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Santa Maria Middle School
Attitude + Attendance + Achievement = Success
STEM Club students in a classroom pose for the camera from their desks

Gifted & Special Education

Every day, middle school students develop core foundational academic and social skills necessary for future success. At Santa Maria, we aim to help all students reach their highest potential. We thank our active parent and school community for supporting our efforts.

Special Education

Our special education program works with families to create Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) to meet the special needs of their children. This plan includes related services in and out of school, at no cost to the families, to complement the students’ personal instruction and ensure that they receive the most benefit from their education. 

We’re thrilled to partner with Special Olympics to celebrate these amazing kids. Please see our Athletics page for information about Unified Special Olympic Athletics.

Testing for Giftedness


Why test?

You should test to answer a question. Tests can provide detailed information about a child’s learning needs. They help with educational planning as well as gifted identification for program participation. Tests can also offer information for early intervention of learning issues. You should test when you need an answer to a particular question.

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What test does the Fowler School District use?

The Fowler Elementary School District uses the Cognitive Abilities Test to identify students who qualify for gifted services. We require scores to be at or above the 97th percentile in the area of verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and/or nonverbal reasoning to qualify for services. We may also use other tests from the Arizona State List of Tests.

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What is the test like?

For students in K–2, we administer the Cognitive Abilities Test, a hand-scored, untimed, multiple-choice test. The students make their answer selections in the test booklet. The test includes three sections, one each for verbal, quantitative, and nonverbal. Beginning at the third-grade level, students take the the CogAT, a timed, multiple-choice test with an electronically or hand-scored answer sheet on which students select their answers.

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How is the test scored?

Scores are reported using National Percentile (NP) for verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning. and/or nonverbal reasoning. Please remember that a percentile rank is not the same as the percent correct. Percentile ranks provide a comparison of the student’s performance to that of a national sample of students of the same age and rank them on a scale of 1 to 99. If a student has a percentile of 71, this means the student scored higher than 70 of every 100 students that took the same test. 

It is important to remember that the Cognitive Abilities Test measures a student’s reasoning ability and is not indicative of student achievement. Scores in the 25th to 75th percentile range are considered average scores. If the student scores below the 97th percentile, the regular curriculum is appropriate. If the student scores at or above the 97th percentile, state law requires that they receive special services.

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If my child qualified in a previous district, does he/she automatically qualify in Fowler?

Not necessarily. Students transferring from other school districts must meet the same criteria required by currently enrolled Fowler students. Schools do not send gifted records with student records. To transfer these records, please obtain the form titled “Release of Confidential Information” from the school office on your campus and mail it to your former school district;. they will send the records directly to our district. We will also accept hand-delivered official copies. If the data demonstrates completion of the requirement for Fowler’s program, the student will be eligible. Please understand that we may need to administer additional testing.

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When is the next testing period?

We offer testing is at least three times per year. During each school year, we test in the fall, winter, and spring. Retesting using the Cognitive Abilities Test is available one calendar year after previous testing. Contact the gifted resource specialist at your child’s school for more information regarding testing dates.

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How do I request testing for my child?

Teachers or parents make referrals for students in grades five through eight. If you are interested in having your child tested, contact your child’s school. We will allow time for the student’s classroom teachers to familiarize themselves with the student’s academic ability and work habits. If a parent requests testing for fifth through eighth-grade students, we suggest that a Child Study Team consisting of the parent, the regular education teacher, a gifted teacher, and an administrator meet to discuss the academic and behavioral characteristics of the student.

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Do qualified students have to retake the test each year?

We do not require annual requalification once a student qualifies for services and does well in the program.

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How do I find out my child’s scores?

We will mail the test results directly to you, usually within 30 days. Your child’s school site will identify the specific timetable at the onset of each test cycle. If you do not receive the scores, please contact your school.

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What if I have a question about the test or the test scores?

Please contact the gifted resource specialist at your child’s school.

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Can you test too much?

