Presented By Wisconsin Associaon for Talented and Gied Acceleraon Commiee
Sco J. Peters, Ph.D.
Sarah Kasprowicz
Sue Lee
Jackie Drummer
Lalitha Murali
Cathy Schmit
The Wisconsin Associaon for Talented and Gied (WATG) is a 503(c) non-prot organizaon of parents,
students, educators, business and industry representaves, and other interested persons dedicated to fostering
a climate in the home, school, and community that allows each individual to reach his or her unique potenal.
Since 1972 WATG’s mission has been to raise public awareness about the unique needs that gied individuals
have. Acceleraon is proven to be a highly eecve strategy yet is underulized or not oered at all in many
districts. The WATG Acceleraon Commiee set out to research, analyze, and develop acon steps to improve
acceleraon pracces and strengthen gied educaon in Wisconsin.
© 2020 Wisconsin Associaon for Talented and Gied Acceleraon Commiee
Wisconsin Associaon for Talented & Gied
5420 Westshire Circle, Waunakee WI 53597
Introducon 4
Execuve Summary of Survey Findings 5
What is Acceleraon? 11
Why Care About Acceleraon? 12
Acceleraon is Shockingly Rare in American Schools 15
Policies Related to Acceleraon 16
Wisconsin State Statutes and Administrave Rules
Regarding Gied and Talented Educaon 18
Methodology 19
The State of Acceleraon in Wisconsin Detailed Findings 21
Compliance with State Gied and Talented Educaon Mandates 24
Expanding Access to Accelerated Learning 28
Strengthening Gied and Talented Educaon in Wisconsin 34
Appendix 43
In most schools, if you are six years old, you get taught rst-grade math. It’s a “one-size-ts-few” model that
school districts try to bend as best they can to provide an appropriately challenging learning experience
for students. This is not an easy task, as emerging research shows students within a single “grade level” are
incredibly diverse in terms of the skills they have already mastered on the rst day of school. In fact, its
common for h-grade classrooms in Wisconsin to have more than seven grade-levels of academic readiness
present. Following are a few stories that illustrate how school districts leveraged acceleraon for students who
had already mastered the curriculum at their grade level.
Luxemburg-Casco School District
Every year, sta in the 2000-student Luxemburg-Casco School District, located just east of Green Bay, seek out
students who might have already mastered the math content for the upcoming school year. Sta systemacally
use standardized test data they have for all students to determine who might have already met end of year
benchmarks. Students who are the highest performers in their grade are oered further math-specic
screening, including the end-of-year math test for their current grade as well as the next years grade. For
example, a rst-grade student could take the end-of-year test for both rst- and second-grade math. Students who
perform well remain in rst grade, but also receive individualized instrucon to allow them to learn rst- and second-
grade math standards in a single academic year.
By second grade, Abbey had scored in the 99
percenle in math three mes in a row. Following the district
protocol, Abbey was subject accelerated in math. This was especially important for her because of other
... it’s common for fifth-grade classrooms in Wisconsin to have
more than seven grade-levels of academic readiness present.
challenges she had in the classroom; being accelerated in math was something
she was very proud of. Although at mes the pacing of the accelerated
placement was a challenge, Abbey eventually went on to take seventh-grade
math as a sixth-grade student and then Algebra I as an eighth grader.
In a case that followed a dierent path, at rst Juan was not idened for
acceleraon. Instead, his third-grade teacher agged him as potenally
ready for more challenge. He was tested just a few weeks into third grade
and demonstrated mastery of 75% of the third-grade math standards. He
was subject-accelerated into fourth grade for math and provided help from
support teachers with concepts he sll needed to learn. Perhaps most
important is how happy and successful Juan and his parents feel. Juan now
goes home feeling successful about what he is learning in math. Before he was
accelerated, it was his least favorite subject.
Port Washington School District
Aiden entered the Port Washington School District and, at the urging of his
parents, was tested for gied and talented services. Following the district
process for idencaon, the talented and gied coordinator suggested
the family consider a full-grade acceleraon as a way to ensure Aiden was
appropriately challenged. Although Aiden was small for his age, by the end
of rst grade his parents made the decision to have him accelerated through
second grade and go move straight to third grade. The acceleraon came
with some challenges for Aiden, and by the me he reached h grade he
needed even more challenge. When he was 11 he took the ACT as an out-
of-level test and scored in the top 5% of the state in his age group. Soon
aer he was full-grade accelerated again from the end of seventh grade to
ninth grade. In addion to the academic courses he was able to access due
to his acceleraon, Aiden was able to parcipate in and benet from high-
school-level extracurricular acvies. At age 16, Aiden graduated from Port
Washington High School and went on to aend a specialized engineering
school for college. Throughout Aiden’s public school journey the school district
remained supporve in nding the best t for Aiden.
Wauwatosa School District
At age eight Kevin moved to
Wisconsin. By that me he was
already doing long division,
reading novels, and wring in
cursive. Second grade was his
rst exposure to being forced
to “re-learn” concepts he had
mastered years ago. His love of
learning was thwarted. In third
grade he struggled to manage
his frustraon and his teacher
put him in the corner of the
classroom to do his own work. It was at this point that his parents contacted
district administrators. Tesng was completed and through the guidance of
the Iowa Acceleraon Scale process the district determined that Kevin would
be a good candidate for grade acceleraon. In early November Kevin was
moved to the fourth-grade classroom. Although the curriculum in fourth grade
was sll below what Kevin had already learned, it was a vast improvement. He
had no problems socially or academically and felt much more at home with his
older peers. Kevin graduated early from high school and went on to study at
an Ivy League university.
Clear themes emerge in these stories. In each case, a student was ready for
more learning than what was typically oered. Luckily each of them was in a
district that provided opportunies for more-challenging instrucon through
the use of acceleraon. In some cases, the school districts were open to
the idea of grade acceleraon, while in others there was some resistance.
