Local Gifted Programs

Have a smarty pants in the family? Many schools offer special programs for the academically gifted. Read on for details about how different districts handle gifted services, or check individual school profiles for info about gifted programs in private, charter, and Achievement School District schools. While you’re at it, read our article in Memphis Parent magazine — Gifted Education: APEX, CLUE, and You.

Eligibility for Gifted Programs

  • By state law, all students must be screened at some point for students needing supports for learning differences, including giftedness. Typically, this happens in the 3rd grade when districts look at all children’s 2nd grade achievement test scores. If your child scores at or above the district’s threshold, you’ll be contacted for your permission to put them through the state eligibility assessment, which includes paperwork that both you and your child’s teacher must complete and a hearing and vision screening. The forms are scored by school psychologists and students with passing scores are referred for IQ and individual achievement testing by district psychologists. Or, you can have your child privately tested, as long as the test used meets state standards. They look at a combination of factors, including IQ scores (minimum 118), achievement scores (scores in the 90th percentile), and creativity.

Individualized Education Plan for Gifted Students

  • Students qualifying for gifted services under the state’s eligibility process will get an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), which is formulated with input from various school staff members and parents. Many IEPs will specify that your child take part in a pull-out gifted class, but in some cases, there may be other (or additional) supports that are more appropriate. The IEP process is your chance to advocate for what your child needs, so if the gifted class alone isn’t going to cover it, now’s the time to speak up.

Shelby County Schools

The SCS gifted program, known as CLUE (Creative Learning in a Unique Environment) is one of the oldest in the country. If the school an eligible child attends doesn’t have its own CLUE class, a CLUE teacher will either travel to his school or the student will be bussed to a nearby school for services. Tommie Yelvington directs the program and can be reached through her office at 901-416-0155, or directly at 901-833-0159.

  • Who it’s for: Students in 4-year-old PreK through 9th grade.
  • What’s offered: Supports for gifted students may vary, based on the requirements of the child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP), but here’s what’s typical:
    • PreK: Students attend a CLUE class 2.5 hours/day, two days each week, in classrooms at Downtown ElementaryChimneyrock Elementary and Winridge Elementary. Your child does not have to attend the full-time PreK program at the school in order to participate in the PreK CLUE class, and can begin the program at any time, up to a month before the end of the school year.
    • K-5th grades: Students attend the pull-out CLUE class 2.5 hours/day, two days each week in their own school or another one nearby.
    • 6th-9th grades: Students attend a 1-hour daily CLUE English/Reading class, designed to prepare them for Advanced Placement classes in high school.
  • Eligibility: For students in 3rd-9th grade, the eligibility process is described above, under “Eligibility for Gifted Programs.” However, if you suspect your younger child is gifted, you can request testing before 3rd grade too. Here’s what you do:
    • PreK: In PreK, students go through the state identification process (described above). Dr. Yelvington recommends testing around age 4.5, but the paperwork you and your child’s teacher (from a preschool or daycare program) must fill out is fairly involved, so you may want to get your hands on it earlier to give yourself time to get it done. Even if you’re not sure your child will be able to attend the PreK CLUE program, you may want to go ahead and do the testing at this point, so that they can begin getting CLUE services immediately upon starting kindergarten. Also, take note – the CLUE office will only test your child up through March, before they enter kindergarten, so don’t put off the paperwork.
  • K-2nd grade: You can request a primary referral form from your child’s school. At these ages, children are considered part of the more informal “local” gifted program, and are not under an IEP, but will receive the same services as children who were identified via the state process. The eligibility test for this program is a reading test called the Informal Reading Inventory, which was developed by the University of Memphis. To be eligible, students must read and comprehend two grade levels above their own grade.

Municipal School Districts

The gifted programs in most municipal school districts are still known as APEX (Academic Program for the Exceptional), a holdover from when the suburban districts were all a part of the old Shelby County Schools. Like SCS, these districts typically screen all children in 3rd grade to identify students who should be put through the full state eligibility assessment. However, you can always request to have your younger child assessed, if you believe that she would benefit from gifted services. Here are some other details provided to us by municipal districts:

  • Arlington Community Schools: Gifted students in elementary school are served via pull-out classes. In middle school, a combination of pull-out classes and course selection are used. The district conducts annual gifted screenings in grades 3-5.
  • Collierville Schools: Students in 3rd-5th grades who are eligible for gifted services typically receive an hour each day of a pull-out program (during the same hour when all other students are receiving intervention, so no one misses regular instruction). In 6th-8th grades, students can attend a gifted language arts and/or math class. Some 8th graders may go to the high school for a math class, if specified in their IEP. Contact Joyce Keohane, Department of Exceptional Children Supervisor, (901-286-6381) with questions.
  • Germantown Municipal School District: Germantown offers pull-out gifted classes in 3rd-5th grades, typically an hour per day, four days per week. At the middle school level, the class is an APEX language arts course. Contact Ami Cochran, Exceptional Student Education Coordinator, (901-752-7900) with questions.
  • Lakeland School System:A pull-out program is offered in 3rd-5th grades. Contact your child’s homeroom teacher or the school office (901-867-7071) with questions.