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High Ability

How We Identify High Ability Students

In Indiana, students can be identified as high ability based on achievement or aptitude. We are required to give nationally normed tests to test for high ability. We use the NWEA tests to measure achievement and the CogAT tests to measure aptitude.

We have selection committees that determine which students are high ability. The cut-off scores for kindergarten are 97%ile on the NWEA tests and 95%ile on the CogAT tests. For grades 1-5 the cut-off score for NWEA is 95%ile and the CogAT cut-off is 95%ile.


Formal High Ability Identification Years

Because young students change and grow, there are three times in the elementary experience that we formally identify students who have high ability: kindergarten, second grade and fifth grade.

The following documents outline the process:

Informal High Ability Identification Years

Grades 1,3 and 4-These are informal years for high ability identification. Students only do achievement testing if they are nominated by a teacher. Nominated 1st, 3rd and 4th graders will be given the NWEA test or tests in February. 


Test Results – Beginning in mid March, parents may request test reports/results by emailing Cassie Scarsella at cscarsella@phm.k12.in.us. Please include the child’s first name, last name, grade and school in the email.

Parent Letters – Letters will be sent to the parents of the newly identified students in April. Letters of newly identified students were sent the week of April 10th through the US postal service. 
A small amount of students  will be tested after spring break. If any of these students qualify for high ability, the parents will be notified.

Appeals  Grades K, 2, 5 only: Parents may request an appeal form by emailing Cassie Scarsella at cscarsella@phm.k12.in.us. Appeal forms should only be completed when students barely missed the NWEA required score and there is other evidence that the student has characteristics of a High Ability student. All appeal forms for the 2023-2024 school year are due by Friday, May 3rd, 2024.


Identifying students who are new to the Corporation  Please send recent achievement and aptitude test reports to your child's school so that the correct placement is made for your child. Principals are in charge of the placement of all students. Only actively enrolled students are assessed for high ability during the testing window. If a student was identified as high ability or gifted and talented in a different school corporation, please send recent nationally normed test reports to Cassie Scarsella at cscarsella@phm.k12.in.us. The high ability/gifted and talented label will continue if there are percentile scores that match our cut-off scores.


Placement of high ability students in elementary schools-High Ability Cluster Grouping Model with a Mixed Ability Class

Definition:  All high ability students are clustered in one classroom per grade and the subjects are differentiated. In some of our schools, there are cluster groups in two classes if the number of identified students is high.

Note-Our corporation doesn’t have one specific way to manage high ability cluster groups. Each school and teacher needs to use strategies that fit the number of identified students, student learning styles and teaching style.



How We Serve High Ability Students in Elementary Grades

Language Arts


Writing instruction will take place with the whole class and in small groups. Writing instruction naturally differentiates based on individual strengths and weaknesses with each writing piece. 


Reading Street and the reading curriculum maps provide the framework for instruction. All on-grade level standards and skills on the curriculum maps need to be taught or reviewed based on each student’s experience. This can be done whole class or in small groups.

Practice will be differentiated if students have mastered on-grade level standards. Below you will find resources that teachers may use to differentiate. 

Question Stems-These are higher level questions for the reading standards that can be used with most text at any level.These can be used with text at a student’s instructional level.These can be used in a small group discussion or assigned individually. The text could be from Reading Street leveled readers, leveled readers from building libraries or from a different provided resource.

Off Grade Level Magazines-Teachers have subscriptions for off grade level magazines for their identified HA LA students. There are a lot of good thinking activities in the magazines for articles/stories at a higher reading level. 

Other resources that may be used by HA LA teachers:

  • Junior Great Books
  • Novel Studies
  • Other off grade level resources that are provided by the high ability coordinator


Everyday Mathematics and the math curriculum maps provide the framework for instruction. All standards on the curriculum map need to be taught and/or reviewed. This can be done whole class or in small groups. The corporation's expectation for high ability is that students master on-grade level skills and are introduced to off grade level standards and practice these off grade level standards. They don’t have to master off grade level skills. Below are a list of resources that are provided to high ability math teachers to assist them in meeting the instructional needs of our high ability math students.

Unit DI Guides- Unit guides  provide guidance for differentiation. The first column lists the on-grade level standards. The second column lists activities that are on grade level but at a higher DOK level. The third column lists the off grade level standard that aligns to each on grade level standard. As HA students show mastery in on grade level standards, teachers use this guide to help them plan practice at students’ instructional level.

Off grade level standard resources-Teachers are provided with resources that practice off grade level standards.


High Ability Final Report-2022-23


Cassie Scarsella is the high ability coordinator and can be reached at cscarsella@phm.k12.in.us.


Saturday Enrichment at Schmucker Middle School


During the 2024-2025 school year we will be offering a variety of Saturday Enrichment opportunities. Invitations will include details about eligible grade levels and class offerings.


Fall Enrichment Dates: November 2, 9, and 16

Spring Enrichment Dates: March 8, 15, and 22

*Priority is given to students that were unable to attend Fall Saturday Enrichment.


Eligibility Requirements for participating in Saturday Enrichment (Grades 3-5)
Grade 3

  • scored in at least the 90%ile on a second grade NWEA test or CogAT test
  • scored proficient or highly proficient on the 2024 Fall Clearsight Interim Assessment
  • identified as high ability


Grades 4- 5

  • scored an above proficiency on the Spring 2024 Language Arts or Math ILEARN
  • identified as high ability