PEAK Gifted & Talented

Gonzaga 2
Helena Public Schools Gifted Education Plan

 Mission Statement

The mission of the Helena Public Schools is to challenge and empower each student to maximize individual potential and become a competent, productive, responsible, caring citizen.


“Gifted and talented children” means children of outstanding abilities who are capable of high performance and require differentiated educational programs beyond those normally offered in public schools in order to fully achieve their potential contribution to self and society. The children so identified include those with demonstrated achievement or potential ability in a variety of worthwhile human endeavors. (Montana Code Ann. § 20-7-901)

Identification Process

The Helena School District Gifted and Talented identification process offers two different avenues for qualifying students for gifted services.

Group Tests (2nd Grade)

In 2nd grade, students are screened using the CogAT and ITBS assessments.  Qualification for Gifted Education Services is based on scores from the Cognitive Ability Test (CogAT) and Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS).  The CogAT measurements include Verbal, Quantitative, and Non-verbal Reasoning scores, as well as Composite and Profile indicators.  ITBS scores reviewed in this screening include Reading, Mathematics, and Composite totals.  In addition, Teacher Behavior Checklists and Creativity Assessments are administered by PEAK staff to complement the screening process by indicating students who may warrant further review.

Individual Testing (K-12)

In addition, referrals can be made for any student for individual assessment. Referred students are assessed with individual ability and/or achievement instruments administered by school psychologists.

Helena School District Gifted and Talented Model

The Helena Public Schools gifted and talented model provides a comprehensive array of services for identified GT students (K-12).

  • DIFFERENTIATION: The Helena School District GT staff offers professional development consultations with classroom teachers on differentiation strategies to meet the needs of all students in their classrooms.
  • ACCELERATION: The Helena School District provides opportunities for subject area, whole grade and early entrance acceleration options for their students. The Iowa Acceleration Scale is the district-wide protocol to determine appropriate placement.
  • DIRECT INTERVENTION: In the Helena School District PEAK Gifted and Talented Program, specialists trained in the identification, programming, curriculum design and student assessment strategies provide identified students with a specialized intervention in the following ten curricular areas: creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, logical reasoning, communication skills, research, technology, leadership, intrapersonal skills, and interpersonal skills.

Specialized GT services include:

  • Consultations to parents and faculty K-12
  • Identification for pull-out services through multi-factored assessments
  • Weekly pull-out intervention services for identified students in grades 3-5
  • Twice-weekly lunch labs for identified students in grades 6-7
  • Monthly intensive seminar pull-out services for identified students in grades 6-7
  • Weekly meetings for identified students in grades 8-10
  • Multi-day symposiums for identified students in grades 8-10
  • Parenting initiatives:  speakers series, discussion groups, and conferences
  • Leadership Conference (grades 3-high school) each spring
  • International Expeditions:  International investigations for qualifying GT students.

Parent Involvement

Parents are actively involved in the following:

  • Focused Discussions
  • Parent Expertise Sharing
  • Speakers Series
  • Book Club
  • GT Resource Library
  • End-of-Year Leadership Conference

Professional Development

Professional Development includes:

  • NAGC Conference
  • Montana AGATE Conference
  • Teacher In-service Training
  • Guest Speaker Series
  • Professional Learning Communities
  • Professional Journals: Gifted Child Quarterly and Parenting for High Potential

Program Evaluation

The PEAK Gifted and Talented Program utilizes both formative and summative evaluations through the following:

  • Daily formative assessment on individual student growth: PLC TACA Data
  • Culminating summative assessments from parents, students and other authentic audiences.
  • OPI Grant data
  • Climate Surveys by students, parents, and teachers
  • End-of-year comprehensive data

For more information contact, Jane McDonald at 406-324-2900 or


Posted on April 30, 2018

PEAK Leadership Conference 2018: Risk!

