What does highly capable mean?

The Washington state definition of highly capable refers to learners who, based on standardized testing, demonstrate academic advancement in one or more areas. Identification as highly capable requires modification of the learner’s educational environment — most often in some form of acceleration. The term highly capable is often used interchangeably with the term gifted. At NOVA we believe that highly capable/gifted individuals are more than grades and a test score.

What does NOVA mean by highly capable?

It’s complex. Most highly capable students perform or show potential for performing at significantly advanced academic levels when compared with others of their age, experiences, or environments. For some students, those characteristics are evident in their general abilities. For others it includes specific abilities such as math, writing, or leadership. It’s not uncommon for highly capable students to shine in some areas and struggle in others. Not all highly capable students score well on standardized assessments. Thinking outside the box, creativity, a heightened sense of justice, and intensity are common characteristics of highly capable students. Sometimes the terms highly capable and gifted are used interchangeably. Being highly capable in the traditional sense is only one aspect of a mission-appropriate student applicant.

NOVA's approach to creating a meaningful highly capable program is to use a balanced approach between acceleration and depth of content. We encourage students to analyze, think critically, and push outside of comfort zones in a safe place where failures become a learning opportunity to gain skills, seek more knowledge, and in the end build confidence and ownership of their educational journey. At NOVA we understand and appreciate the significant physical, emotional, and brain changes that are happening at this developmental time in the life of our students.

At NOVA Middle school we recognize that highly capable students:

  • yearn for deep learning
  • need acceleration learning opportunities in some academic areas
  • benefit from intentional support in the growth of their social and emotional development
  • see the complexity and relationships between content areas, actions and consequences
  • can be challenging mix of developmental levels all at one time
  • feel deeply about social justice
  • ask a lot of questions because they have a need to seek knowledge
  • may not perform well on standardized tests
  • may be intense and hyper-focused

Here are two articles from the National Association for Gifted Children that offer more information about the characteristics of highly capable/gifted learners:

Common Characteristics of Gifted Individuals
Myths about Gifted Students

Want more information on NOVA's approach to the term highly capable? Read Head of School Barbara Mitchell Hutton's Q&A. Read Now>>>