A Message from the Department of Teaching and Learning

October 2020

New Students to Bellingham Public Schools  If your child is new to the Bellingham Public Schools and was a part of a gifted/highly capable program in a former district, you may request for them to be assessed to see if they qualify for our Highly Capable Program in the Bellingham Public Schools.  Please do so by completing this form.  Due to COVID-19 school closures, we will not be able to conduct in person assessment until we are in Stage 3 of our Reconnect Plan, so at that time you will hear from us for testing arrangements

New Referrals for BPS Students  In November we begin accepting referrals for currently enrolled Bellingham Public Schools students to be assessed for eligibility to receive highly capable services. Students eligible for highly capable services are those who perform or show the potential for performing at significantly advanced academic levels when compared to others of their age, experiences or environments.  Teachers, parents or community members may refer any student through  grade 12 for assessment; secondary students may also self-refer. All second grade students will automatically be screened in January so no referral is needed at that grade.  Assessment for all referred students takes place, annually, this year in January or February  depending on COVID-19 school closure circumstance.

To refer a student for assessment, please complete the Highly Capable parent referral form and staff referral form available in both English and Spanish, and submit electronically.

Referral forms must be received on or before Dec. 18, 2021 for eligibility in the 2020-21 school year.

If you need more information about Highly Capable or you would like paper copies of the referral form mailed to you, please contact our office by phone 360-319-8863 or email.



Student Information and Referral Form (Parent/Guardian)

Informacion del Estudiante/Formulario de Referencia para Altamente Capaces

Teacher, Staff or Community Member Referral Form

Formulario del Personal/Miembro de la Comunidad para Altamente Capaces

Appeal Form

Programa de Estudiantes Altamente Capaces Formulario de Apelación

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

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.

Three forms of evidence are compiled into the 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

  • 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.
  • 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