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Highly Capable/Explorer Program


Today’s Classroom, Tomorrow’s World


Program Information

Washington State law requires that all school districts identify their "most highly capable" students and provide a continuum of services to those students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Walla Walla School District's Highly Capable Program provides students of high academic and intellectual ability with designated time to explore concepts in greater depth.  The goal of the Highly Capable Program is to encourage the development of higher-level thinking skills. Students learn to become responsible for their own learning, develop their creative thinking and critical reasoning power, and strive to reach their potential.


Referral and Testing Information for 2019-2020

The annual selection process for in-district students takes place in late winter/early spring, with referral packets available beginning February 3, 2020. The deadline for referrals is February 28, 2020. Following the testing and selection process, all parents will be notified in writing of the results of the process and a child not selected one year may be referred again in subsequent years.

Parent permission forms for kindergarten cognitive abilities screening will be available at district schools in December and screening will take place in January. Parents will be notified of screening results and full referral forms will be available at February conferences. Referred students will take the remainder of the cognitive abilities test and be reviewed for selection by the end of March so differentiated programming can be reviewed and planned for at the child's home school for the spring.

Students in second and fifth grade will take the cognitive abilities screener following winter break and results of the screening process, along with other data points, will be used to determine which students will be recommended at conference time to participate in the remainder of the cognitive abilities test. Parents of students at other elementary and middle school grade levels should be in contact with their child’s teacher(s) to determine if Highly Capable testing is recommended.

Students in grades one through eight selected for Highly Capable programming will begin services at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.

English Referral Packet

Spanish Referral Packet


Programming Descriptions

Walla Walla Public Schools’ Highly Capable Program programming focus on two domains: 1) general intellectual growth and exploration and 2) specific academic content areas. The specific academic focus areas are mathematics, science, language arts and social studies. Students identified as Highly Capable are offered the following:

Students identified as Highly Capable in kindergarten through second grade are served through the Response to Intervention (RtI) model in their home schools. The elementary principal or designee will work with classroom teachers to provide appropriate accelerated/enhanced learning opportunities. Kindergarten through second grade classroom/program options could include, but are not limited to: alternative activities, enrichment activities, flexible group learning, independent projects, advanced lessons, online or supplemental instruction. Students who qualify for highly capable identification in kindergarten or first grade will participate in the full CogAT in second grade to ensure the review team has the most current information to determine whether Explorers programming matches identified highly capable areas.

For third through fifth grade, Highly Capable identified students, some may be served in Explorers, a one day per week pull-out program focusing on enriched academic experiences. Identified Highly Capable students receive services under the RtI model at their home schools depending on the area(s) identified as Highly Capable.

Middle school Highly Capable services are incorporated into the school day through specific classes. Students are involved in inquiry-based lessons, group problem-solving settings, independent investigations and group discussions. Middle school Highly Capable students also have an opportunity to take different levels of math and science classes based on their ability, test scores and recommendations from teachers.

Students identified as Highly Capable and transitioning to ninth grade will meet with high school counselors (or principal’s designee) for the purpose of course selection and access to advanced instruction. Teachers of high school Highly Capable students will know who has been identified and will be provided with professional development and/or instructional suggestions through the high school RtI team. Services for high school students can include, but are not limited to, honors or Advanced Placement classes, Running Start or independent study.

Previously identified transfer students, with proof of Highly Capable program acceptance from another school district, are placed according to the education needs in the academic focus areas of mathematics, science, language arts and social studies.

For more information, please contact the Walla Walla School District Teaching and Learning office: 526-6733.

Highly Capable Learner Characteristics

Gifted children have a definite set of characteristics. You may see some of these in your child:

• Learns new material faster, and at an earlier age, than peers.
• Remembers what has been learned, often making review unnecessary.
• Is able to deal with concepts that are too complex and abstract for age peers.
• Has a passionate interest in one or more topics; would spend all available time learning about that topic if s/he could.
• Does not need to watch the teacher to hear what is being said; can process more than one task at a time.
• Is very intense. Gets totally absorbed in activities and thoughts; may be reluctant to move from one subject area to another; may insist on mastering one thing before starting another. May experience periods of such fierce concentration that he is literally unaware of what is going on around him.
• Prefers complex and challenging tasks to “basic” or “busy” work. May change simple tasks or directions to more complex ones to keep interested.
• Has many, and sometimes unusual, interests, hobbies, and collections. May have a passionate interest, such as dinosaurs, that has lasted for many years.


More Information


Explorer Teachers (Grade 3 through 8 program)

School Name Phone Email
Grade 3-5 Program Shannon Swanson-Harvey 527-3098 sharvey@wwps.org
Garrison Middle School

Beth Clearman

Agnes Wooters





Pioneer Middle School

Marissa Payton

Stephanie Kytola






WALLA WALLA PUBLIC SCHOOLS • 364 South Park St. • Walla Walla, WA 99362 • Phone: 509-527-3000 • Fax: 509.529.7713

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