Please click here to download the documents to register for the 2018 Leadership Conference:

Leadership Risk Course Descriptions 2018

Leadership Registration 2018

Posted on April 13, 2017

Reducing Test Stress

Ideas to Reduce Test Stress

We live in a stressful world, and the stress is heightened for students and educators when it’s time to prepare for high-stakes tests. When test scores are tied to school funding, teacher evaluations and students’ future placement, the consequences of these stressors can be far-reaching. READ MORE

Posted on April 6, 2017

7 Signs Your Child Is Gifted

7 Signs Your Child Is Gifted

If you’ve got a kid who seems to know it all — or at least learn it pretty darn quickly — you’ve probably wondered if he or she could be considered gifted. If you think your child could be gifted, you’re probably onto something, says Devon MacEachron, Ph.D., a psychologist with a specialty practice assessing children for giftedness and making educational recommendations to them and their parents.  READ MORE

Posted on February 22, 2017

What Not to Say to Your Gifted Child Article

What Not to Say to Your Gifted Child

Gifted Challenges
Who hasn’t had regrets about what they have said to their child? Whether in a fit of anger, frustration and exhaustion, or in an attempt to get them off the sofa, we all have been there. But choice words directed at gifted children can take on a different dimension. Parents of gifted children may feel unique levels of frustration when they witness their child “waste” his potential or struggle with basic social interactions.  READ MORE

Posted on January 9, 2017

Top NAGC Blog Posts of 2016

Top 2016 NAGC Blog Posts. Insightful, timely commentary and synthesized research on supporting the needs of gifted and talented students.

Posted on December 1, 2016

5-Minute GT Professional Development

A survey conducted by the National Association for Gifted Children a few years ago revealed that the average amount of preparation pre-service teachers are given regarding gifted and advanced learners is a whopping 15 minutes.  Yet these learners are in most of our classrooms.  No wonder teachers often feel unprepared for meeting the needs of the students who out-pace the rest of the class (and, yes, sometimes even the teacher).  My goal with these emails is to help build-up a base of knowledge, strategies, and awareness that you (unfortunately likely) may not have received in your teacher preparation coursework, or even since.


Today’s link will take you to an article hosted by Teachers First.  In it, the author has listed some common traits of giftedness, along with possible problem behaviors sometimes associated with or resulting from those characteristics.  To view the full article, click here:


Or, if you’d just like some highlights from the article, here are a few:


The Gifted Student

  • Uses higher level thinking skills (analysis, synthesis, evaluation)
  • Makes connections other students don’t see
  • Considers unusual approaches to problem-solving


  • Tends to be absent-minded regarding practical details
  • Forgets homework assignments”


The Gifted Student

  • Thinks independently
  • Expresses unique and original opinions
  • Is self-motivated


  • Challenges authority
  • May not handle criticism well
  • May not work well in groups”


The Gifted Student

  • Has a strong sense of justice
  • Likes to debate current issues and real life problems


  • Can be very critical of self and others
  • Likes to argue a point
  • Is a perfectionist and expects others to be perfect as well”


This material is copyrighted by The Source for Learning, Inc. and is used by permission. All other rights reserved. The original is part of, and can be found at:

Posted on November 1, 2016

PEAK in the News! MT History Tableaus

Click here to see the Independent Record article:

PEAK IR Article

And here to see the KTVH segment:

PEAK Montana History Projects


Posted on February 4, 2016

Another great read for parents:

How to Raise a Creative Child. Step 1: Back Off

The New York Times
They learn to read at age 2, play Bach at 4, breeze through calculus at 6 and speak foreign languages fluently by 8. Their classmates shudder with envy; their parents rejoice at winning the lottery. But to paraphrase T. S. Eliot, their careers tend to end not with a bang, but with a whimper. Consider the nation’s most prestigious award for scientifically gifted high school students, the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, called the Super Bowl of science by one American president.  READ MORE

Posted on January 14, 2016

Article on GT and Creativity

Gifted Education Programs Foster Creativity

The Union-Recorder
Educators throughout Georgia will spend the month celebrating the importance of gifted education programs. “Our children are one of our state’s greatest resources. Georgia is blessed with tens of thousands of gifted and talented children whose full potential can be tapped only through the farsighted cooperation of educators, community members and government leaders,” stated Gov. Nathan Deal in an official proclamation, declaring the month of January as Gifted Education Month for the state.  READ MORE

Posted on December 9, 2015

GT Professional Development Opportunity for Teachers and Parents

Serving the Emotional Needs of Gifted students (SENG) facilitator professional development prepares teachers, counselors and parents to lead discussion groups for parents of gifted/talented – high ability/high potential students.
Parents of the gifted children are so very important, but yet they often lack access to information about the characteristics, behaviors, problems and resources for gifted children. The SENG model for parent groups helps to meet some of the needs of parents of gifted children, thus helping to meet the emotional needs of gifted children.

Dr. James Webb, SENG Founder
January 14-15, 2016
Missoula Public Schools – Dickerson Lifelong Learning Center
For more information and registration:!open-courses/canh