Ceilings Are For Rooms, Not Students

With more than 700,000 students, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is the second largest school district in the nation. The district’s Gifted and Talented Program has been a leader in gifted education since its development in 1951 offering a wide range of programs that allow gifted students to reach their full potential.

LAUSD Gifted and Talented Program’s mission is “Gifted/Talented Programs create high end learning opportunities which allow students to flourish in stimulating academic and social environments. In designing challenging educational opportunities, we strive to raise the floor, remove the walls and eliminate the ceiling on learning.”

Students are identified in four categories:

  • Intellectual ability - for students whose general intellectual development is markedly advanced in relation to their chronological peers
  • High achievement - for students who consistently function for two consecutive years at highly advanced levels in reading, English, and mathematics
  • Specific academic ability - students who consistently function for three consecutive years at highly advanced levels in either reading, English or mathematics
  • Ability in the performing or visual arts - for students who originate, perform, produce, or respond at exceptionally high levels in either dance, music (voice), drama, or in drawing or painting
Admission into the Program begins with referrals from classroom teachers, followed by screening by a school administrator, a review by the gifted screening committee, then verification by district administrators. LAUSD places a special emphasis on searching for and including students from diverse, underrepresented populations.

Once students have been admitted into the Program, there are several educational alternatives featuring extremely high levels of abstract thinking, motivation, interest, achievement, peer interaction, and a radically accelerated pace of learning, such as:

  • Regular community schools include a cluster program for gifted students
  • Schools for Advanced Studies
  • Magnets for gifted and highly gifted students
  • Conservatory of Fine Arts

Honors and Advanced Placement classes (for middle and senior high school students)

LAUSD adheres to a rigorous standard requiring instructional programs be planned and organized as an integrated, differentiated learning experience throughout the regular school day, and may be augmented with differentiated activities related to the core curriculum. The Program is comprehensive, structured, and sequenced between, within, and across grade levels, K-12.

The Program’s structure and services provide a balance between cognitive and affective learning. Gifted students learn about career and college options, and guidance consistent with their unique strengths. At the secondary level this includes mentoring and pre-college opportunities.

By recognizing the unique educational needs of the gifted and talented, LAUSD continues to remove barriers and create appropriate opportunities for these students.


Myth:  Mathematically talented students are computation whizzes.

Fact:  Research has shown that many mathematically talented students can have an excellent understanding of advanced mathematical concepts while simultaneously having relatively less developed computation skills (Lupkowki-Shoplik, Sayler, & Assouline, 1994; Rotigel, 2000). For example, Barb has an excellent understanding of how to multiply fractions, but she often makes mistakes when adding a column of figures. In this situation, teachers are often tempted to hold students back from learning advanced concepts until their “basic skills” catch up. This is unfair to the student and may actually be detrimental to his or her mathematical development. Developing Mathematical Talent: A Guide for Challenging and Educating Gifted Students.

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