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Article updated: 2/13/2013 12:07 AM

U-46 to test 3,000 students for gifted services

By Tara García Mathewson

More than 3,000 third-graders will be tested this week and next for inclusion in the Elgin Area School District U-46 gifted and talented programs. This is the first year since 2004 the district has screened all third-graders instead of just a portion of them.

The Cognitive Abilities Test 7 includes assessments of a child's verbal, nonverbal and quantitative reasoning abilities through nine timed tests that take 10 minutes each.

Patrick Mogge, director of school and community relations, said the district universally screened its third-grade students prior to 2004, when there was state funding available for gifted services. Since then, the district tested high-achieving students with the CogAT test only after they performed well on another assessment or were recommended by a teacher. Last year 524 third-graders went through the final screening process for gifted and talented programs, Mogge said.

Part of a discrimination lawsuit against U-46, filed in 2005, includes allegations that the district's use of the initial assessment, a standardized test, ultimately excluded black and Latino students from gifted programs because they were disqualified from the more holistic second assessment. That lawsuit is in its final stages after trial dates in 2011 and 2012.

U-46 offers School Within a School gifted programs and Spanish English Transition SWAS programs at five of its elementary schools. Mogge said 415 elementary students are in the two programs this year.

He said there is the possibility the universal screening process will identify more students as being qualified for gifted services next year. That shouldn't change the rigor of the program, Mogge said.

"We'll keep class size within established district guidelines and visit the addition of teachers for additional sections of SWAS as numbers deem it necessary," Mogge said. "Our goal is appropriate academic placement for all students."

Besides identifying children for gifted placement, the test gives teachers more information about all of their students, potentially expanding the educational opportunities for everyone and helping educators break students up into instructional groups.

Testing started Monday and will continue through Feb. 21. The district's gifted identification committee will review results and notify parents in April whether their children qualify for gifted services.

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