Elementary Gifted and Talented Program

  • Hackensack Public Schools utilizes the Depth and Complexity program to enrich the elementary curriculum.  It is based on the work of Dr. Sandra Kaplan from University of Southern California who created icons to represent elements that generate a deeper, more complex thought process.  Students involved in the learning process, whether it is reading text, watching a video, analyzing art, or listening to a presentation, can apply elements of depth and complexity as they begin to assimilate new information, make connections, and dig deeper into content. The Depth and Complexity icons are used as a visual aid to strengthen thinking skills and cognitive operations. These are strategies and skills for approaching and analyzing new information.  They can be used individually or in combination.
    Enrichment Beyond the Regular Classroom Setting:
    Hackensack Public Schools invites students to participate in an after school enrichment opportunity with Junior First Lego League. Guided by Coaches (HPS teachers), teams explore a real-world scientific problem such as food safety, recycling, energy, etc. Then they create a Show Me poster that illustrates their journey of discovery and introduces their team. They also construct a motorized model of what they learned using LEGO elements. In the process, teams learn about teamwork, the wonders of science and technology, and the FIRST LEGO League Jr. Core Values, which include respect, sharing, and critical thinking. At the close of each season, teams come together at Expos to share ideas and celebrate. 
    Students in third or fourth grade that are identified as Gifted and Talented are invited to participate in a pull out Gifted and Talented class that meets each week for forty minutes. The course provides students with a balanced program of science, technology, humanities, mathematics, and the fine arts. Gifted & Talented courses stimulate higher order thinking skills and problem solving. Students delve into topics of personal interest while engaging with other students who have similar abilities and passions.
    Dimensions of Depth and Complexity:
    • Language of the Discipline 
      • Specialized vocabulary, names of skills/tasks particular to people, working within the disciplines, tools used by the disciplinarians
    • Details
      • Parts, facts, describing words, attributes
    • Patterns 
      • Predictability, repetition
    • Rules 
      • Order, structure hierarchy, laws
    • Trends 
      • Direction, a course that seems to follow
    • Unanswered Questions 
      • Ambiguities, unclear ideas, incomplete ideas
    • Ethics
      • Points of view, different opinions, judging
    • Big Ideas 
      • Generalization, principle, theory
    • Over Time 
      • How time influences things
    • Multiple Perspectives 
      • Interpretations, compare and contrast topic with perspectives
    • Across Disciplines 
      • Relationships between areas of study


    Junior First Lego League Core Values

    • We are a team.
    • We do the work. Our coaches and mentors help us learn, but we find the answers ourselves.
    • We share our experiences and discoveries with others.
    • We are helpful, kind, and show respect when we work, play, and share. 
    • We are all winners.
    • We have fun.

Identification of Gifted and Talented Students

  • Elementary Gifted and Talented Handbook

    Elementary Application: Parent Referral for Gifted and Talented Services - English

    Elementary Application: Parent Referral for Gifted and Talented Services - Spanish

    Elementary Application: Teacher Referral for Gifted and Talented Services


    New Jersey Administrative Code regulations (N.J.A.C. 6A:8-3.1) define gifted and talented students as: "Those students who possess or demonstrate high levels of ability, in one or more content areas, when compared to their chronological peers in the local district and who require modification of their educational program if they are to achieve in accordance with their capabilities."

    The regulations require that students be compared to their chronological peers in the local school district. New Jersey does not have state-level criteria such as mandated tests or assessments, grade point averages, or IQ scores. Local school districts must use multiple measures to identify students. Hackensack Public Schools utilizes multiple measures in identifying gifted students. 

    These measures are as follows:

    1. CogAT (Cognative Abilities Test)

    • The CogAT seeks to assess students’ learned reasoning abilities as they relate to learning and problem solving via three batteries of tests:
      • Verbal
      • Quantitative
      • Nonverbal
    • The CogAT is NOT a standardized achievement test of grade-level content and skills (such as the NJSLA ELA and Math test) or the types of assessments teachers use to diagnose, inform, and/ or evaluate learning, which are intended to assess the extent to which students have learned and can transfer/ apply grade-level content, information, concepts and skills. Additionally, the CogAT is not an IQ test. 

    • Students are given the CogAT in first and fourth grade. First grade scores, serve as a measure of identification that is used for first, second, and third grade.  Fourth grade scores serve as a measure of identification into middle school enrichment/Gifted and Talented programs and courses.
      • Scores of 112 or higher are used to determine eligibility into some Gifted and Talented offerings, specifically Junior First Lego League.
      • Scores of 120 or higher are used to determine eliibility into pull out programs.

    2. Reading Inventory

    • The Reading Inventory is a research-based, adaptive student assessment program that measures reading skills and longitudinal progress.
      • Scores of proficient or advanced proficient can be a multiple measure used to determine eligibility into Gifted and Talented offerings.

    3. NJSLA (Grade 4 only)

    • A NJSLA ELA and MAth score of 765 and above can be a multiple measure used to determine eligibility into some Gifted and Talented offerings, specifically Junior First Lego League.  Pull out programs require a higher score (780 or higher).

    4. Report Card Grades 

    • Meeting or exceeding expectations on ELA and Math indicators on the report card can be a multiple measure used to determine eligibility into Gifted andTalented offerings.

Parent Resources