May 04, 2017
The following is a guide to gifted and talented testing in Houston, Texas.
The Houston Independent School District maintains programs for gifted and talented children called Vanguard. Students who are enrolled in Vanguard are given their own curricula, taught by teachers trained to address the needs of the gifted. The subjects covered in these courses of study are taught in greater depth and at a faster pace than those taught to most other students in the HISD system.
How are students identified as gifted in the Houston Independent School District?
According to the Vanguard page, students in HISD are identified as gifted using a variety of criteria. These include:
According to the HISD testing calendar, the test that is most important in determining whether a student is gifted or talented is the CogAT, which is administered in kindergarten and the fifth grade in November.
HISD students are also required to take the Iowa Assessments during the K through 8th Grade school years. Students take the Iowa Assessment in December. Spanish language students can take the Logramos test instead.
What is the difference between the CogAT and the Iowa Assessment?
The Iowa Assessment, according to HISD, measures how much a student has learned for his or her grade level. The results allow teachers to adjust their instruction accordingly, both to cover whatever deficit the student might have and to build on what he or she has learned.
The CogAT, on the other hand, does not so much evaluate what the student has learned so much as how able he or she is to learn. The results on the CogAT are given considerable weight, with the score counting close to half, in determining whether a student is qualified to enter a Vanguard program at HISD. Parents are strongly encouraged to help their children prepare for the CogAT, especially a younger student who may not have as well-developed testing skills.
Applying for a Houston Vanguard Program
HISD has two kinds of Vanguard programs for gifted students.
The school district maintains a number of schools that are designated as Vanguard Magnet Schools. Depending on the number of gifted students in each school, they are either taught in separate classes from the rest of the student body or else are taught in classes mixed in with the rest of the students, but are pulled out for their separate, enhanced studies.
Every other HISD school has a Vanguard Neighborhood program. In these schools, gifted students are given their own enhanced courses of study separate from the rest of the student body.
The main difference between the two programs is that Vanguard Neighborhood accepts all qualified applicants while Vanguard Magnet has only a fixed number of slots available.
Applications to the Vanguard Magnet and Vanguard Neighborhood programs are similar. Parents have to apply both to the Vanguard program and the school where the student wishes to go. Report cards, Iowa Assessment and CogAT test results from within the last 12 months, and a single teacher recommendation form have to be attached to the applications.
Whether or not a child is accepted into a Vanguard program depends on a point matrix. The score on the CogAT can give a child as much as 30 points. The score on the Iowa Assessment can give 40 points, 20 for reading and 20 for math. A teacher's recommendation can count for up to 10 points. A report card can garner as much as 20 points. A child has to get at least 62 points to qualify for a Vanguard program. A child whose matrix score is between 56 and 61 can qualify if he or she has at least an Iowa/Logramos score of 20 or above and a CogAT score of 10 or above.
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