Hundreds if not thousands of students just like Abbey, Juan, Aiden, and Kevin
exist in Wisconsin— students who would be beer suited academically in a
classroom (part-me or full-me) tradionally designed for older children.
In this report we highlight the access and lack of access that students in
Wisconsin schools have to accelerated learning. First we describe what
acceleraon is and what forms it can take; then we present a detailed report
from data gathered from nearly every school district in the state.
The following report includes data related to the state of acceleraon and
advanced learning in Wisconsin. Most data come from an open records
request survey sent to 430 school districts in Wisconsin between June of 2018
and February 2019. In total, 390 districts responded to the 12 queson survey,
which covered a range of policies related to academic acceleraon as well as
compliance with Wisconsin statutes and Administrave Rules related to gied
and talented educaon.
The results of the survey related to state policy suggest that between one-
third and one-half of all Wisconsin school districts self-report being out of
compliance with state mandates aligned with serving gied and talented
In addion to the summary ndings detailed below, geographic informaon
system (GIS) maps based on district responses are included. These interacve
maps allow the user to see district responses to individual survey quesons by
clicking on the click on a specic school district.
... between one-third and one-half
of all Wisconsin school districts
self-report being out of compliance
with state mandates ...
Acceleraon Policies
Two-thirds of Wisconsin school districts reported having
formal acceleraon policies. However, a review of some
of those policies suggests these are not really policies that
provide access to accelerated learning.
Early Start Kindergarten
Three-quarters of
Wisconsin school
districts allow
students to begin kindergarten
early, with strict spulaons.
Early Start First Grade
Two-thirds of
Wisconsin school
districts allow
students to enter rst grade early,
but this might be less relevant to
most districts.
Full-Grade Acceleraon
Slightly more than 3/4 of Wisconsin
school districts allow for full-grade
acceleraon. While posive, its
important to emphasize “allow. It is unclear how
oen Wisconsin districts actually use full-grade
acceleraon as a means to meet student needs.
Subject Acceleraon
Nearly all Wisconsin school districts allow
for subject acceleraon.
Early Graduaon
percent of
school districts allow for
early graduaon from high
Sta Assigned
Two-thirds of
Wisconsin school
districts reported
having a person designated to
coordinate gied and talented
programming. (Note that according
to data from the Wisconsin
Department of Public Instrucon
this value is 32%).
Formal Plans in Place
Just over half of
Wisconsin school
districts reporng
having a formal plan in place for
gied and talented services.
of Wisconsin
idenfy gied
and talented
students in
grades K–12
(or all grades
Services Provided
2/3 of Wisconsin
school districts provide
gied and talented
services in grades K–12 (or all
grades served).
Parental Involvement
percent of
school districts provide
opportunies for parental
involvement in idencaon
and service delivery decisions.
The 2004 Templeton Report, A Naon Deceived: How Schools Hold Back
America’s Brightest Students, started a naonwide conversaon about
America’s approach to advanced learners in K–12 schools. It was followed
by the 2008 High-Achieving Students in the Era of NCLB, published by the
Thomas B. Fordham Instute, which conrmed earlier ndings of high-
achieving students languishing throughout the prior ten-year period. Both of
these reports highlighted the rare applicaon of academic acceleraon as a
viable way to meet the needs of advanced learners despite the fact that in
most cases acceleraon does not use addional funding sources.
In 2014, on the ten-year anniversary of A Naon Deceived, a follow up report,
A Naon Empowered was published, providing a wealth of informaon to
readers about academic acceleraon and the research that supports the
various forms of acceleraon as a high impact strategy. It also addressed
reasons it is sll sparingly used. Sll, the authors of A Naon Empowered
couldn’t hide their frustraon at how rare acceleraon remained in American
More recently, in 2017 The Untapped Potenal Project researched and
reported on the use of acceleraon within public school districts in the state of
Illinois. Their goal was to compel educators and policy makers to embrace the
research behind academic acceleraon as a highly successful evidence-based
pracce for advanced learners. Two years later, the Wisconsin Associaon for
Talented and Gied followed suit. Their goal was to determine and understand
which school districts and which forms of acceleraons are being used as a
strategy to meet the needs of students in Wisconsin public schools. Once
the problem was revealed, advocacy and educaon could take place to make
improvements for students within the current systems.
The Naonal Associaon for Gied Children denes acceleraon as “an
intervenon that moves students through an educaon program at rates
faster, or at younger ages, than is typical.
There are at least nineteen dierent types of acceleraon, with the following
types of acceleraons being used the most throughout the naon:
• Early Admission to Kindergarten or First Grade
• Full Grade Acceleraon also known as grade skipping
• Specic Subject Acceleraon
• Self-Paced Instrucon
• Early Entrance into Middle School, High School, and/or College
• Combined Classes
• Distance Learning Courses
• Concurrent/Dual Enrollment
• Advanced Placement
• Internaonal Baccalaureate Program
• Accelerated/Honors High School or STEM Residenal High School
• Credit by Examinaon
Some of these acceleraon opons are more widely known and used while
others are less understood. For example, many districts in Wisconsin oer
college level classes through the Advanced Placement program, yet many
students do not know that students can take the AP exams without taking the
class. The extensive list of acceleraon opons provides an avenue to match
student needs with a strategy to t that specic need.
Acceleration is an
intervention that
moves students
through an
program at rates
or at younger
ages, than is
There are three critical reasons to care about the state of accelerated
learning in Wisconsin.
Large percentages of Wisconsin students score above “grade level” on
standardized tests.
Research shows acceleraon is a high-impact educaonal intervenon.
In most instances acceleraon is a low-cost strategy.
In January, 2019, at the State Educaon Convenon, Wisconsin Associaon
for Talented and Gied (WATG) Board members shared startling stascs
about the lack of accelerated learning avenues for students in Wisconsin.
