Qualifying for Gifted and Talented Services (TAG) in Iowa

Do you have a child who has a terrific talent in one area but perhaps not in all areas? If your child attends an accredited Iowa public school, Iowa law mandates that schools consider multiple selection criteria to determine who qualifies for talented and gifted services. This applies at the elementary, junior high, and high school levels. For example, Iowa public schools cannot use as their sole criteria for selection a requirement that students have a 97-99% Core or Composite score on their Iowa Assessments.

There are many reasons why using a single score on a standardized test is an inappropriate means to identify gifted and talented children. For example, many children, even talented ones, do not test well. Further, some children with a specific talent may not score well in all subject areas. And talents in areas like visual arts and leadership are not measured by a standardized test like the Iowa Assessments.

For those who believe their children might qualify for gifted and talented services, below is the statutory language which defines “gifted and talented children” in Iowa (Iowa Code §257.44)

Gifted and talented children defined.
1. “Gifted and talented children” are those children who are identified as possessing outstanding abilities and who are capable of high performance. Gifted and talented children are children who require appropriate instruction and educational services commensurate with their abilities and needs beyond those provided by the regular school program.
2. Gifted and talented children include those children with demonstrated achievement or potential ability, or both, in any of the following areas or in combination:
a. General intellectual ability.
b. Creative thinking.
c. Leadership ability.
d. Visual and performing arts ability.
e. Specific ability aptitude.

And, 281 Iowa Administrative Code 59.5(5) is particularly instructive:

Student identification criteria and procedures.
Students will be placed in a gifted and talented program in accordance with systematic and uniform identification procedures that encompass all grade levels and that are characterized by the following:
a. Identification will be for the purpose of determining the appropriateness of placement in a gifted and talented program rather than for categorically labeling a student.
b. The decision to provide a student with a gifted and talented program will be based on a comprehensive appraisal of the student, consideration of the nature of the available gifted and talented program and an assessment of actual and potential opportunities within the student’s regular school program.
c. Multiple criteria shall be used in identifying a student, with no single criteria eliminating a student from participation. Criteria will combine subjective and objective data, including data with direct relevance to program goals, objectives and activities.
d. In the event that the number of eligible students exceeds the available openings, participants shall be selected according to the extent to which they can benefit from the program.
e. Each identified student’s progress shall be reviewed at least annually to consider modifications in program or student placement.

School districts can use their own identification procedures; however, districts must use multiple criteria to decide who gets access to talented and gifted programming. Examples of subjective criteria a district might use include parent, teacher, and/or student nominations. Examples of objective criteria include subtest scores on standardized or achievement tests. Districts may also consider what programming is actually available within the district.

The district is not required to serve all of its gifted and talented children; however, it cannot use one score on a standardized test to refuse a student access to its gifted and talented programming.

So what should you do if you believe your school district is not following the law? Some options include contacting your child’s teacher or principal, the superintendent, the curriculum director, and/or the board of directors. You should keep copies of any correspondence you send and receive. You can also find a contact person at the Iowa Department of Education using the link below.

Link to Iowa Department of Education for information about gifted and talented services, and the law in Iowa.

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