Understanding HiCap Test Scores

  • Highly Capable Selection Process

    Shoreline School District now uses a Totality of Evidence model to determine eligibility for highly capable services. A Mutlidisciplinary Selection Committee (MDSC) made up of teachers, specialists, and administrators reviews multiple indicators of a student’s aptitude and achievement, not just test scores, to determine whether the student is eligible for the program. Elements reviewed include highly capable assessments, district and state assessments, teacher recommendations, and supplemental information submitted by families. Shoreline's highly capable services are designed to meet the academic needs of students determined through academic and cognitive testing to be in roughly the 95th percentile* and above when compared to the general population. The committee looks for consistent scores and indicators of performance above the 95th percentile and/or work that is substantially above grade level in either area of eligibility (Math and ELA). Click here for more information on Shoreline's Highly Capable Program General Eligibility Criteria.


    Highly Capable Assessments

    Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS): The ITBS is an achievement test and measures the reading/vocabulary and math that a student knows and can do.


    Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT): The CogAT is an aptitude assessment with three sections or batteries - Verbal, Quantitative, and Nonverbal. The questions on the CogAT do not look like other reading or math questions students may have encountered and instead measures verbal and quantitative/ mathematical reasoning in a more abstract way. The Nonverbal battery of the CogAT is the section of the test that research has found to be most highly correlated to giftedness and success in the highly capable program. This section measures logic and abstract reasoning and contains problems different from what students may have previously encountered. The Nonverbal battery measures reasoning using pictures and geometric shapes. The Nonverbal battery also appraises the student’s ability to use her/his cognitive resources in new situations.


    Common Questions from Families

    Q. My student scored above the 95th percentile, why didn’t they qualify for highly capable services?


    A. Often when a family is asking this question, the student has scored above the 95th percentile on the ITBS, but not on the CogAT. Many of our students are high-achieving, but do not demonstrate the kind of abstract thinking and reasoning skills that indicate a student is gifted/highly capable and in need of different instruction than that provided in our general education program. The abstract reasoning assessed by the CogAT is correlated to giftedness and success in the highly capable program and students who are high-achieving are not necessarily highly capable.


    Q. Why are my student’s scores so inconsistent? Why did they qualify in only one area?


    A. Many students have inconsistent score profiles. This indicates that students have a strength or aptitude in one particular area. This is not uncommon, and it is why Shoreline now identifies and serves students in a single area.


    For kindergarten students, one thing for families to keep in mind is that when we are assessing kindergarten students they are still very young. Their cognitive development may be proceeding more rapidly in one area than another and may become more consistent as the student continues to grow and develop. Many of our kindergarteners have higher scores in one area than in the other or have higher scores on the ITBS than on the CogAT. Developmentally, high-achieving kindergarteners may just not have developed the abstract reasoning ability yet.


    Q. Should I appeal the testing decision? Should my student retest again next year?


    A. The appeals process is designed for families who believe that there was a specific circumstance that prevented their student from performing up to their ability during the testing session. Families receive information about appeals when they are notified of their student’s eligibility for services.


    Any family can choose to have their child participate in the spring testing that typically occurs in mid-March. Registration for this testing typically occurs in late January and early February and can be found on the testing information page of the Highly Capable section of the district website.


    Families of students with uneven score profiles or whose student qualified in only one area often retest the following year. Kindergarten students who demonstrate very high achievement but uneven scores or scores below the 95th percentile on the CogAT also often elect to test in the following year. However, now that Shoreline screens all second grade students, there will be another opportunity to assess and identify “late bloomers” without families having to participate in the optional testing.