They highlighted recent research from the Instute for Educaon Policy, Johns
Hopkins School of Educaon where authors of How Can So Many Students Be
Invisible? Large Percentages of American Students Perform Above Grade Level
revealed a signicant percentage of students, including those from Wisconsin,
start a school year a grade level or more above their same age peers. This
research reinforces what many educators, parents, and gied students have
known for some me: many students are ready for more challenge—much
more—than can be provided by typical grade-level instrucon.
... many students are
for more
much more—
than can be
provided by typical
Findings cited in the Johns Hopkins report included the following:
20% to 40% of elementary and middle school
students perform at least one grade level above
their current grade in reading.
11% to 30% of elementary and middle school
students perform at least one grade level above
their current grade in math.
8% to 10% of Grade 4 students
perform at the 8th Grade level
in language arts.
2% to 5% of Grade 4 students perform
at the 8th grade level in math.
20,000 in Wisconsin One Year Ahead
In Wisconsin alone, an esmated 20,000 students per grade level are
performing more than one year ahead of grade-level standards.
Addional studies from the Naonal Research Center on the Gied and
Talented have found gied elementary students may have mastered 40%
of the curriculum for a grade level before they begin a new grade level, and
some highly gied elementary students may have mastered even more. Some
districts have systems and acceleraon paths to meet the needs of these
students. Others do not.
One Grade Level
One Grade Level
Four Grade Levels
Four Grade Levels
As noted above, there are
numerous types of acceleraon.
Mulple meta-analyses have
reported the posive academic
and social-emoonal eects
produced by this range of
acceleraon strategies, an
important one being a 2016
second-order meta-analysis
published in Review of Educaonal Research. The authors reported an overall
eect size, averaged across all prior research, of .70. This means that when
compared to same-age peers, accelerated students perform .70 standard
deviaons higher in terms of academic achievement. To put that in context,
here are some educaonal pracces that are common in K–12 schools, and
yet show a weaker eect on student learning compared to acceleraon:
concept mapping (.64), vocabulary (.62), enrichment programs (.53), parental
involvement in schools (.50), teacher professional development (.42), and
music programs (.37).
Oenmes acceleraon is free.
The only cost associated with
many types of acceleraon is
management and facilitaon. A
full-grade acceleraon means
moving a student to a classroom
already in place. Subject
acceleraon is oen achieved
the same way: a student moves
from one class environment to another class. In most instances no special
curriculum is required. When acceleraon is used system-wide between
schools, transportaon may be a cost, but the per pupil cost is low compared
to other learning accommodaons.
Acceleraon has a strong research base of improving student learning and
comes at very low cost, especially when compared to educaonal pracces
with similar eects.
A 2014 report for the Naonal Research Center on the Gied and Talented of
1,566 school districts across the United States (765 elementary, 486 middle,
and 315 high school) details just how few students are accelerated. The
ndings are shocking.
Only 1.7 percent of elementary school districts provide subject
acceleraon and only 0.2 percent allow students to full grade accelerate.
Only 2.4 percent of middle school districts provide subject acceleraon
and only 0.3 percent allow students to full grade accelerate.
Only 6.6 percent of high school districts oer dual enrollment courses,
2.2 percent oer IB courses, and 40.4 percent oer
Advanced Placement courses.
Why don’t more districts use acceleraon as a viable means to meet the
needs of students? The most likely answer is that schools and parents fear
negave eects on students in terms of social emoonal outcomes. They have
reasonable concerns about whether or not their child is truly ready, or if the
accelerated placement would do more harm than good. Although its certainly
true that some accelerated students might have negave experiences, this
is true of any instruconal strategy. Whats more, a 2011 meta-analysis
found zero to slightly posive eects on social emoonal outcomes due to
acceleraon. Again, when compared to same-age peers, accelerated students
showed a .14 higher social emoonal rang. Although not stascally
signicant, this means students who are accelerated show neither consistent
posive nor negave eects on their social emoonal well-being. They have
posive and negave experiences with school, just like any other student.
The end result of acceleraon is a student who shows greater academic
achievement with no negave impact on social-emoonal outcomes, all from
a strategy that comes with minimal cost.
The other possibility for why acceleraon is so rare is that students who are
above-level” or already procient according to grade-level standards are
simply not the main populaon of concern for schools. In 2019, only 40%
of American grade four students scored procient or beer on the Naonal
Assessment of Educaonal Progress (NAEP). In Wisconsin, that number was
45% of fourth-grade students. More than half of students in Wisconsin as well
as in the naon as a whole are not scoring at a procient level. Most oen
this is the focus on K–12 educaon, and understandably so. However, this is
all the more reason to emphasize acceleraon as an instruconal strategy for
advanced learners. As already noted, acceleraon requires very lile in terms
of money or sta me to implement, thereby leaving other money and sta
me to further support students to achieve grade-level prociency.
... found zero to
slightly positive
effects on
social emotional
due to
Required School Decision No Policy
21 9 119
Naonwide, twenty-one states require districts to develop a formal
acceleraon policy. Nineteen states leave the decision in the hands of each
school district, while another nine states have no policy whatsoever. And one
state, Louisiana, forbids it. If only a small percentage of students could benet
from acceleraon, the lack of policy naonwide would be problemac, but
not alarming. However, the research indicates that there is a larger populaon
of students than previously suspected that could benet from acceleraon,
and acceleraon policy at the state level. Current federal and state educaon
policies focusing on grade-level prociencies are irrelevant for a huge number
of American students.
Ohio, Illinois, and Minnesota have taken a proacve approach to ensuring
students in their states have the opportunity to learn at the pace that
works for them. Each of these states has put policy in place with regard to
In 2006, in response to a newly-passed state law, the
Ohio Department of Educaon published model student
acceleraon policies for advanced learners. In addion to
example policies, the new state law mandated that every local
board of educaon implement its own acceleraon policy to
assure all students have access to various types of accelerated
learning. Every local school board must either adopt the state’s model policy,
or develop its own and then request approval from the state. The overall
result is that any student who is referred for an accelerated placement must
have the opportunity to go through the local school districts state-approved
idencaon process.
