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Early Access


"Early Access" means early entrance to kindergarten at age 4 or early entrance to first grade at age 5 for highly advanced gifted children who are placed in a grade level above other same aged peers based upon the following conditions:

  • the student is formally identified as gifted as specified in 12.01(16); and
  • the student meets requirements for accelerated placement as determined in an auditable body of evidence (e.g., achievement, ability, social-emotional factors, school learning skills, developmental characteristics, and family and school support).  12.01(12)

A student shall be age 4 by October 1 for kindergarten; and, age 5 by October 1 for first grade. 12.08(2)(e)(i)(D)

The purpose of early access is to identify and serve the few highly advanced gifted children who require comprehensive academic acceleration.  12.08(1)(c)


House Bill 08-1021 created the opportunity for Colorado administrative units (AUs) to accelerate highly advanced gifted children under age 4 for kindergarten and/or under age 5 for first grade pursuant to CRS 22-20-204(2).  The Exceptional Children’s Educational Act (ECEA) is Colorado’s primary law with requirements for the implementation of specific elements and procedures for gifted education programs. ECEA Rules provide AUs guidance for the implementation of early access as well as clarify provisions for AUs to receive state education funds for early access students.  

Early access is a local decision of the AU.  The legislation is not for the majority of age 4 or age 5 gifted students who are served in preschool and kindergarten programs. Gifted education directors and coordinators determine with their superintendent if early access will be permitted.  The AU must have an approved Comprehensive Program Plan Early Access Addendum filed with CDE.  If an AU determines early access will be provided as a gifted programming service, all constituent schools or districts must abide by the requirements established in the AU’s early access addendum. 

Per-pupil funding shall only be provided to an AU if an Early Access Addendum has been approved by CDE, the student meets all criterion for early access admittance and an Advanced Learning Plan (ALP) is developed by September 30.  For a four year old to be counted as a kindergartener or a five year old to be counted as a first grader, the ALP must show the notation ”grade acceleration” on the first or cover page of the ALP.

Key Indicators for Implementation

  • AU has an approved Early Access submitted with the Department
  • AU communicates information about the criteria and process for identifying highly advanced early access students and describes methods and tools used to make determinations
  • Provides professional development to educators, or other means, to increase the understanding of highly advanced early access children and their educational needs
  • Method for collaboration among preschool, general and gifted education personnel and parents
  • Description of fee charged for early access assessment process and communication of the fee being waived for students eligible for a reduced-cost or free meal, and take into account the economic circumstances of the community
  • An ALP developed by September 30 for any early access student in kindergarten and first grade, to include:
    • Transition goal for the first year of early access
    • Monitoring student performance every 5 weeks during first year of early access
  • Methods of communication with the student about school success and parent-teacher communication
  • Process shall include following timelines:
    • Applications for early access due by April 1 for the following year with the AU determining when to begin accepting applications
    • The AU may, at its discretion, decide to accept referrals after April 1, but a determination made no later than September 1 or the AU’s start date, whichever is earlier
    • Determinations made within 60 calendar days of the AU receiving the portfolio submitted by the parent
    • An early access child shall be 4 by October 1 for kindergarten and 5 for first grade
  • AU shall designate personnel to collect portfolios and data and to administer assessments
  • The early access determination team shall include an AU level or school gifted resource person, a teacher in early childhood and other personnel designated by AU.  Parents must accept or decline early access.
  • Describe the evaluation steps to include:
    • Screening portfolio and the information parents must collect and submit
    • Applicant contact information
    • Screening tool that will be completed by the parent and child’s teacher
    • Information about the performance of the child
  • Body of evidence meets criteria for early access determination

Early Access Administrative Units

Early Access Resources

Early Access Guidance Document

Additional Early Access Resources

Early Access Plan

Once an AU submits an Early Access Plan and it has been approved by CDE, it is not necessary to resubmit or renew the plan unless the AU wishes to update or revise the plan.  Once edits have been made to a previously approved plan, contact the Office of Gifted Education to review the plan for compliance and reposting.

New Early Access Plans:  The Early Access Addendum must be submitted to and approved by the Office of Gifted Education IF the local Administrative Unit (AU) chooses to permit early access. AUs must submit a plan by January 1 for Early Access of students the following school year.  Plans are completed in the Data Management System (DMS).  Notify the Office of Gifted Education when the new plan is completed in DMS.  Plans must be approved by CDE prior to offering Early Access as a programming option or to receive per pupil funding for an Early Access student.

Note: If you are not able to access the resources or need additional support, please contact the Office of Gifted Education Gifted Program Administrator.