FCPS Office of Advanced Academics

Shift from Elementary Magnet Program to School-Based Services

FCPS Magnet Programs are included among the categories of instructional delivery that must be prepared to adapt each year in response to systemic changes. This potential adaptation is why the magnet program model was not guaranteed to any applicant or participant from year to year. Nonetheless, we must continue to provide services for students with demonstrated advanced or gifted and talented need(s),

The Annotated Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) for Gifted and Talented Education was revised and approved in July 2019 to strengthen the identification of students with gifted abilities. This COMAR recognizes that gifted and talented students are found in all Maryland schools and in all cultural, ethnic, and economic groups. Requirements in this COMAR includes, but not limited to, the identification of a significant number of students in every school.  

In compliance with this regulation and in recognition of the increasingly growing number of advanced and gifted learners throughout our school system, FCPS is phasing out the Elementary Gifted and Talented Programs as they currently exist in our school system. Current Grade 4 and 5 students will remain in the program for the 2020 - 2021 school year. Current Grade 4 magnet students will remain in the program through the end of the 2021 - 2022 school year. Throughout this transition, no new students will be added to the existing program. 

Instead, school-based advanced and gifted and talented services will be provided at each FCPS elementary school. Gifted and talented students will  be identified and receive appropriate services at each school per COMAR for Gifted and Talented Education. This allows for gifted students to remain in their home school and eliminates the challenges posed by the former magnet program model, which only accommodated a small number of students across FCPS.

A “gifted and talented student” is defined to mean an elementary or secondary student who is identified by professionally qualified individuals as:

  1. Having outstanding talent and performing, or showing the potential for performing, at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with other students of a similar age, experience, or environment;
  2. Exhibiting high performance capability in intellectual, creative, or artistic areas;
  3. Possessing an unusual leadership capacity, or;
  4. Excelling in specific academic fields.

Identification of gifted and talented students includes multiple measures of ability, performance, and potential. Every school system must conduct universal screening, which initiates the gifted and talented identification process. FCPS screens all students in Grade 2 during a defined testing window that is set every year. Like most of the other school systems in Maryland, FCPS administers the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) as its screener. Students are not retested each year as a CogAT score is valid for three years. 

Students with an  IEP or 504 Plan may also be identified as gifted and talented, based on the identification criteria. Ability and achievement scores gained from formalized testing may be used during the gifted and talented identification process. These students are “twice-exceptional” students and receive services that address their needs. Similarly, English Learners may be identified as gifted and talented based on the identification criteria along with their ACCESS for ELs testing results and other data.

FCPS recognizes that advanced and gifted students require instruction tailored to their unique and specific needs. As such, within each school a cluster grouping model may be used for these students. Cluster grouping is a research-informed model for gifted and talented service delivery. Gifted “cluster groups” are grouped within the general education classroom. Cluster grouping ensures that advanced and gifted and talented students have “idea mates.” Advanced and gifted and talented  students are better able to cope with the process of grappling with more challenging material while clustered with a peer group that shares similar academic, social and emotional needs. 

Students in cluster groups consistently engage with new and challenging material that aligns to their strengths. Cluster group participation is based on a student’s specific area(s) of talent. In other words, a student may be advanced or gifted in one academic area and not in another. If other students--those not formally-identified as gifted and talented--have demonstrated academic need(s), then they may also receive access to advanced-level resources and support. With this model, students are able to receive instruction and support designed to meet their specialized academic needs. If students, however, demonstrate unique needs, beyond that provided to other gifted students within the context of the school environment, school staff may access advanced academic resources and support provided through central office advanced academics teacher specialists.

For more information about the FCPS Elementary Advanced Academics’ Gifted and Talented Services see the following documents: