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Frequently Asked Questions


Highly Capable Program- Frequently Asked Question

This page is frequently updated.



We are new to the Issaquah School district.  How do we enroll our student in the Highly Capable Program?  

  • Parents may refer their student for consideration for the Highly Capable Program during the September Referral or the New Student referral process depending on when the student enrolls.
  • As part of the referral, parents should plan to submit copies of prior school-based testing, assessment, report cards and copies of qualification and placement letters in gifted programs in the previous district and standardized test scores for review.  Any objective evidence showing that the student is potentially highly capable can be submitted.
  • Private testing is not accepted.
  • All referrals are screened and some students are invited test.
  • Every district designs its own program, qualification process and qualification criteria for Highly Capable identification and services. 
  • Identification as Highly Capable in one district does not necessarily transfer to other districts.  
  • More details about testing will be provided to families whose students, based on screening, more forward to participate in testing

My student was qualified for the Highly Capable (gifted)  program in a previous district and receiving services.  Does my student have to test to get services in Issaquah?

  • Yes, each school district in Washington is able to design a screening, testing and qualification process that matches the district board’s mission and vision.
  • Legal Preferences: RCW 28A.185.030 - WAC 392-170.
  • Highly capable services are not transferable from district to district. The continuum of services each district designs is unique to that district although there are some similarities such as programs with pull-out services and self-contained classrooms. Issaquah and its neighboring districts have different programs that are unique to their board mission and vision, and to the communities they serve. Finally, and most importantly, ISD wants to ensure that all students are properly placed and getting the level of instruction and rigor they need.

We are new to the district and my student did not qualify for services, how will he/she be challenged?

Take time to get to know the school district, the curriculum and your student’s teacher.  Give your student’s teacher a chance to get know him or her both academically and social/emotionally.  And, give your student a chance to adjust to the new school and the academic program that Issaquah has to offer. If a teacher feels that there is a student in his or her class needs more than what they have in their toolbox of instructional strategies, they can reach out to the instructional coach for resources and coaching. Overall ISD is a very high performing school district and the level of instruction, the rigor and the curriculum are challenging.  Please visit the Academics web page to learn more about curriculum and instruction in Issaquah.

How can the parents know if their student is gifted?

The state law say highly capable students demonstrate the following learning characteristics.  This means that students who are highly capable may possess, but are not limited to, these learning characteristics:

  • Capacity to learn with unusual depth of understanding, to retain what has been learned, and to transfer learning to new situations;
  • Capacity and willingness to deal with increasing levels of abstraction and complexity earlier than their chronological peers;
  • Creative ability to make unusual connections among ideas and concepts;
  • Ability to learn quickly in their area(s) of intellectual strength; and
  • Capacity for intense concentration and/or focus.

Are the tests used to determine highly capable eligibility also used to give families information about the student’s academic progress?

The CogAT, IOWA and Torrance Test of Creative Thinking tests are intended to be used by the Highly Capable Department for highly capable qualifying and placement decisions, not for assessing a students’ academic progress in the classroom or for diagnosing deficiencies in math, reading, or test taking. Teachers do not receive highly capable test results from individual batteries.  Families are encouraged contact the student’s classroom teacher to get the most current and accurate classroom based data about student areas strength and areas for growth.

My students are enrolled in private school but we are living in the Issaquah school district boundaries, can my kindergarten and 2nd grade student join the universal testing?

  • Families with students in private school or home based instruction can register and participate in Kindergarten and/or 2nd grade universal testing at the neighborhood school.  Registration is accepted at the neighborhood school in the weeks leading up to the testing window. 
  • Please use the below link to sign up for district and Neighborhood school E-News so you will receive district communication about universal testing.

Sign Up for the Weekly Bulletin - Issaquah School District 411 (

What will happen for my 2nd grade student who didn’t qualify? Will he/she have another chance to take the test in their 3rd/4th grade?

  • Students who test in second grade and do not qualify may be referred with evidence in 4th grade during the September referral window (9/1 to 9/15).  Student who are referred will be screened to determine possible eligibility for the highly capable program and some will be invited to test.

My student did not qualify for HCP and we are concerned about our student’s progress at school.  What do the Highly Capable test scores say about the student’s progress?

  • The purpose of all of these assessments is to determine qualification for highly capable services.  These assessments are not intended to be used for other purposes. Classroom based data provided by the teacher is much more reliable measure for how your student is doing in school.

What if we have a family trip during testing time?

