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Advanced Learner Education


A differentiated curriculum model is provided for all students at the elementary, middle, and secondary levels. The program for Advanced Learners focuses on deeper engagement in the general education curriculum and is delivered during the regular school day by the classroom teacher.

We recognize that students have special talents that must be nurtured, as well as unique needs that must be addressed through accommodations such as differentiation of content, instruction, and assessment.  By considering the whole child, and not just his or her innate abilities, teachers, parents, and administrators will be able to challenge and motivate students to achieve at their full potential.  

All students are screened through the Ravens Progressive Matrices assessment in 2nd grade.  Qualified students are then identified in our student information system so that teachers, parents and the students themselves know the student is capable of deeper thinking high-level performance.  Students who do not qualify via the Ravens assessment may be recommended at any time from third grade on by teachers, parents or may self-identify.  (Please email the Teacher on Special Assignment for Elementary for the process.)  

Students matriculating from 5th to 6th grade will take a series of assessments at the end of the 5th grade school year which will identify either regular Math sequence or accelerated Math sequence in middle school.  If the student does not qualify via the assessments, the parents may waive their student into the accelerated path, if so desired.  The point of contact for an accelerated path in math is the counselor in middle school.  The advanced curriculum is available in 7th-grade for English.  Students earn placement in 7th-grade Advanced English via their performance in 6th grade.  Again, contact for placement by parents is through the middle school counselor.  Advanced Placement courses in high school are available to all students and highly encouraged.  Students in high school will meet with their counselors often to discuss their 4-year graduation plan which will include direct conversations regarding honors and Advance Placement courses.


    • Differentiation means providing students with different tasks and activities.
    • Differentiation can be varying the pacing, challenge level, and/or instructional strategy to meet students' needs, learning goals, or interests.
    • Differentiating the curriculum can relate to the content of the material (what is presented), the process by which such material is presented (how it is presented), and the products that students create, and/or the assessment of student work (how is it assessed).
    • Differentiating for gifted or high achieving students allows them a wider range of creativity, critical thinking, and opportunities for intellectual growth.
    • Differentiation is integrated into the regular school day as learning experiences based on the core curriculum.
    • Different types of differentiation techniques may be used separately or in combination.
    • Using Depth and Complexity
    • Flexible Skills Grouping
    • Cluster Grouping
    • Pre-Assessment and Compacting
    • Tiered Assignments
    • Contracts / "Menus"
    • Learning Centers
    • Interest Centers / Interest Groups
    • High Level Questions
    • Independent Work / Special Projects (Longitudinal Studies)
    • Mentoring

    The goal of differentiation is to maximize learning time for the advanced learner.

    • Individualized Instruction
    • Chaotic
    • Just another way to provide homogeneous grouping
    • Necessarily just harder grading of the basic assignment
    • Just higher-level questions and higher expectations of the same assignment
    • More work
    • A proactive plan for a variety of ways to express learning, as well as a different way of learning
    • Flexible grouping fluid
    • Adjustment of the nature of an assignment, not the quantity (It's more qualitative)
    • Multiple approaches to content, process, and product
    • Student centered
    • A Blend of whole-class, group, and individual instruction
    • A call for "compacting"

Advanced Learner Coursework

Middle School – High School Advanced Coursework Sequence


  • 6th grade – Common Core 6 Advanced
  • 7th grade – Common Core 7/8A (accelerated class - covers 1 1/2 years of math in 1 year)
  • 8th grade – Common Core 8B/Algebra (accelerated class - covers 1 1/2 years of math in 1 year)
  • 9th grade – Geometry - Honors
  • 10th grade – Algebra 2 - Honors
  • 11th grade – Pre-Calculus - Honors -Math Analysis or Pre-Calculus - Honors, or College Algebra with Trigonometry
  • 12th grade – Calculus (AB) - Advanced Placement (req. Pre-Calculus)
  • Calculus (BC) - Advanced Placement (req. Pre-Calculus -Math Analysis)
  • 11th or 12th grade – Statistics - Advanced Placement


  • 6th grade – English 6
  • 7th grade – English 7 - Advanced
  • 8th grade – English 8 - Advanced
  • 9th grade – English 1 - Honors
  • 10th grade – English 2 - Honors
  • 11th grade – English 3 - Honors/Advanced Placement
  • 12th grade – English 4 - Advanced Placement



Here are some of the key words and definitions you will need to better understand our Gifted and Talented Education Program:

  • Cluster Grouping
    Students are grouped within a regular classroom setting and receive differentiated instruction and curriculum from the regular classroom teacher.

