Gifted Education Services

2021 Update

Our Gifted Services Teacher and Parent Advisory Committees continue to meet to support the needs of our students. One area that our GES committees provide guidance for is recommendations regarding identification. Given the importance of having confidence in the results of the gifted services testing, we are recommending that assessment used for gifted identification happen based on in-person assessments. Since we are now in the season of state testing and have passed our normal window of CogAT testing for the 2020-2021 school year, Instructional Services is offering a modified CogAT assessment plan. Our focus will be on 6th grade. We will assess any new to GUSD 6th graders without scores, as well as any 6th graders eligible for a retake and approved through the appeal process. The CogAT will be administered in-person, proctored by GUSD’s Differentiation Specialist, Brigitte Haley, during the April/May months. Appeal forms can be requested and sent to you digitally from your child's teacher, office manager, or principal, or accessed English forms. (SPANISH forms.) THE DEADLINE TO SUBMIT COGAT TESTING APPEAL FORMS IS MARCH 19, 2021. CogAT retesting for all other (new or approved through appeal) 5th graders will occur in the fall of 2021. We will also universally screen both 3rd and 4th grade students in the 2021-2022 school year. 

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.

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

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

Click HERE to download and view Brigitte Haley's 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 HERE for "Next Generation Science Standards" from January 17, 2019.

Click HERE to download and view the GES Parent Information Night Powerpoint Presentation from October 4, 2018

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 Services (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?
 Kindergarten through sixth grade teachers in GUSD 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 that are one of the main strategies we use in GUSD 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.

-Independent Study

Independent Study is 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.

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. Independent Study offers 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.

Brigitte Haley
Instructional Services TOSA
Differentiation Specialist (GES/MTSS)
(805) 681-1200 x 2243 /

GES Parent and Teacher Advisory Committee Rep. List for 2018-2019

GES Parent and Teacher Advisory Committee Rep. List for 2019-2020  

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

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]

2019/2020 Gifted Education Parent Advisory Meetings

October 8, 2019    [Agenda & Minutes]

February 4, 2020  [Agenda & Minutes]

2018/2019 Gifted Education Parent Advisory Meetings

September 4, 2018
[Agenda]  [Minutes]

November 27, 2018
[Agenda]  [Minutes]

February 26, 2019
[Agenda]  [Minutes]

May 14, 2019
[Agenda]  [Minutes]

2017/2018 Gifted Education Parent Advisory Meetings

September 20, 2017
[Agenda]  [Minutes]

November 7, 2017
[Agenda]  [Minutes]

February 13, 2018
[Agenda]  [Minutes]

May 29, 2018
[Agenda]  [Minutes]

2016/2017 Gifted Education Parent Advisory Meetings

October 19, 2016
[Agenda]  [Minutes]

December 7, 2016
[Agenda]  [Minutes]

February 8, 2017
[Agenda]  [Minutes]

May 10, 2017
[Agenda]  [Minutes]

2015/2016 Gifted Education Parent Advisory Meetings

October 13, 2015
[Agenda]  [Minutes]

December 8, 2015
[Agenda]  [Minutes]

February 2, 2016
[Agenda]  [Minutes]

April 5, 2016
[Agenda]  [Minutes]

2014/2015 Gifted Education Services Parent Advisory Meetings

October 16, 2014
[Agenda]  [Minutes]

March 4, 2015
[Agenda]  [Minutes]

This site provides information using PDF, visit this link to download the Adobe Acrobat Reader DC software.