Advanced Curriculum and Instruction

ZCS District Mission: Zionsville Community Schools provide customized 21st century experiences that ensure maximum student growth leading to productive citizenship in the world community. 

The mission of the ZCS Program is to identify students who are gifted and to provide them with customized 21st century experiences that ensure maximum student growth leading to productive citizenship in the world community. 
Program Goals:   
  • Implement an unbiased identification process based upon specific criteria using reliable and valid qualitative and quantitative testing measures.
  • Create a variety of program options to provide advanced content and differentiated instruction specifically designed to help students achieve maximum student growth. 
  • Provide professional development for educators so they can learn to recognize the characteristics of giftedness and how to meet the unique needs of students. 
  • Inform parents about the high ability program and provide resources for parenting a gifted child.   
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the program based upon student achievement on an annual basis. 
Definition of Giftedness: The Indiana Department of Education requires school districts to identify high ability students, K-12, and provide them with appropriately differentiated curriculum and instruction. The state defines a high ability (gifted) student as one who “performs at, or shows the potential for performing at, an outstanding level of accomplishment in at least one domain when compared to other students of the same age, experience, or environment; and is characterized by exceptional gifts, talents, motivation, or interests.” We identify students as needing advanced curriculum/instruction in one of the following areas: General Intellectual, Math Only, or Language Arts Only.
Program Information: We recognize that in ZCS we have many high-achieving students in addition to those who meet nationally-recognized criteria for giftedness. Overall, ZCS students outperform their peers nationally and at the state level. Our students’ median scores on a national achievement test (NWEA) are typically well above the national norm. ZCS student test scores on the ILEARN and SAT/ACT achievement tests of state standards regularly rank us among the top-performing districts in the state. Thus, the typical expectations and instructional levels in a ZCS classroom are already high, and our curriculum is already both enriched and moving at an accelerated pace with differentiation for those above and below grade-level standards.
Our philosophy in ZCS is to use formative assessment thoughtfully and often to match appropriately-challenging curriculum and experiences to every child, consistent with his or her abilities and leading to maximum growth. If that should ultimately lead to a high ability designation for a child, that is only one of many avenues to ensuring continuous progress and challenge. We have many others, including subject-skipping, grade-skipping, using technology as a resource for presenting advanced content, grouping for instruction within classrooms, regrouping for instruction across classrooms or grade levels, additional enrichment projects and resources, leveled and guided reading groups, curriculum compacting, independent learning, student-driven inquiry on projects of choice/interest, and differentiation to meet needs involving other school professionals, adjustment of pace or materials, etc. It is not uncommon for parents to envision that the only way to meet a child’s needs is through testing and special placement. In fact, we meet the needs of highly-able students in the Zionsville Community Schools in many different ways as unique as each child who comes to us on a daily basis. 
In order to meet the needs of those students whose performance is consistent with nationally-recognized criteria for giftedness, we must provide them with advanced experiences beyond grade level curriculum—through acceleration and/or enrichment of the curriculum. We also must provide them with opportunities to interact with their intellectual peers.   
In general, a gifted (or high ability) student in Zionsville has an ability score (commonly called an intelligence score) which is two standard deviations or more above the mean (130+ on most individually-administered intelligence tests, 132+ on Otis-Lennon) and scores at or above the 96th percentile on a standardized achievement test for math and/or language arts. Other factors, such as teacher observation scales, parent observation scales, and student performance levels are considered during the identification process. The process of identifying students is multi-faceted and takes into account multiple measures. An identification team of experienced high ability teachers, with advanced graduate work in the area of gifted education, considers all factors in a student’s profile before making a determination of placement. All students in grades K-7 are reconsidered yearly in the process. Students who are identified do not need to re-qualify from year to year unless concerns about performance or best fit arise.  Procedures to exit students from the program involve parents, teachers, and school counselors in making the best decision to meet each child’s needs.
We identify students as needing advanced curriculum/instruction in one of the following categories: General Intellectual, Math Only, or Language Arts Only. Once a student is identified in one of these three areas, we provide appropriately differentiated instruction in a variety of program options. Middle school grouping for instruction in science, social studies, and foreign language are often options in the middle school schedule.
Identification Process and Program Options at Each Grade Level, K-12: 

Please click on the appropriate link on High Ability Menu on the right side of this webpage for more specific information about the identification process and program options, K-12.  Please note that identification processes vary slightly across grade levels.


Have Additional Questions?  

The high ability pages of our district website are designed to answer most frequently-asked questions. Please read information here first rather than requesting a meeting or phone call as all of our high ability staff have additional school responsibilities and are thus not regularly able to meet individually with parents in person or by phone.