  • Curriculum Compacting
    An instructional strategy that allows students who demonstrate mastery of a skill, to omit portions of assigned curriculum, and substitute it with enrichment activities that match their interests, abilities, and needs.

  • Differentiation
    Adapting the curriculum to meet the unique needs of learners by making modifications in complexity, depth and pacing.

  • Flexible Grouping
    A method of grouping students for instruction using interest, ability level or other student needs to determine groups.

  • Multiple Criteria
    Student information and data that are reviewed to help determine eligibility.

  • Part-time Grouping
    Classes are organized to provide advanced or enriched subject matter for part of the school day. These classes are composed of identified GATE students, and other advanced learners.

  • Tiered Instruction/ Tiered Assignment
    An instructional strategy that ensures all students work with the same essential ideas and skills, but at different levels of complexity, abstractness and difficulty. A tiered assignment is one in which each student has the opportunity to develop skills and understandings at his or her appropriate level of challenge.

(Adapted from The California Association for the Gifted)



The following is a list of several intellectual and corresponding personality characteristics that are typical of many gifted learners.


Intellectual Characteristics

Exceptional reasoning ability

Facility with abstraction

Early Moral Concern

Analytical thinking

Capacity for reflection

Intellectual curiosity

Complex thought process

Passion for learning

Divergent thinking/creativity

Rapid learning rate

Vivid imagination

Powers of concentration

Keen sense of justice


Personality Characteristics




Acute self-awareness

Tendency toward introversion

Need to understand

Need for precision/logic



Need for mental stimulation

Excellent sense of humor


Questioning of rules/authority


  • A:  These students demonstrate abilities, critical thinking, problem-solving skills and achievements considerably higher than those of their chronological peers. Some of the most common traits are:


    • Quick to grasp ideas
    • Intense interest in one or more subjects
    • Evidences originality, creativity, and flexibility in thought and action
    • Shows unusual maturity in the ability to verbally express themselves; uses an extensive vocabulary
    • Understands complicated concepts and relationships
  • A: Students may be referred for Advanced Learner identification at anytime during the school year beginning in Grade 3.

  • A: The District uses multiple criteria to identify Advanced Learners. Test scores, classroom performance, teacher recommendation surveys, parent surveys of student behavior, and the Raven Progressive Matrices test (for 2nd graders and referral students). Teachers are encouraged to refer students. Parents may also refer a student by contacting the District GATE Facilitator.

  • A: A student is identified as an Advanced Learner, he/she will retain that designation throughout his/her school education in the Carlsbad Unified School District. All district non-GATE students in Grades 3 – 8 are reevaluated each year. A student may be identified in any grade from Grades 3 – Grade 8.

  • A: Yes. "Twice-exceptional" students are difficult to identify because they possess the characteristics of gifted students and the characteristics of students with disabilities. These learning disabilities may include AD/HD, Asperger Syndrome, Autism, etc. Their special needs often hide their giftedness. The District GATE Facilitator and classroom teachers work with the student's Learning Center/Special Education teachers to identify these students and incorporate enrichment/challenge-level materials into their IEPs where appropriate.

  • A: Yes. One of the additional multiple measures used to identify English Language Learners (ELLs) is the California English Language Development Test (CELDT), given yearly to all ELL students in California. The rapid acquisition of English is one characteristic of Advanced Learners. Students who make two or more levels of growth in one year are evaluated and teachers are sent specially designed survey to check for high potential.

