Law You Can Use:
Some changes in Ohio’s gifted operating standards for students

According to Ohio’s Gifted Operating Standards, a “gifted” student will perform or show potential for performing at remarkably high levels when compared to peers of same-age, experience or environment. As of July 1, 2017, the operating standards have changed and can be found at Ohio Administrative Code 3301-51-15.

The new regulations give increased protections to minorities, economically disadvantaged English learners and students with disabilities. Schools look at a child’s superior cognitive ability and his or her specific academic ability in math, science, reading and writing, social studies, and visual or performing arts ability. The new standards also require schools to offer testing twice, once before the end of second grade and once between second grade and sixth grade.

Special Education Attorney Emily Haynes with Albeit Weiker, LLP provides a rundown of some of the changes to how Ohio deals with gifted students and what parents and teachers can expect from the process.

Suspect a student is gifted?

Parents, students or teachers can refer a potentially gifted child for screening at any grade. Public school districts in Ohio must provide screenings at least twice per year, and must have a procedure for parents to appeal any decision about the results or scheduling of testing, or the placement of a student in a gifted program.

Early identification is especially important because the benefits of gifted education are cumulative. Alternatively, gifted students who aren’t identified may eventually exhibit behavioral and learning issues in a regular classroom environment. School districts should provide standardized testing, which is a useful method of identifying gifted students.

Once a student is identified as gifted, the school’s principal or gifted coordinator should be contacted to discuss the next steps, and to develop a Written Education Plan (WEP) for the student.

An important caveat to gifted education: All public school districts are required to meet minimum standards for identifying gifted students, but are not required to provide gifted or advanced educational curriculum. This means that some districts offer gifted reading, others gifted science or math, while still others may not offer any gifted programs at all.

This means that the gifted child might need to transfer schools in order to receive an advanced curriculum in their area of giftedness. If your child moves schools, you should request that your former district transfer the educational file to the new district. All public districts in Ohio must honor students’ gifted identification if it was from another Ohio school. Finally, districts are required to enact a policy for gifted education; be sure to request the policy if anything is unclear.

Students with disabilities

Students with a disability—such as physical disability, mental illness, learning disability such as dyslexia, autism, or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)—may also be gifted. These children are considered “Twice Exceptional.”

Identifying these students can be challenging because the characteristics and symptoms associated with certain disabilities can overshadow high cognitive ability and/or exceptional aptitude. The new regulations provide increased protection and specialized gifted testing of individuals with disabilities that reflect the student’s aptitude or achievement and not their disability.

Remember though, by law gifted students with disabilities must receive special education services from their public school to accommodate any special needs, but they are not required to receive gifted instruction.

Gifted academics

The results of gifted screening will determine the areas in which the child exhibits high levels of accomplishment. Gifted instruction can take many forms: a self-contained classroom for gifted students in a particular academic area; a self-contained general education classroom for only gifted students; co-teaching with a general education teacher and a gifted instructor who “pushes in” for specific lessons; push-in services for differentiated learning in the general education classroom; honors courses; International Baccalaureate courses; Advanced Placement courses; grade acceleration; dual enrollment opportunities such as College Credit Plus; and others.

Whichever models of gifted instruction a district provides, it is essential that parents stay aware of and involved in their student’s learning.

The new regulations strengthen the standards for professional development of gifted teachers, and increase the communication between schools and families with gifted students.

The Written Education Plan (WEP) must be updated annually, and parents should stay in close contact with their student’s gifted teacher to ensure his or her needs are being addressed. A gifted child—when provided with the appropriate services and education—can flourish academically, embrace learning, and expect a future full of opportunity.

The role of an attorney

Gifted students who are not appropriately challenged often have behavioral issues in later school years that can culminate in suspension and expulsion. This can be especially true of those children considered “Twice Exceptional.” Although districts are not required to provide gifted instruction, students who are considered “Twice Exceptional” have additional protections.

A recent United States Supreme Court case, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, rejected a lower court ruling that the standard for educational services for disabled children was to provide “merely more than de minimus” educational benefit.

Instead, schools must provide educational services “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” Additionally, “every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives.” The objectives are generally aligned with curriculum for non-disabled children, but that alignment is only a guide, and can be replaced by individual goals specific to each child.

Skillful education attorneys can help parents advocate for gifted services based on the individual needs of their disabled, twice exceptional child.

This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. This article is not intended to be legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from a licensed attorney.