Illinois followed in Ohio’s footsteps by passing The Accelerated Placement
Act in 2017. As Illinois used Ohio as a model, there are many similaries. For
example, Illinois now mandates that all school districts have
policies in place that allow for accelerated placement in the
form of early entrance to kindergarten or rst grade, subject
acceleraon, full-grade acceleraon, or early graduaon from
high school. What is especially intriguing about the Accelerated
Placement Act is that it had biparsan sponsors, received
support from state educaon organizaons, and passed with
votes of 53-1 out of the State Senate and 98-11 out of the State
House both Democrac controlled, and signed by a Republican governor.
Meeng student needs through acceleraon appears to be a biparsan goal.
It is a rare case in educaon where members of both major polical pares
appear to agree. Acceleraon is a common-sense educaonal strategy.
Similar to Illinois and Ohio, Minnesota schools are required to adopt
procedures for the academic acceleraon of gied and talented students”.
While districts are given control over much of the procedure,
they must include evaluaon of each students’ readiness
and movaon for acceleraon as well as assuring a student
is matched in level, complexity, and pace with his or her
accelerated placement. Common across all three states is
broad school-district control over local acceleraon policies
and procedures. In all three, districts must have policies in
place–they must allow for access to acceleraon for those who need it and let
districts control what that means and what form it takes.
To date,
Wisconsin has no specific state policy
or statutes related to acceleration.
Acceleraon is one strategy to meet the learning needs of advanced learners.
Overall, school districts in Wisconsin are expected to meet ve standards with
regard to gied and talented educaon.
1. Have a school-board approved plan for providing access to a program for
gied and talented students.
2. Designate a person to coordinate the gied and talented program.
3. Idenfy gied and talented students in grades K–12 and in the areas of
general intellectual ability, specic academic areas, leadership, creavity,
and visual and performing arts.
4. Provide access, without charge, to appropriate programming for gied and
talented students.
5. Provide opportunies for parental involvement in idencaon and
programming decisions.
These requirements can be found in Wisconsin State Statutes and the
Wisconsin Department of Public Instrucon
118.35 General School Operaons
121.02(1)(t) from Chapter 121, School Finance, Subchapter II, General Aid
Department of Public Instrucon Administrave Rule 8.01(2)(t)2
Each of these is explained at greater detail in the appendix.
Various state statutes and administrave rules exist that deal with things
such as Advanced Placement, but there is no state policy regarding academic
acceleraon. The closest thing would be a state statute that grants power
to local school boards to prescribe procedures, condions, and standards
for early admission to kindergarten and rst grade. However, in granng this
power, actually creang early-entrance policies is not mandated by the state.
The primary purpose of the research for this report was to address two
primary quesons:
1) Do school districts in Wisconsin have policies in place to support academic
acceleraon even if they are not required by the state?
2) To what degree are Wisconsin school districts in compliance with current
state laws and administrave rules regarding meeng the academic learning
needs of gied and talented students?
To answer these quesons WATG collected survey responses between June
2018 and February 2019. A digital survey with an open records request was
sent to 430 public school districts in the state of Wisconsin. A total of four
email requests and one standard mail request were sent to idened District
Oce sta. In the end, a total of 390 school districts responded. Fourteen
schools/districts were removed from the survey list as they were small charter
The survey consisted of the following quesons:
1. What are the grade levels represented in your district?
2. Does your district have a formal acceleraon policy/procedure?
3. Does your district allow students to enter kindergarten early?
4. Does your district allow students to enter rst grade early?
5. Does your district allow students to take classes at a higher level than
their current grade?
6. Does your district allow students to skip grades?
7. Does your district allow students to graduate high school early?
8. Does your district have a gied and talented coordinator?
9. Does your district have a formalized plan for gied educaon?
10. Does your district idenfy gied and talented students at every grade
11. Does your district provide gied and talented services at every grade
12. Do parents have opportunies to be involved in idencaon and
programming decisions for gied and talented students?
Quesons 1 through 7 related to the most-common types of acceleraon
and whether or not they were allowed or supported by explicit school
district policies. Quesons 8 through 12 focused on compliance of school
districts relave to the explicit requirements present in Wisconsin statute
or Administrave Rules. A nal secon of the survey provided an oponal
opportunity for districts to share school board policy, procedure, acceleraon
plans, gied educaon program plans, or idencaon criteria that highlight
alignment to meeng advanced learner needs.
Addionally and through separate communicaons, WATG asked Wisconsin
families to share their personal acceleraon stories regarding their students
experiences in Wisconsin. Requests for stories were posted on social media,
sent through WATG e-newsleers, and posted on the WATG website.
1. What are the grade levels represented in your district?
Of the 380 districts responding to
the queson about grade levels
326 were K–12 or
4K–12 districts (86%)
• 43 were K–8 districts (11%)
• 11 were 9–12 districts (3%)
2. Does your district have a formal acceleraon policy/procedure?
The majority (68%) of districts reported having formal acceleraon policies
or procedures. Of those that responded having formal acceleraon policies,
35 included links to those policies.
However, of those reviewed (some
had broken links), only three could be
described as actual policies for guiding
acceleraon decisions. The vast majority
were general gied educaon policies or
links to school board policies for gied
and talented educaon. This makes
us skepcal that the 262 districts that
reported having acceleraon policies
actually have procedures in place for
making such determinaons when they
are requested from parents, let alone
proacvely seeking out students who might benet from accelerated learning.
This is a crical nding.
Roughly 1/3 of districts reported having no policy, and of those that
reported they did, many of the actual policies are not policies at all,
meaning there is lile proacve access to acceleraon.
The survey asked respondents about student access to ve types of grade
acceleraon. The rst method of acceleraon was early entrance to
kindergarten, which was reported as allowed by 73% of responding districts.
