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Exceptional Children's Educational Act (ECEA) defines "Early Access" as:
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 allows AUs to determine if early access is provided as a gifted education programming option. 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.
Early Access Plan & Funding
The AU must submit an Early Access Plan to CDE for approval. Per-pupil funding shall only be provided to an AU if an Early Access Plan has been approved by CDE, the student meets all criteria 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.
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. If an AU wishes to submit an initial plan for early access, plans must be submitted to CDE by January 1 prior to the fiscal year of implementation.
Early Access versus Early Admittance
A district shall count and receive funding for pupils enrolled in kindergarten who are five years old as of October 1 [C.R.S. 22-54-103]. However, a district has the autonomy to set an earlier enrollment date for admittance into kindergarten. For example, if a district sets August 1 as its cut-off date for a student to be five to enroll into kindergarten, and a child will turn five in September, the district determines if the student is admitted into kindergarten. In this case, the district still receives per-pupil funding for the student because he/she will be five by October 1. This is considered early admittance based on the district’s enrollment policy, but not early access.
If a child turns five after October 1 and wants to be considered for kindergarten admittance, the district may choose to admit the student and receive no per-pupil funding, or if the district/AU has an approved early access program plan, conduct the early access screening and/or assessment process to determine if the child meets early access criteria. Early access is intended for highly advanced gifted preschool students and not a process for students who do not meet the enrollment age requirement.
Early Access Guidance Document
Counting Early Access Students
Note: If you are not able to access the resources or need additional support, please contact the Office of Gifted Education Program Administrator.