High Ability Learner Program

The High Ability Learner (HAL) program helps to meet the educational and emotional needs of those students with extraordinary ability and potential. This brochure describes the student identification and qualification processes and the nature of the Bennington HAL program.

HAL Identification Process

  1.  Teachers or parents may request services for students who they believe would qualify for and benefit from the HAL program. Students may self-request consideration.
  2.  The HAL Coordinators collect observations and records, and conduct the necessary assessments in order to determine eligibility. A student must meet guidelines in two of the following three areas in order to qualify:
    1. Personal Characteristics - attainment of at least three "probable gifted" ratings on a high-ability characteristics scale. The ratings scale may be completed by prior and current teachers as well as the student's parents. A District team will evaluate the data in order to determine if it supports the finding of giftedness of the student.
    2. Cognitive Abilities Test - score at the 95th percentile or above on a cognitive abilities in test in the subtotals of verbal, quantitative, or nonverbal. This is a mandatory qualifier for students in kindergarten and grade one. The CogAT test is used.
    3. Standardized Achievement Test - obtain a national rank at the 95th percentile or above on the reading and/or math subtest. The MAP/NSCAS tests are used.

HAL Program Philosophy
The Bennington Public Schools are committed to an educational program which recognizes the unique characteristics of the student and strives to advance the student's development.

Program Goals

  •  Assess and identify students of high academic ability in Kindergarten through Eighth grades. 
  • Provide services for identified high ability learner (HAL) students which incorporate curriculum modifications, accommodations, teaching methods, activities, and/or instructional materials designed to meet the needs of HAL students coupled with the consideration of the students' social/emotional developmental level.
  • Communicate the various aspects and successes of the program for high ability learners to staff, students, parents, and in the community.
  • Evaluate HAL program goals, activities, materials, and procedures.
  • Recognize and nurture educational excellence of individual learners.

Definition Of High Ability Learner
A learner with high ability means a student who gives evidence of high performance capability in areas as intellectual, creative, or artistic capacity or in specific academic fields and who requires accelerated or differentiated curriculum programs in order to develop those capabilities fully.

Qualification And Re-Qualification
Students identified as high ability learners prior to the second grade will remain qualified until the completion of the fall MAP -Growth and CogAT standardized testing in second grade. These scores will then be used to qualify students for 2nd-5th grades. The fifth grade fall NSCAS and CogAT scores will likewise be used to qualify students for HAL in 5th-8th grades. The student will retain HAL eligibility status through each assessment period unless the parent/guardian chooses to end the involvement. Involvement by students in the HAL program is dependent upon each student's interest and participation.

Students moving into the district who have undergone a formal qualification process and have been identified as HAL/Gifted by the school district they previously attended will qualify for Bennington's program for the year in which they transfer. Documentation from the prior district will be required. These students will complete the Bennington Public School's qualification process in order to maintain eligibility.

Program Objectives

  •  Develop awareness about the nature and needs of high ability learners.
  • Design and implement an organizational structure that will facilitate curricular, extracurricular, and social/emotional experiences for high ability learners.
  • Allow flexibility in learning environments so students can pursue individual interests and advanced study.
  • Provide stakeholders with opportunities for professional development in the area of high ability learner education.
  • Make information available to parents and staff about specific areas of programming; such as student identification, curricular and instructional options, and program evaluation procedures.

HAL Classroom
HAL identified students may participate in weekly extensions in Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STREAM). There they work on lessons with other students who have similar unmet learning needs. The lessons extend or supplement the regular classroom curricula and are designed by the HAL teachers.

Depending upon the student's unmet needs and student ability, they may work on individual projects. The projects would always seek to reinforce the students' strengths.

Extracurricular Challenge
Challenge-level activities are offered by the Bennington Public Schools at times when students are not in their regular classroom. These may include Writing Club, math, quiz bowls, robotics competitions, Art Club, Science Club, and Chess Club

Classroom Differentiation
In order to accommodate the daily needs of HAL students, classroom teachers differentiate their lessons. Differentiation is a process of creating a variety of levels at which lessons are presented. This permits high ability students to pass over that which they have already learned and move onto lessons which are engaging and educationally valuable. Examples of this differentiation include:

  •  Lesson compacting in which lessons are condensed so that HAL students may move onto new material.
  • Learning contracts between students and teachers. The student contracts with a teacher in order to complete an independent study project.
  • Activity menus which include projects appropriate to students' areas of giftedness.
  • Higher-level questioning - asking questions which go beyond the facts of a situation. Students are asked to analyze an area of study and then make predictions or inferences.

Classroom Resources
HAL resources are available to classroom teachers. These primarily take the form of identification and acquisition of additional resources for higher ability students. They may also include:

  •  Co-teaching experiences in which both teachers work with small groups in differentiated lessons.
  • Development of differentiated lessons and/or materials to be taught by either/both teachers.
  • Special classroom presentations designed to introduce students to broader educational experiences such as a guest speaker or historic reenactment for the entire class.

For more information, contact a HAL Coordinator:
Abby Fitzgerald: [email protected]
Missy DeHart: [email protected]
Calena Ohlson: [email protected]

Dan Bombeck, Student Services Director -
(402) 238-3044, [email protected]

Student qualification and participation will not be affected by student personal characteristics including ethnicity, race, culture, socio-economic status, and/or disability.

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