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  • Programming for Gifted Learners

    The continuum of programming for gifted learners includes Neighborhood Schools Programming at the elementary and secondary levels, with several models of service delivery.

Department Contact

Gifted Education

Natasha Straayer
Director, Personalized Learning

Misty Burkhart
Coordinator, Gifted Education

Christina Levesque
Administrative Assistant

620 Wilcox Street
Castle Rock, CO 80104
Phone: 303-387-0191
Fax: 303-387-0118

The Douglas County School District uses a Response to Intervention (RtI) framework to guide instructional decisions in order to meet the needs of all learners, including those with advanced learning needs. Through a Multi-Tiered System of Supports we provide a continuum of programming for Gifted and Talented learners including Neighborhood Schools Programming at the elementary and secondary levels and the Discovery Program Magnet in grades two through six. For students whose needs are so extensive that they cannot be met in the traditional classroom setting, the Discovery Program Magnet for gifted learners may be an appropriate placement.


Gifted and talented students are those students between the ages of four and twenty-one whose abilities, talents, and potential for accomplishment are so exceptional or developmentally advanced that they require special provisions to meet their educational programming needs. Gifted students include students with disabilities (i.e. twice exceptional) and students with exceptional abilities or potential from all socio-economic and ethnic, cultural populations. Gifted students are capable of high performance, exceptional production, or exceptional learning behavior by virtue of any or a combination of these areas:

  • General or Specific Intellectual Ability
  • Specific Academic Aptitude
  • Creative or Productive Thinking
  • Leadership Abilities
  • Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Musical or Psychomotor Abilities


The NAGC recommends that all students have the opportunity to participate in a universal screening process for identification to ensure equitable access to programming. In accordance with state and national guidelines, the Gifted Education department has developed a process to gather data in order to match appropriate services to identified student need.

Douglas County School District uses a dynamic, ongoing identification process with multiple criteria including cognitive ability, student performance and achievement, and parent, teacher and student feedback. Students may be referred for gifted identification at any time by teachers, parents or themselves. To initiate the identification process, please complete this Referral Form and share it with the gifted education facilitator at your child's school.

The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) guiding principles indicate, "rather than any single gifted program, a continuum of programming services must exist for gifted learners." Each school is served by a gifted education facilitator. The facilitator will collaborate/ consult with classroom teachers to appropriately plan instruction and learning opportunities to meet the needs of gifted/ high potential learners. The gifted education facilitator may also provide direct instruction to gifted learners in and out of the classroom setting, as determined by student need.

Gifted Programming is designed to meet the academic, social/ emotional, and behavioral needs of students identified with advanced learning needs. Teachers and support staff differentiate learning opportunities to meet these needs.

Each school site provides for gifted/high-ability learners through the implementation of some or all of the following strategies:

  • Differentiated instruction
  • Curriculum compacting
  • Content acceleration
  • Grade level acceleration
  • Mentorships
  • Tiered assignments
  • Cluster grouping
  • Flexible grouping
  • Independent study
  • Project-based learning
  • Leadership opportunities
  • Advanced level courses

Please contact the gifted education facilitator at your child's school for more information regarding gifted programming opportunities specific to the school.

Early Access is designed for “highly advanced gifted” 4 or 5 year old children. It allows early access to kindergarten or first-grade for students who are academically gifted, socially and emotionally mature, in the top 2% or less of the gifted peer group, motivated to learn, ready for advanced placement, and who have exhausted the resources of preschool or home schooling. 

Colorado House Bill 08-1021
Early Access was made possible by the passage of House Bill 08-1021. HB 08-1021 provides the ability for school staff to override the age limits mandated by state law, in order to allow students who will be four years old at the beginning of the school year to begin kindergarten and students who will be five years old to begin first grade, if they are identified as "highly advanced gifted."


The Early Access window is now closed for 2017-2018.


Please note: The Early Access process is open from December 1  to April 1 each school year. Not all students will be referred for cognitive testing; rather, student portfolios will be reviewed by a district-based team to determine if further assessment is warranted.


