565 NW Holly Street, Issaquah, WA 98027
(425) 837-7000

Highly Capable (Gifted)

Parent Letters

Kindergarten and first grade students will bring home a parent letter in February that describes the screening, testing, qualifying, and entrance process for the District's gifted/highly capable program for students in grades 1 and 2.

Second grade students will bring home a parent letter in February that describes the testing, qualifying, and entrance process for the District's gifted/highly capable program options for students in grades 3-5. Three tests are used for qualifying students to these programs—Stanford 10 Achievement test, CogAT cognitive abilities test, and SOI Structure of Intellect creativity test. The Stanford test will be given during a January-February testing window and CogAT and SOI during a March window.

Testing in School Year Kindergarten Testing Window First Grade Testing Window
2013-2014 Spring–Identify students for service in 2014-2015, their 1st grade year. Spring–Identify students for service in 2014-2015, their 2nd grade year.
2014-2015 (and beyond) Winter–Identify Kindergarten students for service to begin in the 2nd half of the Kindergarten year N/A– Beginning in 2014-2015, students will only be tested in Kindergarten and 2nd grade.


Appeals Process and Exit Procedures

Appeals Process and Exit Procedures Information

Appeals Process Form

Program Changes

Changes are coming to our Highly Capable Programs. A new law in Washington State 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 beginning next school year (2014-2015). The new law also includes specific language for districts around identifying their "most highly capable" students.

Currently, the district provides a continuum of programs for highly capable students in grades 3 through 12. While the law requires us to expand our services to include K-2, the law did not provide for any additional funding. Therefore, our district will receive no additional funds to expand our services to grades K-2.

Please note: There will be no program changes for students who are currently in grades 3-5 in our SAGE or MERLIN programs. In addition, there will be no program changes for students currently identified as highly capable in grades 6-12. Secondary students will continue to have options including: Honors courses, compacted math courses, AP, IB, Running Start, and College in the Classroom.

What will remain the same for Highly Capable testing? As is our current practice, all students in second grade will be tested to determine eligibility for placement into the MERLIN self-contained program and our pull-out program. However, a higher bar for identification of students will be in place. Again, this is due to the state language around identifying "most highly capable" and the lack of additional funding.

What changes will take place for Highly Capable testing? This winter, Kindergarten and first grade students will be identified through a screening process for further testing in the early spring. The final identification determination will occur in late spring 2014.

The Programs

The Issaquah School District offers two programs for gifted and highly capable students in grades three through five.

Please note! The following information is subject to change as we transition our highly capable programs and procedures to align with new state requirements for the 2014-2015 school-year.


    (Mind Education Right Left Integration) is a self-contained program located at Apollo Elementary (south region) and Endeavour Elementary (north region). Each school offers three MERLIN classes: one in third, fourth, and fifth grade. Students who live in the following attendance areas: Apollo, Briarwood, Clark, Cougar Ridge, Grand Ridge, Issaquah Valley, Maple Hills, Newcastle, and Sunset will attend Apollo. Students who live in the following attendance areas: Cascade Ridge, Challenger, Creekside, Discovery, Endeavour, and Sunny Hills will attend Endeavour. Parents are responsible for transporting MERLIN students to Apollo or Endeavour.

  2. SAGE

    (Special Approach to Gifted Education) is offered at each elementary school. SAGE students leave their regular classrooms for approximately two hours per week to work on a variety of enriching, challenging, and creative problem solving activities. SAGE lessons often enhance general education class lessons. Many SAGE activities are designed around hands-on cooperative learning strategies.

How to qualify

To qualify for MERLIN or SAGE for the following school year, second graders must take the CogAT, a cognitive abilities test, and the SOI, a creative thinking test. In addition, the Stanford 10 achievement test that all District second graders take is the third assessment used to qualify students for these programs. Students take all three assessments during the school year in their regular second grade classrooms. Scores from all three tests (CogAT, SOI, and Stanford 10) are considered to determine placement. Typically, students who score in the top 2 percent or above qualify for MERLIN, and those who score in the top 4 percent qualify for SAGE. All students who qualify for MERLIN automatically qualify for SAGE.

If a "highly capable" student in grades 3-5 is identified or enrolls in the District at any time during the school year, arrangements will be made for that student to take the cognitive abilities and creative thinking tests at the next regularly scheduled assessment window. Although that student may not be able to enter the MERLIN program mid-year, he/she can receive SAGE services upon qualifying.

Next steps

A multidisciplinary selection committee of qualified District personnel (WAC 392-170-055; 392-170-070) reviews test results, approve selections for the programs, and review placement appeals. They meet in early fall and late spring to determine placement, consider appeals in August, and review students new to the District. Students who enroll in the District mid-year can submit assessment results from their previous district to the Executive Director of Elementary Education and the Director of Assessment.

MERLIN classes are limited to 25 students each. If not enough students qualify outright for MERLIN, the placement committee will consider provisional placements based on rank order of student test scores. Multiple criteria have been established for reviewing eligibility for provisional placement. For students entering the program on provisional status, continued participation in the program is dependent on the student's success in meeting program expectations and requirements. As long as the student is functioning well in the placement, they will remain in the program through 5th grade.

Students qualifying for the SAGE and MERLIN programs will be notified in June of their second grade year.

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