3. Does your district allow students to enter kindergarten early?
An important caveat with this nding is that many districts allow early
entrance, but a narrow window exists
that states the students birthday
cannot be prior to a certain date. For
example, in one district students entering
kindergarten must be ve-years-old by
September 1. A child being considered
for “early” entrance could have a birth
date between August 1 and September 1.
Although this technically qualies as early
entrance, it limits the pool of students
who would be eligible for early entrance,
regardless of how ready they might be.
4. Does your district allow students to enter rst grade early?
5. Does your district allow students to take classes at a higher level than
their current grade (Subject Acceleraon)?
Nearly all of the responding districts
allowed students to take courses that
are typically for older students—called
subject acceleraon. Once again, being
allowed isn’t the same as proacvely
looking for students who might benet
from this type of acceleraon strategy.
Although a posive nding, it is unknown
if responding districts answered
armavely in reference to high school
courses alone as opposed to subject
First Grade
acceleraon throughout the K–12 connuum. For example, many high schools
oer Advanced Placement courses or even “honors” courses. But this does not
mean that subject acceleraon is available in any other grades.
6. Does your district allow students to skip grades (Full Grade Acceleraon)?
79% of responding districts allow for full-grade acceleraon. This response
may require the most careful interpretaon. A school might have an
acceleraon policy and allow full-grade
acceleraon, but the strategy may be
rarely used. In some districts it may be
technically allowed, but rarely pursued
unless a parent requests and lobbies
the district to make it happen. The data
doesn’t show how oen schools make
proacve use of full-grade acceleraon.
7. Does your district allow students to graduate high school early?
Nearly all districts allow for “early
graduaon from high school. This is a
posive nding, although it might be
worth further invesgaon as to what
requirements must be met for early
Full Grade
In addion to quesons related to acceleraon policies, we also asked
several quesons related to district compliance with Wisconsin Statutes
and Administrave Rules regarding gied and talented services. Currently,
Wisconsin collects no data on the number of students idened as gied,
the services students receive, or the equity of the populaons served by
such services. The only data available comes from the Department of Public
Instrucon (DPI) “All Sta File,” which includes a range of data on every person
employed by the public-school system. Included in this le is a designaon as
to whether or not a sta person’s “assigned area code” was “14,” indicang
the sta member was assigned to work related to gied and talented
educaon. The only two “assignment posions” for which a person could
be assigned the area of gied and talented educaon were teacher (53) or
program coordinator (64).
Of Wisconsin’s 430 school districts, in the 2018–2019 school year, 136
reported either a teacher or a program coordinator in the “gied and
talented” assignment area. Some districts had both a teacher and a program
coordinator and some districts had many sta in this area (e.g., Madison
Metropolitan, Eau Claire Area).
Approximately 32% of Wisconsin school districts self-report having some form
of gied and talented sta. This data can be viewed in an interacve map
online. The following page in a stac version of the map.
This data from the All Sta File can be compared to data self-reported on
the present survey, the rst queson of which dealt with whether or not the
district had a named gied and talented coordinator. For context, a district
that responded to any of the following quesons as “no” is self-reporng
noncompliance with Wisconsin Statutes or Administrave Rules.
Approximately 32% of Wisconsin school
districts self-report having some form of
gifted and talented staff.
By pure happenstance, in the All Sta File, 136 districts reported having one or
more sta members assigned to gied and talented educaon. In our survey,
251 districts reported having a gied and talented coordinator, while 136 said
they did not have any such sta member. Clearly, both of these cannot be
true. One likely explanaon is that many districts have a person who handles
any gied educaon services, but is not reported as such to DPI. That could
explain much of the dierence between the 136 posive responses in the All
Sta File and the 251 posive responses to our survey.
8. Does your district have a gied and talented coordinator?
Queson 8 related to state policies
and asked districts if they had a person
designated to coordinate gied and
talented services. Roughly 2/3 of districts
responded that they had such a person.
However, as was noted above, there is
some disagreement here between what
districts self-reported to us and what they
self-report to DPI.
9. Does your district have a formalized plan for gied educaon?
Queson 9 related to state requirement and asked districts if they had a
formalized plan for gied educaon services. Again, to be in compliance with
state law, all school districts in Wisconsin should be answering “yes”. Despite
this, only 58% of districts reported having such a plan.
Wisconsin mandates that gied and talented idencaon take place in
grades K–12 and services are available at all grades K–12. Quesons #10 &
#11 report responses to these quesons. In both cases, approximately 2/3 of
districts responded they idenfy at all grade levels or provided services at all
grade levels.
10. Does your district idenfy gied and talented students at every
grade level?
11. Does your district provide gied and talented services at every grade
12. Do parents have opportunies to be involved in idencaon and
programming decisions for gied and talented students?
The nal survey queson asked districts if parents were provided
opportunies to be involved in the idencaon of gied students and the
resulng programming associated with the idencaon. The chart below
shows that the vast majority of districts do provide opportunies for parental
Acceleraon is one strategy that has shown posive eects for students who
exhibit readiness for a more-challenging curriculum or who learn at a pace
faster than what is typical. Given its low cost and documented high impact
on student learning, the strategy is one all schools should make available to
students who would benet from it.
What follows are tangible acon steps state policymakers and individual school
districts could take to expand access to all types of acceleraon beer meeng
the needs of students who show readiness for a more challenging curriculum.
1. Remove Barriers To Accelerated Learning
Even before step one, stakeholders should begin by
building awareness. Far too many parents, educators, and
policymakers believe acceleraon, parcularly grade skipping, will have
negave social and emoonal eects on students. The truth is research shows
posive eects for students’ social and emoonal outcomes. Instructors
in teacher educaon programs, school administrators, and school board
members need to understand acceleraon and how it could be a viable opon
for some students who may be the hardest to otherwise challenge in the age-
based classroom.