Of course. While it is acceptable to give an individual IQ test after the initial testing is done with a screening measure or group ability test, there is rarely a need for multiple individual IQ tests. Sometimes retesting may be done around age eight or nine if the child was first tested at a very young age. Experts do not recommend taking the same test (IQ, ability, or achievement) within 12 months,and, in many cases, this may be seen as unethical. Achievement tests might be used more often (though no more than annually) to determine academic placement in educational planning. At younger ages (grades K–2), individual achievement tests may be used. As the child approaches the upper elementary grades, curriculum-based assessments (such as AIMS and nationally normed achievement tests) may be better for determining the child’s placement within the program’s curriculum. Testing the gifted child, like any other psycho-educational decision, is complex. Often children reflect parental attitudes towards testing. Viewing testing as a high stakes situation could affect the child’s attitude and performance. Consider why you are testing, what tests are necessary, and what answers you are looking for from the testing to help you make an informed decision.

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What if I would like a second assessment?

There are some options: 

  1. Wait 12 months and have your child retested with the Cognitive Abilities Test at your child’s school. 
  2. Contact a member of the Child Study Team at your child’s school for options available based on your child’s educational profile. 
  3. Although the Child Study Team does not recommend the necessity of this option, you might personally choose to take your child to a licensed psychologist at any time for evaluation with one of the tests approved by the state of Arizona on the Arizona State List of Tests for identification of giftedness. If the scores are at or above the 97th percentile, bring the official copies into the school office. We will not accept scores from the same test taken within the previous 12 months. You are responsible for paying any outside testing fees.

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Can you recommend a psychologist?

This is a referral that should could from a physician or non-school-related personnel. We do not permit school employees to recommend a psychologist.

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If my child qualifies for services, when will services begin?

First, you will receive a letter with your child’s scores and notification of when to expect the next contact by your child’s gifted resource specialist. Services begin after the Child Study Team (CST) determines the service start date and provides you with the CST’s programming recommendations. You may decline services if you so desire.

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What if my child does not qualify?

Not every student who is referred for testing will qualify for gifted services. In some instances, we may recommend additional testing. Fowler makes every effort to meet each child’s needs. Please be assured we will make every effort to insure we match your child’s program to his or her abilities.

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What do I tell my child?

As far as sharing the specific scores, it’s probably not in your child’s best interest. Comments, meant to be kind and reassuring, telling the child they “just missed it by one” or “just missed it by a little” can also cause frustration in the child. Always congratulate him/her on his/her effort. Remind your child of the strengths and talents he/she has and how proud we all are of your child. Focus on things to celebrate, and help your child with a new goal to create a plan for developing strengths and weaknesses. If your child qualifies, refrain from details about service until you have had a conference with the gifted resource specialist at your child’s school.

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Do high scores on this test predict future success in school?

It is interesting to note that simply having high scores on this test is not necessarily a singularly reliable predictor of future academic success. There are many variables that can affect the relationship between a child’s ability and actual performance. Achievement scores, such as those on the Terra Nova, AIMS, or Fowler’s Benchmarks tend to be better predictors because they identify how well the child is using his/her potential. In order to achieve academic success, a child should use effective learning strategies, demonstrate perseverance, and develop a positive attitude toward learning. Research studies show that parents are excellent identifiers of “giftedness.” It is important that you trust your own instincts and be your child’s best advocate in evaluating your child’s potential talents. Regardless of the scores or whether your child qualifies for gifted services, continue to support your child in identifying and exploring high interest areas. Often, these are not even academic areas. Help them develop a positive attitude towards learning, learn self-discipline and good work habits, and nurture strong realistic beliefs in his/her own unique human potential. Many students who are successful in high school and college did not qualify for gifted services during their elementary years. Some students who did qualify for gifted services in elementary school are not as successful in high school or college. The results of any intelligence or ability test are always a snapshot of the child at the time of the test. Current brain research indicates that intelligence is not a fixed measurable phenomenon, but instead, multifaceted and changeable. Please keep this in mind as you support your child’s interests and talents.

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How is the Gifted curriculum different from the regular classroom?

The Fowler Gifted Resource Program uses the same quality curricular standards as the regular classrooms. However, the differentiated curriculum is varied in content, process, and product as well as is the learning environment. You may like to read more about differentiation for gifted learners.

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