  • Highly Capable Program testing is planned for when students are expected to be attending school following the school calendar. There are many logistics involved in planning testing and a very tight timeline for scoring. Unfortunately, there is not flexibility to offer alternative testing dates. You may refer your student again next September.

My student has been invited to join the MERLIN program at Apollo.  What happens if we move to the Endeavour MERLIN region?

  • The invitation to MERLIN is site specific.  Your student would still need to attend MERLIN at Apollo.  Alternately, your student could receive SAGE services at the new neighborhood school.
  • The invitation is not transferrable to the other school.

My student qualified for SAGE but would like to test again to see if he or she can get into MERLIN?

  • Once a student tests and is placed they are not eligible to be tested again, that’s their placement. They cannot be referred during the September referral window for additional testing because the student has already been tested and placed.  


Is my Merlin student eligible for before/after school child care even if this is not our neighborhood school?

  • Please contact Issaquah’s Before and After School Care (BASC) program directly with childcare questions.  There are programs at Endeavour or Apollo.
  • The highly capable program does not have a special arrangement with the after school childcare program regarding exceptions to any possible existing waitlist.

My student qualified for Merlin and our neighborhood school is requesting a transfer form, should the family take care of that or that should be handled by the program?

  • The Highly Capable Program office sends a list of students transferring to MERLIN to the registrars at all sending and receiving schools.  Registrars will contact parents of students transferring schools to either MERLIN site to complete a withdrawal for form. This is standard procedure for any student moving from one school to another for any reason. Siblings may transfer with the MERLIN student.  The Highly Capable office provides a customized transfer from with families complete and submit directly to the district’s Enrollment Coordinator.  Directions for submitting the form are on the form.

My student qualified for MERLIN can my student ride the school bus even though this is not our neighborhood school?

  • Parents are responsible for transporting MERLIN students to Apollo or Endeavour.
  • MERLIN families will receive information about carpooling with other MERLIN parents. 

Can you provide more information about the MERLIN Program? What if the student qualified for MERLIN but parents declined placement?

  • MERLIN is a full day self-contained program.
  • MERLIN classrooms are located at Apollo and Endeavour and serve grades 3, 4 and 5.
  • Students who attend the MERLIN program are transferred to either Apollo or Endeavour based on the school feeder patterns:
  • Apollo: Apollo, Briarwood, Cedar Trails, Clark, Cougar Ridge, Grand Ridge IVE, Maple Hills, Newcastle, Sunset
  • Endeavour: Cascade Ridge,Creekside, Discovery, Sunny Hills, Challenger, Endeavour,
  • Transportation is not provided.  Parents must self-transport.   Many parents forms carpools.
  • Students who qualify for MERLIN but decline placement can participate in the SAGE Reading and/or Math program at the neighborhood school depending on the area of qualification; Reading and/or Math

Is the highly capable score report used to determine the academic progress of the student?

  • The highly capable testing is used for highly capable placement decisions. Not necessarily for parents or teachers to determine how students are doing in school.  To determine how well a student is doing in school parents should use data shared by the classroom teacher and once in 3rd grade the SBA.

Why  is the Issaquah School District not using percentiles? What is the average score or below average scores for the Matrix Score of the highly capable testing?

  • The District has adjusted and improved its highly capable identification process in response to new state guidelines and guidance from experts in the field. We are no longer using percentiles for the purpose of highly capable identification.  We are now using a Matrix score and standard scores and not percentiles. The Matrix score is based on standard scores and calculated using a statistical formula called a z-score, which identifies how many standard deviations away from the norm a student’s scores are. The District is seeking students who are performing 3 to 4 standard deviations away from the norm (average) across all assessments taken.
  • If you click on the link below you will be able to understand the Highly Capable Score report Understanding the Highly Capable Score Report

Are the advanced/accelerated classes in secondary (grades 6 – 12) limited to gifted students only? What is the continuum of services for gifted secondary students?

  • The Issaquah School District has removed barriers to advanced and rigorous classes so they are open to all students regardless of whether or not they have the highly capable designation.  Please see the link to the letter below:
  • Secondary Options Letter
  • The continuum of services for secondary students who do have the Highly Capable designation includes an additional outreach by the counselor at 2-3 times annually to check in on academic and social emotional needs.  Any student can reach out to their counselor at any time for guidance.  If the Highly Capable designation and additional pro-active counseling outreach is important to you and your student, you may refer your student during the September Referral or the New Student Referral.