State policy makers should review and become familiar with exisng
requirements for things such as entrance to kindergarten, high school
graduaon, and even state mandated tesng with an eye toward
understanding if any of these policies might unintenonally hold back
advanced learners. Revising policies and pracces that let students enter
kindergarten when they are ready instead of based solely on age would open
doors for students. Currently state aid to districts is ed to students staying
in schools for 13 years. Rethinking school aid to incenvize teaching pracces
that help students nish school ready, and earlier than typical could accelerate
student learning. State policy makers should take proacve steps to remove
barriers to advanced learning.
2. Increase Transparency of Policies and Pracces
Transparency on school
report cards provides a level
of accountability and ensures parents are
aware that acceleraon could be a viable
learning opon for their children. Wisconsin
could follow its neighbors Ohio, Illinois, and
Minnesota to increase transparency of the
access to acceleraon provided to students
by each district. The Illinois legislature le
how to make decisions about acceleraon up
to individual districts. However, access must
be provided. Ohio has taken the further step
of documenng the number of students
who receive subject-specic or full-grade
acceleraon on their school report cards.
Acon Step
Number of Subject
Students 708
Number of Whole-
Grade Accelerated
Students 66
Acon Step
3. Mandate Access to Accelerated Learning for All Those
Who Are Ready
Finally, Wisconsin could start to remove barriers to advanced
content by mandang, through law or policy, that all school districts provide
access to accelerated learning opportunies. Mandated policies and
procedures with an accountability report of students impacted could help
more students receive the challenging curriculum they deserve.
What can be said for sure is that students vary in every conceivable way,
including in their prior learning experiences and readiness to learn new
content. Some students come to a given grade level more than ready to learn
the content being taught. They may be one, two, or even four grade-levels
ahead of where they are placed in school. All schools need to consider how
and where they can break down the hard and fast barriers between grades.
Age-based grades give the false impression that all “rst-grade” students are
more or less the same - that they have very similar learning needs. But this
isn’t true. Acceleraon is one way to try and break down the arcial barriers
that prevent students from moving on to new content when they are ready.
Acon Step
Implement or
District Policies
Understand and
Measure the
Proacvely seek out
students who could
Front Load
Change the
1. Implement or strengthen district policies and procedures.
Where can districts start to take acon? School
administrators could start by looking at district acceleraon
policies and procedures with the lens of seeking to remove barriers such as
age and the number of criteria students need to meet to qualify. If a district
doesn’t have an acceleraon policy, implemenng one would be a rst step.
The Illinois Associaon for Gied Children (IAGC) has a model acceleraon
2. Understand and measure the problem.
Next, districts should ask key quesons to nd out if a
problem exists and just how big that problem is. This can be
accomplished by looking at various forms of data to determine:
• Are any students ready for a more challenging curriculum?
• How do we know?
What number of students have taken an accelerated learning path in the
district in the past year? Two years? At what levels and in what areas?
Looking for paerns or gaps will help decision makers nd areas to improve.
Looking isn’t enough. Acon must follow for change to occur. Policies and
procedures need to be used, not just developed.
Acon Step
Acon Step
3. Proacvely seek out students who could benet from
accelerated learning paths.
Perhaps one of the most important acons a school district
can take is to use exisng data to proacvely seek out students who might
be under-served by the “standard, age based” curriculum or classroom
placement rather than assume every child is ready for the same learning at
the same me.
4. Change the culture around “grade-level” content.
In seeking out students who might be under-served, the
school district changes the culture around “grade-level”
content and instrucon. An appropriate and eecve educaon is one which
challenges students at their level of readiness. Students require dierent
content and dierent instruconal methods. Schools need to be prepared for
the kindergartener who can already read chapter books or the ten-year-old
who has read the Constuon cover to cover.
5. Front load learning opportunies so that more students
can benet from accelerated learning.
Finding students somemes becomes tricky. Not all students
have the same range of experiences outside of school, nor do
they all have advanced abilies in all academic areas. Poverty, being an English
Learner, being a student who has experienced implicit bias or instuonalized
racism, or having a learning disability may be roadblocks that mask readiness
for students being idened for advanced learning opportunies. For these
reasons, schools should not only provide advanced, accelerated learning
opportunies, but should also provide early learning experiences to help
students be ready to benet from advanced opportunies. It is also imperave
that programming and support for gied and talented students be systemac
and connuous. The advanced trajectory of learning must be maintained
throughout a students career.
6. Assure access for all students who are ready.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, schools need to assure
access to accelerated learning opportunies. Systemacally
nding students who are advanced is a rst step, but the primary goal is to
challenge students at their level of readiness. Policies and procedures are no
good without acon. Pung those procedures into place for students who
need them is key to their success. Developing ways to monitor and evaluate
the outcomes for impact is of utmost importance.
Acon Step
Acon Step
Acon Step
Acon Step
As evidenced by the self-reported data presented in the report, inconsistent
compliance exists with Wisconsin laws and Administrave Rules related to
gied and talented services. Perhaps most concerning is that 1/3 of Wisconsin
districts report not oering services at all grade levels. Its worth nong that
an analysis of United States Oce of Civil Rights data from 2016 found that
roughly half of Wisconsin schools idened zero students as gied. Regardless
of the exact numbers, a large number of schools in Wisconsin report not
having gied and talented services available.
1/3 of
Wisconsin districts
not offering
at all
grade levels.
1. Ensure district compliance with exisng state laws and rules.
Ensuring districts are in compliance with exisng state mandates
regarding gied and talented idencaon and services is a rst
step. The WATG survey and the data reported about stang in
Wisconsin show many districts as out of compliance with current mandates.
Built in accountability measures that require districts to account for the
number of gied and talented students idened and who are receiving gied
and talented services would beer ensure more students’ needs would be
met. In other states this takes the form of rotang audits of district services
by the state department of educaon, requirements that districts submit their
gied and talented plans (plans all Wisconsin districts are required to have),
or providing funding only upon receipt of a plan for how that funding will be
used. Many states have implemented policies to assure greater compliance.
