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Frequently Asked Questions







Q. What is ALPS?

A: Advanced Learner Programs & Services (ALPS) is what Napa Valley Unified School District has named its GATE program. Our goal is to provide support to teachers and  schools so that every student is challenged and makes significant progress during each school year. 


Q. Who is eligible for ALPS?

A: Any student K-12 whose classroom performance and/or test scores show a need for advanced learning opportunities.


Q: What are the characteristics of an Advanced Learner student?

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

"High Achiever vs. Gifted Learner vs. Creative Thinker" Chart



Q: When are students identified?

A: Students may be referred for identification at anytime during the school year.  However, ALL district third grade students are universally screened unless parents opt out of testing.  


Q: How do I get my child evaluated for the ALPS program?

A: All  NVUSD 3rd grade students may participate in the universal testing in the fall of each school year. ALPS uses the Cognitive Abilities Test which is administered during the fall trimester.

If your child is either not yet in third grade or beyond third grade and you feel that advanced learning opportunities are in order, individual testing can be requested through your student’s school site ALPS Leads.  Request forms for testing will then be submitted to the ALPS Office by your school ALPS Lead.


Q: How does my child qualify for ALPS?

A: Please see our Identification page for specific qualification criteria.


Q: Can I request that my third grader NOT be tested for ALPS ?

A: Yes, all parents always have the option to deny consent for testing. Your school will send home CogAT information letters before testing begins.  At that time, you may request that your child not be included in testing.


Q: Once my child is identified as gifted, does that identification stay with the child?

A: Students identified as gifted remain identified while attending schools in the Napa Valley Unified School District. Students transferring out of the district must request a letter of qualification from the ALPS office to take with them to their new district.


Q: If my child was identified in another school district, may he/she be identified in this district?

A: ALPS is not a mandated program in California, so there are no specific identification guidelines. Therefore, each district develops its own criteria for identification. Upon parent request, the files of students identified as gifted in another state or district will be reviewed when the student enrolls in a NVUSD school.  To be eligible for the ALPS program in the Napa Valley Unified School District, students must meet the identification criteria established for the NVUSD  ALPS program.


Q. Is private IQ testing accepted for ALPS identification purposes?

A: Private assessments are not accepted as part of the identification process because the state of California requires that identification of gifted students be equitable to all students in the district.  However, private assessments can be considered as a part of the Student Success Team process.



Q. What is the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT)?

A. The Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) measures students’ learned reasoning abilities in the three areas most linked to academic success in school: Verbal, Quantitative (Mathematical), and Nonverbal. While CogAT is well-suited to help educators make important student placement decisions, such as selecting students for Gifted and Talented programs, exclusive features such as the Ability Profile Score can be used to expand the educational opportunities of all students. The CogAT differs greatly from other standardized tests that students will take during their academic careers. Unlike achievement tests such as the SAT and the CST, the CogAT does not measure how much a student has learned, but focuses instead on a student's ability to display cognitive abilities that research have associated with academic success. These abilities include reasoning and problem solving using verbal, quantitative, and spatial (non-verbal) methods to find the answers.  More info about the CogAT


Q: How do I request that my child be administered the CogAT?

A: You should schedule a meeting with your child’s teacher to discuss the options for testing. Your student’s school can schedule testing once you  and your student’s teacher  have determined that testing is the best option for your child.


Q: How long is the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT)?

A: Each level of CogAT offers three test categories:

  • Verbal
  • Quantitative (Mathematical)
  • Nonverbal

Each category requires 30 minutes of testing time. In most cases, students are tested over a course of several days.


Q: Can my child study for the CogAT?

A: As the CogAT is an abilities test and not an achievement test, it is not necessary for students to prepare for the tests.  NVUSD does not provide workbooks or study guides to prepare for the tests.


Q: What can I do to help my child do well on the CogAT?

A: Please assist your child’s performance by ensuring that he/she is well rested and relaxed prior to the test administration.  Emphasize that this is an opportunity to find out more about how he/she learns and reasons rather than viewing it as a pass/fail situation.


Q: What CogAT scores are required to qualify for ALPS?

A: Please see our Identification page for specific qualification criteria.


 Q: How will I be notified of my student’s qualification?    

  • Parents receive notification letters that are sent home from school with their student.
  • ALPS-identified students are indicated in AERIES, the district student database.
  • Teachers are given lists of all newly ALPS-identified students.  


Q: My child does extremely well in school, but scored below the required score on the CogAT. Please explain how this can happen.

A: The CogAT is an abilities test that measures critical and abstract thinking. Each year, NVUSD offers the CogAT to many high-achieving students who are doing very well in school. Students can be high-achievers without showing signs of giftedness. For example, in the classroom, high-achieving students often learn in a linear fashion, while the gifted student thinks divergently and rapidly. High-achievers often participate and ask a lot of questions and the teacher provides the answers. The gifted child often asks questions about abstract ideas and concepts that may not have easy answers. You may want to explain to your child that the CogAT is a very different type of test than the tests he/she has taken in the past. Teachers use the information so that they have a better understanding of how your child learns.


Q: When will we receive the test results?

A: The CogAT tests are sent to the test publisher for scoring. Parents will receive the results in the mail approximately 16 weeks after test administration.



Q: What is a student Multiple Measures Portfolio?

A: In some situations, the CogAT scores may not represent a student's true cognitive ability.  In this case, the student's CogAT scores can be combined with other scores (i.e., multiple measures) to determine ALPS qualification. 


Q: What are the criteria for a Multiple Measures Portfolio qualification?

A: Please see our Identification page for specific qualification criteria.


Q: Is private IQ testing accepted for ALPS identification purposes?

A: Private assessments are not accepted as part of the identification process because the state of California requires that identification of gifted students be equitable to all students in the district.



Q: How can parents be supportive at home and at school?

A: Be aware of your child’s unique strengths and challenges. Read some of the books in your site’s ALPS 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).


Q: What can parents do if they feel a student is not being challenged?

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, next contact the school ALPS Liaison and/or the school administrator and request a Student Success Meeting. The school will then contact the District ALPS Office for support.


Q: What is a Student Success Team Meeting?

A: The Student Success Team (SST) is an early intervention process that brings together the student, parent/guardian, teachers and administrators to identify student needs and develop an improvement plan to address those needs. Any of the team members may request a meeting.  If your child is in elementary school, please contact your child’s teacher and/or school principal.  If your child is in Middle or High School, please contact your child’s teacher or school counselor to request a Student Success Team (SST) meeting.

ALPS Planning Guide for SST Conferences


Q: What are good resources and/or web site links for parents?

A: The ALPS home page has a section entitled "Resources for Parents of Advanced Learners"  that is a good starting place for general information and helpful web sites. You will find a link to ALPS parent newsletters, summer program opportunities, local after school opportunities, national talent searches, plus much more. Hoagies' Gifted Education Page http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/ is also an excellent starting place for information and activities for parents and students.


Q: Who can I contact if I still have questions?

A: There is an ALPS Lead/Contact at each school. The current list of these contacts can be found here .  You may also contact the District ALPS Support Provider at the Napa Valley Unified District Office by calling 707-253-3815 x1817


Tips for ALPS Parents

  • Attend ALPS Parent Meetings at your school site
  • Meet your site ALPS School Lead and ask questions about your school’s ALPS Program
  • Become more knowledgeable about ALPS and share your knowledge with others
  • Become familiar with learning strategies appropriate for advanced learners
  • Learn how these strategies are being used in the classroom and school
  • Learn of resources that are available to ALPS parents