  • A: Raven Progressive Matrices Test is a non-reading test of cognitive processing skills, or how a child learns and thinks. This test helps predict ability level and gifted potential (even if the student is not performing at a high level). It has 60 items with multiple choice answers and is administered in a group. The test is age-normed, and the percentile score is based on a student's age at the time of the test date, not his/her grade.

  • A: Currently, the District uses cluster groups and flexible skills groups for language arts and mathematics in Kindergarten through Grade 5. Advanced learners have received more open-ended, long-term, and complex assignments that require a balance of independent and collaborative thinking with like-peers. District teachers have received professional development in working with Advanced Learners. They implement a wide variety of strategies to meet the needs of these students, including Depth and Complexity, developed by Dr. Sandra Kaplan, USC, Rossiter School of Education. Furthermore, curriculum programs such as Achieve 3000 serve to support each child’s unique ability.

  • A: High functioning Kindergarten - 2nd grade students are provided learning activities to extend their learning experiences within the regular classroom setting. Teachers use the same teaching strategies that are used with students in Grades 3 - 5.

  • A: Parents will receive notice of an initial screening in the spring of their child’s 2nd grade year.  Results of the screening are uploaded to the Aeries Parent Portal and a notification will be made at the child’s fall parent-teacher conference of their 3rd grade year.  Students who passed the initial screening are considered to be on a “watch list.” Throughout the year, the teacher will offer activities that support the learner profile and make an official recommendation for GATE identification at the end of the year.

  • A: At the middle school level, part-time grouping is used in English and mathematics in order to compact, extend, and exceed the core curriculum. These courses are designed to specifically address the needs of advanced learners with tiered assignments and differentiated resources that require more depth and complexity than the regular grade level curriculum.

  • A: Advanced classes are specially designed to be advanced in content, process, and product. Traditionally, students who meet prerequisite criteria are accepted into these courses.

  • A: Advanced Learners at the high school are served by an exemplary honors and Advanced Placement (AP) program. Enrollment in these classes is dependent upon meeting the course prerequisites.

  • A: Advanced Placement courses are rigorous, college-level curricula where high school students can gain college credit and/or advanced college placement. The grades for these courses are weighted (A = 5 pts., B = 4 pts., etc.) See the Carlsbad High School website (under Guidance) or the Carlsbad High School Student Handbook for more information.

Students New to CUSD/Student Transferring to Other Districts

  • A: There are no California Department of Education GATE identification guidelines. Each district sets up their own evaluation criteria. When GATE students enter the Carlsbad Unified School District, the GATE Facilitator evaluates the student's grades and testing information to determine if he/she qualifies under the CUSD criteria.

  • A: The student's cumulative file, containing the final GATE identification information (for 4th grade students and higher) will be forwarded to the student's new school. However, since cumulative files may take up to several months to arrive at the new school, parents should notify the office, classroom teacher, and/or school guidance counselor when enrolling. It would be helpful to share copies of the student's Advanced Learner identification letter, report card indicating advanced level work, and/or the "Advanced Learner Differentiated Learning Plan" with the new district. The CUSD would be happy to help share information with the new district.

Parent Support/Resources

  • A: Be aware of your child's unique strengths and challenges. Read some of the books in your site's GATE Parent Library and/or go online (ex: Hoagies' Education Page) to find out more about the needs of Advanced Learners. Be supportive of your child's interests. Keep an open line of communication with your child's teacher(s).

  • A: First, contact the student's teacher to share your concerns. Please don't ask teachers to give your gifted child more work. Instead ask for opportunities for your child to work on activities that are personally challenging. Convey the message that you want to work as a partner in your child's education. If your concerns are not resolved, you may also contact the District GATE Facilitator.


A wealth of information is also available from the following:


Contact Information

For more information about the CUSD Advanced Learner Education program, please contact: 

Director, Elementary Education
(760) 331-5014 

For specific information about middle school or high school Advanced level and/or A.P. classes, please contact your student's counselor.