There’s no reason Wisconsin cannot do the same.
2. Fund educaonal pathways for advanced learners.
Unlike special educaon, gied educaon in Wisconsin is not
The only source for funding gied and talented services from the State is a
$237,200 grant program. Prior to 2018, only one school district was even
eligible for funding under this program. A more equitable approach could
be to replace the grant program altogether with per pupil funding as is
done in Minnesota and Iowa. School districts in these states have dedicated
funding for gied and talented teacher salaries and benets, professional
development for gied and talented educators, and necessary supplies and
resources to meet the documented educaonal needs of every gied student.
Funding needs to be increased. If the current budget of $237,200 were split
evenly among the current list of 446 school districts, each district would only
receive about $531 a year to serve all students. This is not enough to make an
WATG has advocated for budgeng $5,000,000 for gied educaon in
Wisconsin—far less than Wisconsin’s neighboring states, but sll a major
improvement. Funding mandated gied educaon in Wisconsin could lead to
more students receiving the educaon they deserve.
3. Require coursework in gied educaon for preservice and
inservice educaonal sta.
Finally, only a small percentage of teachers receive any training in
gied educaon at the pre-service level. Most pre-service programs do not
include a single class devoted to gied educaon and none of Wisconsin’s
teacher training programs include coursework about how to meet the needs
of advanced learners. It is incumbent upon educators (administraon and
teachers) to secure professional development in gied educaon, both at the
pre-service and in-service levels. A wide variety of avenues exist, including
collaboraons with universies and colleges, conferences, webinars, social
media events, professional reading, and professional development acvies
specically dedicated to gied educaon. Ideally, pre-service educaon
programs would include at least one required course on gied educaon.
1. Get to know the state Statutes for gied educaon.
Reviewing the Wisconsin state Statutes and Rules for gied
educaon is a good place to start; then look for evidence
that schools in the District are meeng the criteria. The Department of Public
Instrucon has a self assessment tool that districts can use for this very
purpose. Districts should idenfy gaps in exisng services and then devise
strategic plans for how to ll them. School district administrators and school
board members could also start by analyzing their District responses to the
WATG survey. If quesons were answered “no,” then the district might be non-
compliant and the rst steps become clear.
2. Look at data with a lens of possibility.
District sta should regularly and frequently ask: How do we
know our top students are learning? What evidence do we
have? What data can we look at to know these students are growing? Oen
parents, teachers and administrators err on the conservave side of answering
with no—no to changing a building schedule to allow subject acceleraon
to students who are ready, no to a musically gied student taking two music
classes in a semester because thats never been done before. Schools must
build a culture of Yes or Possibilies for students.
Acon Step
Acon Step
3. Review school district policies & procedures.
School leaders should review policies and procedures related
to gied and talented services. Having policies is not enough.
If they are good, put them to use. If the policies need updang, do that so the
procedures can be used to guide impacul decision making. Develop a plan
to regularly share the policies and procedures with others in the District and
support their use.
4. Use district procedures to proacvely seek out students.
5. Assure access for all students who are ready.
Ensure that access to challenging learning paths is open to
all students. Regularly review programs and ask quesons such as these: Who
does this path work for and under what condions? Do we have equitable
representaon within our learning paths? If not, what changes do we need to
make to ensure that all students who have a need have access?
6. Fund gied educaon.
Finally, since next to zero funding for gied educaon is
provided by the state, supporng these services too oen
falls on individual districts. Dollars are in short supply, yet luckily not all
services come with high costs. Intervenons such as acceleraon and cluster
grouping can be implemented in equitable ways to beer challenge more
students at the appropriate level. Sll, me and resources are needed, and
support for these needs to come from both the state and district levels.
Acon Step
Acon Steps
Acon Step
1. Get to know the GT policies and procedures available in
the District
Some districts have policies and procedures for gied
educaon, but they are not frequently used. See if your district has them and
put them to use. If clarity needs to be built through updang the policies,
make the changes. If policy doesn’t exist, work to put it in place.
2. Pursue and promote professional development on the
topic of advanced learning
In Wisconsin, a teaching degree can be obtained without
one single class in gied educaon, making it dicult to know how to meet
advanced learner needs. The good news is this—many opportunies focused
on meeng the needs of advanced learners exist. Connect online with WATG,
NAGC or Hoagies Gied. Take coursework or earn the gied and talented
teacher or coordinator cercaon. Provide or engage in sta development
opportunies focused on advanced learners. And then put that learning to
Acon Step
Acon Step
3. Build a network of individuals who will are commied to
growth for all students
Addionally, seek out and build networks of individuals
dedicated to serving gied learners. These can be at the
district level, the CESA (Cooperave Educaonal Services Agency) level, the
community level, the state level, and the naonal level. These networks can
disseminate informaon, provide training, and serve educators, families, and
4. Review, revise and use best pracces
By intenonally learning about best pracces in gied
educaon and networking, you will be ready to use high-yield
strategies such as acceleraon and school wide cluster grouping, strategies
that can easily help more students receive a challenging curriculum.
5. Put systems and strategies in place that meet the needs
of gied learners
Strengthen or put a system in place that regularly and
frequently uses and reviews data on advanced learners.
Consider the needs of gied students when considering or updang
curriculum, or adopng teaching and learning strategies.
6. Build strong communicaon processes and partnerships
with parents and guardians
Finally, recognize and treat parents as allies in the quest
to meet the needs of advanced learners. Many parents of gied learners
struggle to speak up because of their fear of elism. Gied students oen
have challenges that other parents don’t see or understand. Parents of gied
students are eager to nd help.
