High Ability

Past Events


My Child and CogAT Webinar from November 3, 2022

Students in grades Kindergarten, 2nd, and 5th participate in a screening called CogAT (Cognitive Abilities Test), at all elementary schools across Washington Township.  Join District High Ability Coach, Michelle Smelser, to learn about this test, how it is administered, and what your child can expect in this hour-long webinar.
Topics Covered:
What is CogAT?
Why assess cognitive potential?
What is High Ability Programming?

The High Ability (Honors) Handbook describes programming in Washington Township and information pertaining to gifted education. This guide is a working document since we will continue to make updates and changes in efforts to build an equitable system. It also contains information about assessments and the appeal process.

Manual de Alta Habilidad

High Ability Programming: Elementary

Gifted education and high ability programming have historically been designed with the intent of supporting students who exhibit extraordinary performance capabilities in an intellectual, creative, or artistic area. WT offers high ability service options at all elementary schools. Students who are considered outliers on the bell curve of aptitude tests (96%) and other performance-based assessments are considered for our self-contained program at Fox Hill Elementary. A self-contained service model reflects a homogenous ability grouping, where every student within the classroom setting is identified as a high ability learner.

Students can also qualify for high ability cluster classrooms by demonstrating exceptional levels in various academic areas. Cluster grouping is when gifted and talented and/or high achieving students are identified as being within the top five percent and placed in a standard, mixed-ability (heterogeneous) classroom within their grade. Groupings of three to six or five to eight are typical cluster groups. If there are more than eight to ten students meeting the necessary criteria, another cluster group is typically formed and placed in a different class. These groups are instructed by a teacher who has ideally undergone specialized training in differentiated learning, gifted instruction, or both. Washington Township high-ability teachers routinely participate in professional learning on topics of differentiation for high-ability and gifted students, and are supported by our district high-ability coach.

Students in grades K-5 are invited to test for high ability placement. Universal high ability testing is required for grades K, 2nd, and 5th.

Middle School Honors Courses

Equity is the concept of giving learners what is needed to help them reach their full potential, and it is activated through student voice. Student-centered learning positions scholars at the center of decisions that impact their educational experiences. Agency, where students exercise their voice and have choice, has been researched to bring greater levels of achievement, classroom engagement, and preparation (Toshalis & Nakkula, 2017). The creation of learning opportunities that elicit students’ voices and advocacy pertaining to their interests, passions, and skills, generate stronger engagement and a deeper commitment towards learning.

Placement into 6th grade English Language Arts (ELA) Honors courses and 7th grade Science and Social Studies Honors courses is based on a student application process and achievement and/or aptitude test results that may include grades, NWEA, CogAT, ILEARN, etc. The test scores of a student will not automatically yield to one’s acceptance in the program. We recognize that test scores are only one indicator of many components that shape the story of a learner. The 6th grade Honors Math qualifications will be based on CogAT and NWEA scores, not an application process. The MS Honors application process consists of a student application, a teacher recommendation, and instructional artifacts (e.g., writing samples, common assessments, projects, etc.) that may be included as documentation of the candidate’s identity as a learner.

The Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) and the NWEA also serve as criteria for the evaluative process. Scores that exceed, meet, or are relatively close to the 95th percentile will be carefully critiqued with the student and teacher feedback from provided applications.

Student agency, the concept of having ownership of learning and educational experiences is important in Washington Township Schools. We want students to exhibit control within this process and share why Honors courses would be valuable for their pathway of success. Therefore, educators will encourage all students to initiate the WT Honors application process as followed:

  • Students who are interested in Honors courses will complete the application (student portion) which focuses on their identity as a learner. The application could be dropped off at school or e-mailed to the school counselor.
  • Students will notify a teacher of choice about their interest to apply and will ask from them to complete the teacher recommendation portion of the application. The teacher will submit their application to the school counselor.
  • District-level instructional coaches, teachers, and administrators will collectively evaluate the student applications in efforts to conduct an unbiased approach.

North Central Courses

North Central offers students programs that challenge them to achieve their potential. More than one third of the students are enrolled in one or more Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Dual credit courses offered through the Advanced College Project (ACP) with Indiana University and the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma program (authorized in 1988) give hundreds of students the opportunity to earn advanced standing in college while they are still in high school.


Please talk to your respective school for more information or contact:

Michelle Smelser, District High Ability Coach

Dr. Erica Buchanan-Rivera, Director of Equity & Inclusion