Best Practices for Gifted Programming and Services

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Best Practices for Gifted Programming and Services2020-10-20T15:44:10-05:00

The state of Iowa mandates AND funds gifted education. Below are resources on State Guidance and National Standards, the Program Components of a gifted program, Strategies and Approaches for Instruction, Social-Emotional Needs of Gifted Learners & Partnering with School Counselors, Personalized Education Plans, and a video that presents a Student Perspective.  Contact ITAG ( if you have a question that is not answered on these pages.

State Guidance and National Standards

Program Components: Identification, Testing and Assessment, Program Services, & Program Evaluation


The process of identifying a student for a district’s gifted and talented program is determined by the district. Check your district’s website or visit with the gifted teacher to learn more about the identification process in your district. Although there is local determination of identification procedures, all districts operate within Iowa Administrative Code 281.59, Gifted and Talented Programs. 281.59(5) for Student identification criteria and procedures.

Some common assessments and observations for identification are:

Testing & Assessment- Overviews

Services in the Gifted Program

What does it mean to serve gifted students?

Some ideas for programming in the gifted program from a New to TAG Conversation with ITAG’s Educator Outreach Committee:

  • Project ideas
  • The Autonomous Learner Model provides a framework to work with all ages of gifted and talented students. Through Explorations, Investigations, and In-Depth Studies, gifted and talented students passions are respected and recognized.(See also the Lunch Bunch Questionnaire- ALM.)
  • Iowa BIG
  • Online learning for gifted from ITAG
  • See this list of online learning resources compiled by ITAG’s Educator Outreach Committee
  • Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a great way to offer extensions, enrichment, and an autonomous learning focused course or seminar for high school GT students. They are free online courses available for anyone to enroll. The wide variety of course options let the students lead their own learning. If using or Coursera, remember to click on the free course not the certificate
      • They have choices in almost any interest area.  Great for practicing what online college may be like!
      • Make sure you audit the course so it is free.
      • By selecting self-paced or archived you can start at anytime
    • Coursera is similar to
    • Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard.
      • You get to move at your own pace.
      • Can help extend your learning in the classes you are enrolled in this year
      • Varied Content Selections, including Math, Science, Computing, Arts and Humanities, Test Prep for the SAT, AP courses
    • Stanford Online– There are also online offerings from Stanford University, Stanford Online offers self-paced and session based courses. While Coursera features some courses from Stanford, many classes are only available via this site. Some courses require iTunes, but most are completed in your web browser. There is a topic selection tool on the left hand side of this Main Page Search
    • Open Yale CoursesOpen Yale Courses offers courses only open from Yale.  Open Yale Courses offers many videos of actual campus lectures. The availability of videos makes the site a great option if you’re looking for quality courses, but learn better by watching than by reading. 
  •  Content-specific sites
    •  Science
      • Zooniverse– Discover, teach, learn – Zooiverse enables everyone to take part in real cutting edge research in many fields across the sciences. We are even using this for students to get virtual service hours.
      • Science Buddies– You can select a project to work on from a wide variety of choices.  You can select your grade levels and pick a focus area so it can easily be used by any multi-grade GT facilitator.  These can be done in a classroom or virtually.  They can be done to have students prepare for a science fair too. There is an ask an expert section that you can also search by grade level.  There is a science blog link and information on science careers.
    • Philosophy
    •  Art

See ideas for secondary programming from ITAG President Lora Duffy Danker

Program Evaluation

Strategies and Approaches for Instruction

Fall 2020 Return to Learn and Gifted and Talented Learners

Iowa school districts developed Return to Learn plans to explain how student learning will be supported in the 2020-2021 school year following the mid-March closure of schools because of coronavirus. ITAG and gifted stakeholders want to make sure that the needs of gifted learners are part of all district plans so that all students are learning every day. 

To this end, ITAG prepared Supporting Gifted Learners in Your District’s Return to Learn Plan: Advocacy and Instructional Strategies for TAG Teachers, TAG Coordinators, Instructional Coaches, Administrators, and Parents.

Supporting Gifted Learners in Your District’s Return to Learn Plan is based on the Iowa DE’s  Return to Learn Support document. We have identified sections relevant to gifted and talented education in the Return to Learn Support document and have shared suggested advocacy and instructional strategies. The Return to Learn plans will be decided by local school districts, and your advocacy effort should be directed toward local district officials. You may wish to review the suggestions in this document and opt to focus on one or two of the issues that are most relevant to your district’s plan. Your district may be using something other than the Return to Learn guidance to create and document their plans for the 2020-2021 school year.

Fall 2020 Return to Learn: Weekly Mailings on Best Practices in Gifted Education

To support educators and administrators in addressing the needs of gifted students, ITAG sent short weekly messages during Summer 2020 with information about best practices in gifted education. Our focus is on practices that yield the greatest benefit for gifted learners (see Karen Rogers’ slideshow and the Iowa DE MTSS Advanced Learner Guide). Here is a link to each week’s mailing.

Strategy overviews from the Iowa Department of Education


Academic Acceleration


Grouping for Instruction

Strategies for Grouping Students for Instruction from the ITAG 2020 Summer Weekly Mailings. Additional resources shared in this mailing include the following.

Additional Resources

Social-emotional needs of gifted learners

Partnering with School Counselors

Personalized Education Plans

PEPs are presented in Iowa Administrative Code 281.59(4). The section reads as follows.

59.5(4) Personalized education plan. Best practice dictates that the services provided for each student placed in a gifted and talented program be contained in a written, personalized gifted and talented plan. Personalized education plans should be in writing and reviewed at periodic intervals in accordance with the changing needs of the student. The following items are suggested for inclusion in a student’s personalized education plan, but this is neither a mandatory nor an exhaustive list:  

  1. Relevant background data, assessment of present needs and projections for future needs. Relevant information may include the student’s leadership ability, interest inventories, learning characteristics, and learning goals.
  2. The nature and extent of the gifted and talented services provided to the student, including indirect services, such as consultative services or other supportive assistance provided to a regular classroom teacher. Other services may include modifications to curriculum and acceleration of the student’s curriculum.        
  3. Personnel responsible for the services provided to the student, as well as those responsible for monitoring and evaluating the student’s progress.

These PEP examples are provided for informational purposes only. Examples provided from outside Iowa may not conform to Iowa’s gifted and talented code. Examples provided from Iowa districts may not address the needs of your district.

A Student Perspective


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