Discovery Program Application Process: The application process may be initiated by a teacher or other professional, parent, or student. The application deadline for the 2017-2018 school year is December 1, 2016. For applications submitted after that date, students identified for the program are placed on a space availability basis.

The Discovery Program is a self-contained, center based, magnet program for highly gifted learners located regionally at four elementary school sites in Douglas County. The program is intended for those students who require intensity of instruction and acceleration beyond what can reasonably be expected from the regular school gifted programming. These students may be identified by the following characteristics: 

  • They make connections between and among disciplines and concepts beyond what may be expected among their age peers.
  • They are able to learn quickly and require appropriately paced instruction. 
  • They are usually inquisitive and often passionate about one or more areas of interest. 
  • They have interests beyond those which could be expected of their age peers. 
  • They are advanced academically in literacy and numeracy concepts. 
  • They have academic needs that require modifications beyond what can be expected in the regular classroom. 
  • They display a high level of cognitive potential. 
  • They have social and emotional needs which are suited to grouping with intellectual peers. 

17-18 Elementary Discovery Application

17-18 Discovery Application-Spanish

17-18 Discovery Application-Mandarin

Completed packets are to be submitted to:

 Gifted and Talented Education 
 Douglas County School District 
 620 Wilcox Street 
 Castle Rock, CO 80104 
 Fax: 303-387-0118
 email: christina.levesque[at]dcsdk12[dot]org

Discovery Program Application Deadline: Thursday, December 1, 2016

Discovery Program School Sites

Acres Green Elementary
13524 Acres Green Drive
Littleton, CO 80124


Northridge Elementary
555 Southpark Road
Highlands Ranch, CO 80126


Pine Lane Elementary North (Grades 4-6)
6485 Ponderosa Drive
Parker, CO 80138


Pine Lane Elementary South (Grades K-3)
6475 Ponderosa Drive
Parker, CO 80138


Renaissance ELOB Magnet Elementary
3960 Trail Boss Lane
Castle Rock, CO 80104

We know that the need of gifted students doesn't end in elementary school. We have resources within our secondary schools to facilitate the development of talent and assist students in creating satisfying lives.

Middle School Programming

Douglas County offers a continuum of programming options for gifted/high potential learners based on a student's areas of strength and learning needs.  Students utilize higher-level thinking through interdisciplinary units and content-specific academic units.  Advanced courses are designed to address the needs of gifted/high potential middle school students in two core content areas, Mathematics and Language Arts.  Staff at the elementary and middle levels collaborate using a body of evidence to inform placement decisions as students transition from elementary to middle school.

In addition to advanced courses, student needs may be addressed through a variety of instructional practices which include:

  • World class instruction (Best practices)
  • Affective guidance
  • Differentiated curriculum, instruction, & assessment
  • Flexible pacing & grouping
  • Goal setting for college planning
  • Pre-assessment & compacting
  • Depth & complexity of content
  • Access to enrichment opportunities

High School Prgramming

Honors, Advanced-Placement, International Baccalaureate and Dual Enrollment Courses are offered in many areas to meet the needs of our high/potential gifted students. Please refer to current high school course catalogs for a complete listing of opportunities and requirements for enrollment eligibility.  In addition to academic programming options, all students create a personalized pathway to ensure post secondary readiness through the Individual Career and Academic Plan (ICAP) process.  

Twice-exceptional students are those students who are identified as gifted and talented in one or more areas of exceptionality (specific academics, general intellectual ability, creativity, leadership, visual or performing arts); 
AND ALSO identified with:
A disability defined by Federal/State eligibility criteria: specific emotional learning disability, significant identifiable disability, physical disabilities, sensory disabilities, autism, or ADHD. The disability qualifies the student for an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 Plan.

Identification and Programming:
Gifted educators, special educators, and classroom teachers collaborate with parents and students to identify, plan for and meet the unique and diverse academic and social emotional needs of twice-exceptional learners.  Because hidden disabilities may prevent students with advanced cognitive abilities from achieving their potential, it is essential that disabilities are identified early so appropriate interventions can be provided at optimum times.  Early identification and intervention provides an opportunity to create and implement a framework of supports.  

Please see the DCSD Special Education page for more information