Process for identifying students for Highly Capable:

  1. Referral (referral flow chart)
  2. Evidence Collected
  3. Team examines evidence
    • Students identified as Highly Capable generally fall in the 1-3 percent of their same age, grade, experience and/or environment in the three academic areas used by Bellingham Public Schools, which are: verbal (literacy), quantitative (math) and non-verbal (spatial reasoning).
  4. Goals and/or plans created
  5. Review of student progress


  • Students may be referred on an annual basis by families, teachers, staff or community members.
  • Students in grades 6-11 may self-refer.
  • Once a student is referred, both the school and family are contacted notifying them of the student’s participation in the process for identifying potential need for the continuum of services

Determining which students should be referred for highly capable:

Students who perform or show potential for performing at significantly advanced academic levels when compared with others of their age, experiences, or environments qualify for Highly Capable identification. (WAC 392-170-035) A student who is highly capable might possess a number of learning characteristics. Students in grades K-11 may be referred by completing the Student Information and Referral Form. Once a student is referred, both the school and family are contacted notifying them of the student’s participation in the process for identifying potential need for the continuum of services. Students may be referred for services in the Highly Capable Program once per 12 month period. All referral forms must be submitted to the secretary supporting the Highly Capable Learners.

Who refers students for highly capable:

  • Teachers
  • Families
  • Community members
  • Students in 6th-11th grade may also self-refer. (WAC 392-170-045).

Referral Steps:

1. Referral is submitted by teacher, family, community member or student in 6-11th grade. (See below for 2nd grade specific information)

2. Referrals must be submitted within the referral window to be considered for the school year qualifying assessment. (Referrals received after the referral deadline must be resubmitted for testing in the subsequent year.)

3. A portfolio of evidence will be collected for referred students. This may include, but is not limited to, previous assessment data, parent survey responses, teacher input and new assessments. Being invited to participate in more formal testing.

Second Grade: In an effort to provide equitable access to qualify for Highly Capable identification, Bellingham Public Schools screens all second grade students. Referrals for second grade students are not necessary. 

Evidence Collected:

Three forms of evidence are compiled into a portfolio (aptitude scores, achievement scores and qualitative input from families and staff).

  • Aptitude (Natural Ability)
    • Ability test – National Percentile, Standard Age
    • Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) 97th Percentile OR top 3% of same age, experience and environment
  • Achievement (Testing)
    • Standardized Achievement Test standard based on specific measures: MAP, SBA, CBA
  • Qualitative (Descriptions)
    • Evidence of Product Teacher HOPE Scale, Family Survey, Additional Work Samples

Team Examines Evidence:

  • Based on the Bellingham Promise, with the whole child in mind, we use a portfolio of evidence to determine a student’s need for the continuum of highly capable services.
  • This portfolio includes:
    • natural abilities measures (CogAT)
    • standardized test scores
    • input from teachers and families
  • The portfolio is reviewed by a multidisciplinary team (MDT) including (OSPI: WAC 392-170-075):
    • Director working with students identified Highly Capable
    • Teacher(s) on Special Assignment (TOSA) working with students identified Highly Capable
    • District Psychologist
    • Additional Educators
  • As the team examines the evidence they are reviewing information to consider whether a student is demonstrating a need for the Highly Capable continuum of services. Students identified Highly Capable perform or show potential for performing at significantly high academic levels when compared with others of their age, experiences, or environments. Outstanding abilities are seen withing students’ general intellectual aptitudes, specific academic abilities, and/or creative productivities within a specific domain. these students are present not only in the general populace, but are present within all protected classes. (WAC 392.170.035)
  • Students not identified Highly Capable will continue to be supported in the general education setting.
  • Appeals:
    • Families may appeal the decision of the multidisciplinary team by completing an appeal form.  Please click here for the appeal form. Por favor haga clic aquí para obtener el formulario de apelación en español.
    • Appeal forms must be received by the District Office within 15 days of notification.

Goals and/or Plans Created:

  • Upon identification as Highly Capable, family and teachers work collaboratively to determine the specific approach and/or goal for the student.
  • Services are individualized and are determined using our multi-tiered systems of support model.

 Review of Student Progress:

  • Student performance on district and state assessments is monitored by the district for growth.
  • Student Learning Plans (SLP) for students in grades 3-8 are reviewed annually.
  • Students in high school work with their building counselor to monitor the appropriate challenge of their course work in alignment to their High School and Beyond Plan.








Angie Ritchey
Administrative Assistant
360-676-6470 ext. 6533

Cindy Thompson
Administrative Assistant
360-676-6470 ext. 4447