Gifted and Talented Texas: All You Need To Know

Gifted and Talented programs were created to meet the needs of students who are advanced in intellectual abilities. The Gifted and Talented programs in Texas deliver accelerated, specialized, and rigorous curriculum and instruction to exceptional students with high potential.

Read on to find out all you need to know about the Gifted and Talented programs in Texas.

Gifted and Talented Texas | G/T Identification

In the state of Texas, students in Kindergarten through 12th grade are assessed for gifted and talented identification and, if determined, must be provided proper services by the school district.

The first step in the Talented and Gifted process is to determine if your child may be considered gifted. According to the state of Texas, a Gifted and Talented student is defined as one who:

  • Shows high levels of intellectual potential
  • Performs exceptionally high at academic achievements
  • Scores much higher on academic measurements compared to peers of the same age and setting
  • Students who are to be considered for gifted and talented services must also display signs of high performance in the arts or in intellectual capabilities, strong leadership abilities, and advanced skills in a particular school subject.
  • Gifted and Talented Texas | Requirements by District

    Each school district within the state of Texas will have its own unique requirements and criteria that will be considered when students are applying for gifted and talented programs. A few of the biggest districts within the state, however, have G/T programs that many other school districts follow.

    These large districts include: Houston Independent School District, Houston Association of Independent Schools, and Dallas Independent School District.

    HISD Vanguard Program

    The Houston Independent School District (HISD) is the largest district in the entire state, with close to 200,000 students and over 280 different schools. It's Gifted and Talented program is referred to as the Vanguard program and was designed to provide a challenging and rigorous curriculum to students that excel in intellectual and creative abilities.

    The Vanguard program is offered both in the neighborhood schools as well as at specific Magnet schools throughout the district. Although the programs may slightly differ depending on where they are offered, the requirements for G/T determination are the same.

    The various components for students entering kindergarten consist of:

  • Woodcock-Johnson test scores (out of 42 points). This is a school readiness test.
  • Wechsler Nonverbal Scale of Ability scores (out of 42 points). This test assesses reasoning and problem-solving skills.
  • Parent Recommendation (out of 16 points)
  • scores (out of 42 points). This test assesses reasoning and problem-solving skills.

    The components that are considered for students entering grades 1 through 12 consist of:

  • Iowa or Stanford scores (out of 40 points)
  • CogAT scores (out of 30 points)
  • Final Report Card grades for core subjects (out of 20 points)
  • One Teacher Recommendation Form (out of 10 points)
  • Houston Association of Independent Schools (HAIS)

    Houston Association of Independent Schools includes Houston’s private schools, which are either accredited by TEPSAC (Texas Private School Accreditation Commission) or by a religious organization. These private schools also offer rigorous and challenging curriculum in their Gifted and Talented programs, but their assessment requirements are different than those required by the HISD Vanguard programs.

    Many of the HAIS schools require a combination of two assessments in order to determine G/T status: the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT), and the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE). These tests are usually taken by 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th graders.

    Students may also take the High School Placement Test (HSPT), which is a comprehensive, standardized test used for eighth graders looking for placement in ninth grade.

    Dallas Independent School District (DISD) Magnet Schools

    DISD is the second largest school district in the state and has a wide variety of magnet schools serving a diverse population. While each magnet school has its own requirements, they are consistent in using students’ standardized test scores, grade point averages, and letters of recommendation in order to initially be considered for the application process.

    Once these criteria are met, students then are often required to complete an on-site essay or interview, and then an on-site English and math exam. Each of these portions are part of a total percentage which is then added up for the student’s final score.

    For example, admission to the top gifted and talented or ‘magnet’ school in Dallas, the School for the Talented and Gifted at the Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Magnet Center (commonly referred to as TAG or TAG Magnet), has strict eligibility criteria (applicants must have a GPA of at least 82 in english, math, science, and social studies, plus very high Grade 7 and 8 STAAR test scores) and requires a 5-step application process, which includes providing a written response to an article and attending a session on campus.

    Gifted and Talented Texas Assessments

    STAAR test

    The first point of assessment for many children (starting in 3rd grade) will be the results on the STAAR tests, which are given annually, and are comprised of various assessments depending on the grade level. The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) program was developed to assess students’ academic knowledge and abilities, and are based on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) curriculum taught in Texas public schools.

    These sets of standardized tests cover:

  • Grades 3-8: Reading and Math
  • Grades 4 and 7: Writing
  • Grades 5 and 8: Science
  • Grade 8: Social Studies
  • The STAAR test replaced the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) in recent years. Like the STAAR test, TAKS was designed to measure student understanding and mastery of the state standards. However the STAAR test is widely regarded as a more challenging test as it is more closely aligned with the Common Core State Standards.


    The Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) is an admission tests that was developed by the Educational Records Bureau (ERB) and is often utilized by independent school districts as well as Magnet schools. The ISEE provides a standard assessment of skills and is a way for schools to rank abilities and achievements when comparing applicants.

    The ISEE includes five sections:

  • Verbal Reasoning- Contains questions on synonyms and sentence completion
  • Quantitative Reasoning- Contains questions of word problems and quantitative comparisons
  • Reading Comprehension- Contains six passages which are each followed by relevant comprehension questions
  • Mathematics Achievement- Contains questions that require the student to determine the problem and solve
  • Essay- Contains a topic or a prompt in which the student must write an essay in response

    The Otis-Lennon School Ability Test, or the OLSAT, is frequently used to assess a student's verbal and nonverbal abilities.

    The OLSAT is a common assessment for Gifted and Talented programs as it requires students to solve math problems, follow directions, make inferences, and draw conclusions.

    It is known for being an objective measurement of students’ academic success and achievement. The main purpose of the OLSAT is to assess the student's’ ability to see patterns and relationships, the speed of their thought processes, as well as their memory capacity and ability.

    The OLSAT is particularly challenging as it contains 21 different question types, covering the following five areas:


    The Cognitive Abilities Test, or the CogAT, is another assessment that is frequently utilized by schools to determine Gifted and Talented status. It has varying levels of content and difficulty, which are determined by the grade level of the student.

    The CogAT consists of problems that assess the student’s problem-solving skills, cognitive development, as well as their ability to learn and understand new tasks.

    The CogAT has three sections, which include the verbal battery, the nonverbal battery and the quantitative battery.

    Gifted and Talented Texas | How to Prepare

    Although many of these tests differ in problem type as well as content, there are still some general ways in which you can help your child prepare for standardized tests.

    The best way to help your child is to build strong test-taking skills. Taking the time to go through reading comprehension strategies, using context clues for vocabulary, math fact practice, as well as formulas and sample word problems will not only improve their performance but their confidence, as well.

    Another way to prepare for these standardized tests is to familiarize your child with the format of the tests as well as their structure. Standardized tests are often timed and have specific instructions to follow. It will prove beneficial to show your child samples of question types, such as multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, reading passages, as well as math computation problems.

    Download a practice test to help your child prepare by clicking the relevant link below:

  • CogAT Practice Test
  • OLSAT Practice Test
  • ISEE Practice Test
  • Gifted and Talented programs in Texas offer a rigorous and accelerated curriculum that will challenge and inspire your child, though many Texas school districts require advanced standardized tests and entrance exams in order to qualify for their intensive G/T program.

    By helping your child perform to their highest potential on these assessments, you are assisting them in getting the best education and opportunities possible.