District 145 - High Ability Learning

By Blum, Scott

District 145 - Waverly

High Ability Learning Mission

All students at District #145 can and will learn by seeking personal excellence based on their individual needs, interests, and talents. The mission of the High Ability Learning Program is to meet the social, emotional, and academic needs of highly able learners.  By recognizing the unique strengths and talents and providing a continuum of supports, services, and opportunities, the program will maximize the individual learning and achievement of identified students.

Depending upon the student’s identified abilities and expressed interests, an individualized plan will be created to maximize the student’s potential in conjunction with District 145’s essential outcomes.



The District 145 High Ability Learning (HAL) Curriculum Toolbox Team reviewed and researched best practices in gifted/talented education and identified the practices and procedures which match the district's HAL Mission.  In 2013, District 145 began piloting the updated High Ability Learning program.  

The pilot involved fourth and sixth grade students that had met the “Identification” procedure requirements listed below.  These students also participated in a pilot of support opportunities (learning plans, seminars, enrichment activities).  The program has grown to include 4th through 8th grade students with the identification process (below) beginning with 3rd grade students. 


Identification of HAL Students

A formal process is used to identify students who qualify for the HAL program.  During Phase I of this process, MAP Growth, Cognitive Ability Tests, and SRBCSS inventory are used as qualifying criteria for district 3rd and 5th grade students.  Scores on each of these instruments are converted to a point scale and these points are used to determine whether the student will qualify for the HAL program.  

If a student does not meet the Phase I qualification requirements, a district team reviews additional student information in Phase II.  This review process includes information, such as report cards and NSCAS test scores, to determine if a student qualifies for the HAL program.  Phase II also includes evaluation of students who were enrolled in a similar program from another school district.

If a child qualifies in Phase I or Phase II, a letter is sent to parents/guardians.  They are asked to complete a Phase III form that allows the HAL staff to gain more information about the student’s strengths and talents.  The qualifying student also completes an interest and strengths inventory in this phase.  

Phases I - III of the identification process for current 3rd and 5th grade students will be completed by the end of the school year (May).  Participation in the HAL program for a qualified student then begins in his/her 4th or 6th grade year.   

A continued commitment to his/her High Ability Learner Plan (HALP) and engagement in seminars and/or activities, is required for a student to maintain eligibility in the district program each year.


Supporting HAL Students


The Classroom:  
In School District #145, we believe that High Ability Learners, should be provided with consistent challenges and appropriate learning opportunities.  The classroom teachers are the primary sources for providing these services on a daily basis.  Differentiated instruction, as well as enrichment and extension activities, are offered to serve this purpose.


The High Ability Learning Plan (HALP):  
The HALP is one in which the HAL student and the HAL staff work together to identify an individual goal and set a plan to reach that goal throughout the year.  The goal is chosen by the student in an area of interest.  The plan includes specific steps, resources needed, and ways to achieve the goal.  Under the guidance of a HAL facilitator, the student will work on the HALP throughout the school year inside and outside of the classroom and at home. Once the plan is completed, the student will share his/her learning through a pre-determined final project or presentation.


HAL students are strongly encouraged to participate in a variety of activities, within their school and community. Having a variety of activities enriches your child’s life and learning.

Our school district offers many enrichment opportunities for all students. The activities offered vary by building and are held at various times of the day. Please see our HAL newsletter for activities.


HAL students have the opportunity to attend HAL seminars each year.  The HAL facilitator compiles like interests of the students and creates HAL seminars that will further those interests.  Topics vary widely, from Archeology to Forensic Science, and are dependent upon that year’s group of HAL students.

Most of the seminars will be in the format of a one-day workshop.  The students will come to the site assigned and will attend the seminar class there for the day.  The parent/guardian will be responsible for transporting the student to the site if it differs from the child’s school and will also need to provide a sack lunch for the day.  Prior to the seminar, informational letters containing the date, times, and background information for the seminar will be sent home.