Acon Step
Acon Step
Acon Step
Acon Step
1. Ask quesons and seek answers from resources, educators and
Use a variety of avenues to seek out informaon about gied
learners and parenng gied children. The Wisconsin Associaon for Talented
and Gied (WATG), the Naonal Associaon for Gied Children (NAGC), and
Hoagies Gied are good places to start. Join a parent group, read, aend a
conference or webinar to learn more about tools and strategies that work with
advanced learners.
2. Communicate regularly in partnership with the school and
Connect with school sta and explore the opons available to
students in the school. Ask quesons about how students are
idened for accelerated learning opportunies. Find out how oen students
are idened, what programming is oered, and how oen opportunies and
placement are reviewed.
3. Advocate at the school, district, and state levels.
Build a strong relaonship with educators and let them know you
are a partner and advocate. Oer support and encouragement
to the school community. If your child needs gied and talented services
or is receiving them, communicate regularly with school sta. Two-way
communicaon is opmal for building a strong and proacve relaonship.
This solid relaonship will benet your child, other children, and the school
community at large.
Gied and talented advocacy oers a multude of possibilies. In Wisconsin,
gied educaon is mandated, but not funded. Wring to state legislators and
asking for funding for gied educaon could accelerate change. Though WATG
has asked for $5,000,000 for gied educaon, gied educaon in Wisconsin
only receives $237,200 in the form of compeve grants. Much more funding
is needed. Addionally, you can write leers asking that gied educaon
coursework be included at the college level of teacher training. Currently in
Wisconsin, teachers do not experience any classes in gied educaon.
4. Network.
Advocacy and networking oen go hand in hand. Join WATG, aend
the annual WATG conference, and visit WATG’s website to determine
if becoming a member of the board might be a t for you. Addionally, WATG
always welcomes volunteers to further our mission, “to advocate for and
educate about the needs of gied in Wisconsin.” Through networking in your
local school district, CESA (Cooperave Educaonal Services Agency), state, or
naon, you will join others who share your commitment to gied learners.
5. Celebrate best pracces in gied educaon.
Celebrate the eorts of educators who are successfully meeng
the needs of gied learners. Let administrators at the school and
district level know about the specic strategies and the posive impacts they
are having on student achievement. Encourage the use of these strategies in
all classrooms and schools so that they can impact more students. Nominate
a teacher, administrator or community member for a WATG award for the
signicant contribuons they are making for gied students. Recognion of
success generates more success.
Finally, parents, realize the power you have to impact change in the school
community. When informed and united, parents can and do eect change at
all levels. Working together with educators, districts, state and naonal policy
makers, parents can experience rst-hand the dierence that they can make in
the lives of their gied children, and all gied children.
When informed and united,
parents can and do effect
change at all levels.
Wisconsin State Statutes and Administrave Rules Regarding
Gied and Talented Educaon hps://ed/laws
(from Chapter 118, General School Operaons)
118.35 Programs for gied and talented pupils.
(1) In this secon, “gied and talented pupils” means pupils enrolled in public
schools who give evidence of high performance capability in intellectual,
creave, arsc, leadership or specic academic areas and who need services
or acvies not ordinarily provided in a regular school program in order to
fully develop such capabilies.
(2) The state superintendent shall by rule establish guidelines for the
idencaon of gied and talented pupils [see below for current
Administrave Rules].
(3) Each school board shall ensure that all gied and talented pupils enrolled
in the school district have access to a program for gied and talented pupils.
From the appropriaon under s. 20.255 (2) (fy), the department shall award
grants to nonprot organizaons, cooperave educaonal service agencies,
instuons within the University of Wisconsin System, and the school district
operang under ch. 119 for the purpose of providing to gied and talented
pupils those services and acvies not ordinarily provided in a regular school
program that allow such pupils to fully develop their capabilies.
[Note: part (4) was revised in 2011 to include UW system campuses; the
district operang under 119 is Milwaukee Public Schools]
(from Chapter 121, School Finance, Subchapter II, General Aid)
121.02(1)(t) […each school board shall…]
(t) Provide access to an appropriate program for pupils idened as gied or
[Context: Standard t is one of 20 standards that are supposed to be met in
order for districts to receive state aid. This is the standard under which aid may
be withheld from districts that are found out of compliance with Standard t.]
The following Administrave Rule was established by DPI to provide greater
direcon and guidance to school districts regarding what is required. Authority
for these rules comes from 118.35(2).
Administrave Rule 8.01(2)(t)2.
Each school district shall establish a plan and designate a person to coordinate
the gied and talented program.
Gied and talented pupils shall be idened as required in s. 118.35(1), Stats.
This idencaon shall occur in kindergarten through grade 12 in general
intellectual, specic academic, leadership, creavity, and visual and
performing arts.
A pupil may be idened as gied or talented in one or more of the categories
under s. 118.35(1), Stats.
The idencaon process shall result in a pupil prole based on mulple
measures, including but not limited to standardized test data, nominaons,
rang scales or inventories, products, porolios, and demonstrated
performance. Idencaon tools shall be appropriate for the specic purpose
for which they are being employed. The idencaon process and tools
shall be responsive to factors such as, but not limited to, pupils’ economic
condions, race, gender, culture, nave language, developmental dierences,
and idened disabilies as described under subch. V of ch. 115, Stats.
The school district board shall provide access, without charge for tuion, to
appropriate programming for pupils idened as gied or talented as required
under ss. 118.35(3) and 121.02(1)(t), Stats.
The school district board shall provide an opportunity for parental
parcipaon in the idencaon and resultant programming.
As used in these statutes and rules,access” is dened as “an opportunity to
study through school district course oerings, independent study, cooperave
educaonal service agencies, or cooperave arrangements between school
district boards under s. 66.30, Stats., and postsecondary educaon instuons
(from PI 8.001, Wis. Admin. Code). Similarly, appropriate program” is dened
as “a systemac and connuous set of instruconal acvies or learning
experiences which expand the development of the pupils idened as gied
and talented (from PI 8.01(2)(t), Wis. Admin. Code).