Los Angeles Unified School District Gifted and Talented and School for Advanced Studies Programs (LAUSD GATE and SAS)

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What Are the LAUSD Gifted and Talented GATE and SAS Programs?

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has two school-based programs for students that display signs of being gifted and talented in certain subject areas, or who show higher-than-average intellectual abilities, both academically and socially. The two programs on offer for gifted students are the LAUSD GATE Magnet Program (Gifted and Talented) and the SAS (School for Advanced Studies) program. Each program has been designed to offer a more intellectually challenging curriculum than that of their standard school.


LAUSD GATE Magnet Program

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) GATE program is available for students who have been identified as gifted by a LAUSD psychologist assessment, have excelled on the OLSAT test, or have shown a higher-than-average skill set in the four key subject areas. Magnet schools have a much more diverse range of students than the SAS program and there are a certain percentage of ethnicities represented in each school. Unlike SAS schools, children are registered in Magnet schools based upon their interest in the school’s theme.


SAS Program

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) SAS (School for Advanced Studies) program has been designed for students who are already enrolled in a school. Students who demonstrate high academic abilities and have high intelligence scales test results are referred for the SAS program by their teachers. The main difference with SAS and Magnet programs is that students outside of the school’s district can apply for that school’s SAS program. A student on the SAS program can move in and out of SAS classrooms if they so wish to join their peer group, however they cannot intermittently change and still stay in the program.


Eligibility criteria for the Magnet GATE and SAS programs

Both LAUSD’s gifted and talented programs state that qualified students (including outside residents for SAS) may apply to their programs. Students that can successfully prove they meet one of the below standards are considered qualified:

  • A LAUSD qualified psychologist has recognised you as highly intellectual, a high achiever, or high in a specific academic ability (creative ability, visual arts ability, performing arts, or leadership ability)
  • Possess national percentile scores of 85 or higher in total reading and total mathematics
  • Most current OLSAT-8 scores in APR total, APR Verbal and non-verbal
  • Exceeding the achievement level score on most current SBAC test in English language, English literature, and Mathematics
  • If applying to a highly gifted Magnet school, your child must possess a verification score of 99.9% on a district-approved standardised achievement test


LAUSD Gifted and Talented Test

One popular way that children qualify for LAUSD’s Gifted Programs is by getting high scores on a district-approved standardised test. LAUSD has approved the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT-8) for this. If your child scores high on the OLSAT-8, it could mean placement onto a Gifted and Talented program. And, as we’ve already mentioned, if your child wishes to attend a highly gifted Magnet School, they will require a score of 99.9% on this test to be considered.


OLSAT-8 Test (Otis-Lennon School Ability Test)

The OLSAT-8 is a standardised aptitude test that uses multiple-choice questions to identify children for gifted and talented programs in Los Angeles and around the country. The purpose of the test is to understand each child’s ability to learn, rather than memorise knowledge. Questions such as recognising patterns, memorising words, and numbers, and correctly identifying similarities and differences are typical of the OLSAT-8. Children will answer 60 questions in total and the test will be split into verbal and non-verbal sections. Younger children will sit this test in a 1:1 environment with a psychologist, whereas older children will take the test in a group environment.


OLSAT-8 Test Sections

Each test contains two sections – verbal and non-verbal. Within each section there are subtests that will test your child’s aptitudes and intelligence.

Verbal Section

Non-Verbal Section

  • Pictorial reasoning this section evaluates the student’s ability to draw conclusions from a series of images and data
  • Figural reasoning this section evaluates the student’s ability to understand relationships between shapes and figures
  • Quantitative reasoning this section evaluates a student’s ability to draw conclusions from numbers and patterns


How the OLSAT-8 is scored?

The OLSAT-8 uses a total age-based percentile score to measure a child’s performance on the test. This score is calculated by the total number of answers a student got correct and then comparing it against students of the same age. This is important to bear in mind, as your child will not lose points for selecting the incorrect answer.

The numbers you will see on your child’s OLSAT-8 score report are below:

  • Raw score – this is the most basic score and is the total of correctly answered questions eg. a score of 40 is 40 out of 60 questions answered correctly. You will see a raw score for each section, as well as an overall raw score.
  • School Ability Index (SAI) – this score is determined by comparing the raw scores of children within the same age group. The average SAI is 100, and the highest possible is 150.
  • Percentile Rank – this score is derived from a student’s SAI score to determine your child’s overall percentile rank. If you see a score of 99.9% on your child’s score sheet, this means that they scored higher than 99.9% of children within their age bracket that took the test.

It usually takes around two months for you to receive your child’s OLSAT-8 scores through, and you should be notified shortly after if your child has qualified for LAUSD’s gifted and talented programs.


OLSAT-8 Test Preparation

Gifted and talented programs in Los Angeles are tremendously sought-after as they help open doors for many children by developing their academic gifts into talent. Many parents want their children to succeed, however only a select number of children are chosen for entry each year. If you want to give your child the best opportunity to succeed in their LAUSD GATE and SAS applications, then it’s important you start to prepare as early as possible. As the main test used by the Los Angeles Unified School District GATE and SAS programs is the OLSAT-8, a traditional aptitude test, the earlier you get your little one practicing them, the better.

There are a plenty of ways you can prepare your child to sit their OLSAT-8, including past papers, online resources, games, and puzzles. While no two papers are the same and we cannot tell you exactly what questions will come up on the paper, we can help your little one to develop the confidence they need to sit the test.

We always recommend pushing your child out of their comfort zone and getting them to try new questions that require them to stop and think. Questions one level above theirs are a good place to start as it allows them to tap-in to their brain and really think about the answers. This should be done when you feel that they are ready, so they are not overwhelmed or disheartened if they find it difficult.

One of the great things about practice papers and sample questions is that they come with detailed explanations to how the examiner got to the answer, so if your child is struggling grasping a concept they can learn and understand how to do it next time. Practice papers can be done as many, or as little as you and your child wants. Without the use of study guides and practice questions, the testing material could be overwhelming for your child, causing them to underperform on the test so it’s best to go-in prepared by using as many online resources and practice papers as you can.


Tips to Make LAUSD GATE & SAS Preparation Fun

Improve your child’s listening skills

Listening is an important component of learning. Your child’s ability to actively listen has a huge impact on building the communication skills necessary both inside and outside of the classroom. Improving your child’s active listening skills has many benefits – besides better comprehension, active listeners tend to be better problem-solvers and communicators, both important skills on the OLSAT-8 test. One way to get your child to practice their active listening skills is to ask specific questions about something you have just said, or a book you have just read. A mixture of both open-ended and close-ended questions are great for this as it helps your child provide clarification, ensures they understand and proves they are listening and absorbing information.


Use time effectively

Because the OLSAT-8 has a limited amount of time (60-75 minutes depending which grade is taking the test) that means it can be stressful for children who feel they are under pressure. While you and your child are preparing for the OLSAT-8 at home, consider timing the sections to make it feel more like the real test. This way, your child will learn that they cannot spend too much time on one question and can highlight areas of weakness where they may need to prepare more.


Process of elimination

The OLSAT-8 does not penalise children for answering questions incorrectly. This means that even on difficult questions it is worth your child trying to work out the answer. Before just selecting any multiple-choice option, you should teach your child to use the process of elimination. If there are two answers out of a possible four that are wrong, get your child to eliminate those first, leaving them with two possible answers. Then teach your child to go for the answer that makes the most logic to them. You can always come back to the answer at the end of the test and understand how the correct answer was formed to help with similar questions in future.