field.

-Universal Themes

Thematic instruction is a long-standing approach to education. Use of a theme allows for connections to be made between and across several sources of information, disciplines of study, and/or works of literature. With thematic instruction, meaning-making is the goal. It facilitates the organization of facts and how they relate to a larger context.

Justification for use with high-ability learners: Students with unique and/or high-ability tend to move through stages of abstract thinking more quickly. Thematic instruction promotes wider, more complex representations of meaning. It enables students to recognize the variety of ways in which people make sense of the world and organize knowledge across disciplines of study.

-Passion Projects

Passion Projects are a means to differentiate curriculum for interests and abilities of individual students. The steps of independent study mirror the research process and include: identifying an area of interest, writing a research question, gathering resources, researching, summarizing, and sharing findings. The Passion Project process is facilitated and supported by the teacher. 

Justification for use with high-ability learners: Students with unique and/or high-ability tend to identify strong areas of interest at a very young age. Highly curious, they often display a need for understanding about topics that, while may be academic, may not be covered in grade-level standards. Passion Projects offer students the ability to research interests of their own, while practicing reading, informative writing, and oral presentation skills.

Q: What does GUSD do when profoundly gifted students are in need of additional acceleration or enrichment?
A: Profoundly-gifted students make up 1-3% of our total population. When a student is consistently achieving far above grade level and has scored in the 97% or above on the CogAT, additional steps may be taken to individualize or specifically differentiate for the student. We do this using a district framework called Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS). More about MTSS can be found on the California Department of Education website here:


Q: Does SBUSD honor the identification criteria in Goleta?
A: Yes. The Santa Barbara Unified School District maintains identification of GUSD students as they matriculate into junior high school and high school.

Q: What is used to determine student placement in compaction or acceleration classes in junior high in the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD)?
A: SBUSD determines the number of honors courses to offer each year based on the needs of students matriculating into 7th grade and 8th grade. Junior High Schools consider results of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, CogAT, achievement tests from districts out of state, and a math performance assessment of their own that they administer. Gifted identification, based on CogAT results in Goleta, is no longer a factor that influences class placements in Jr. High. Students are now able to self-select into honors courses without gifted identification.

Q: Does gifted identification influence a student’s ability to take Advance Placement or International Baccalaureate courses in high school?
A: No. High schools in Santa Barbara have open enrollment for AP and IB courses. Any and all students may enroll in these classes, if they choose.

Jill Means
Gifted Education Support/Curriculum Specialist TOSA
(805) 681-1200 x2265 

GES Committee Lists 

GES Parent and Teacher Advisory Committee Rep. List for 2020-2021

GES Parent and Teacher Advisory Committee Rep. List for 2021-2022

GES Parent and Teacher Advisory Committee Rep. List for 2022-2023

2020/2021 Gifted Education Parent Advisory Meetings

September 15, 2020 [Agenda & Minutes]

October 20, 2020 [Agenda & Minutes]

December 8, 2020 [Agenda & Minutes]

February 16, 2021 [Agenda & Minutes]

April 6, 2021 [Agenda & Minutes]

September 28, 2021 [Agenda & Minutes]

October 26, 2021 [Agenda & Minutes]

February 22, 2022 [Agenda & Minutes]

April 26, 2022 [Agenda & Minutes]


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