DeKalb County Schools

DeKalb County School District policy states that gifted children should receive 225 minutes of gifted services per week. This can be delivered via a combination of pull-out classes and any other small-group instruction provided by a gifted-certified teacher within the general classroom.

At the elementary level, gifted services are offered primarily via a pull-out class called Discovery. The class typically meets for a few hours a week, led by a gifted-certified teacher.

At some middle schools and high schools, gifted students have the option of taking their academic classes as gifted classes, taught by gifted-certified teachers and open only to students who have been identified as gifted. Some high school honors or AP classes also may be used to fulfill the requirement for gifted services, although these classes are generally not exclusively available to gifted students.

Some middle schools and high schools may offer Impact, a pull-out gifted class which meets one period per school day.

Identification of gifted students

For most students, gifted evaluation happens automatically based on their scores on the CoGAT or ITBS standardized tests. Gifted testing is usually done in grades 1, 3, 5 and 7. In rare cases, kindergarten students may be evaluated with the approval of the school’s Gifted Eligibility Committee, which will review a portfolio of the child’s work.

Outside of this standard process, students may be referred for gifted evaluation by teachers, administrators, counselors, parents / guardians, peers, self or anyone else familiar with the child’s abilities.

More detailed information on the qualification process and the types of programs offered is available on the county’s gifted program overview page.

Acceleration policy

DeKalb County has formal acceleration guidelines to follow when considering whether students can study at a higher grade level for one or more subjects (subject-matter acceleration), or advance to a higher grade level altogether (grade acceleration). As of December 2016, the county is revising the policy to reflect the change from the old testing instrument (ITBS) to the new test (MAP). If you believe your child should be considered for subject or grade acceleration, speak to your school’s principal.

Magnet schools for high achievers

DeKalb County operates six magnet schools for high achievers:

Grades 4-6:

Kittredge Magnet School

Wadsworth Magnet School

Grades 7-8:

Chamblee Middle School

Chapel Hill Middle School

Grades 9-12:

Chamblee Charter High School

Southwest DeKalb High School

These magnet schools are rigorous and demanding. Students can expect a challenging course load, including foreign language and learning a musical instrument, in addition to their usual studies.

Eligibility for the high achiever magnets is based on test scores and GPA. Students do not have to be identified as gifted to qualify for these magnet schools.

Demand for these schools is high, so each spring, the county holds a lottery to select which of the eligible applicants will be given a chance to enroll. Selection is random. Students are not ranked by their GPA or test scores and given spots in the school in order of their academic achievement. Rather, everyone who meets the minimum high achiever magnet qualifications is put into the lottery, and everyone has an equal chance of being selected for a seat. Those who don’t get offered a seat are placed on a waiting list. Students on the waiting list may be offered a spot later if a seat becomes available, either because a student chooses not to accept the seat they were offered, or a student already at the school leaves.

Once a child is in the high achievers magnet program, he can remain at the school as long as he is in good standing. Students don’t have to repeat the lottery once they’re enrolled. Kids who complete the high achievers program at Kittredge or Wadsworth are guaranteed a space at either Chamblee or Chapel Hill. Likewise, students who graduate from the magnet programs at Chamblee or Chapel Hill middle school can continue to Chamblee or Southwest DeKalb high school without having to go through another lottery.

To have your child considered for the high achievers program, you can apply as early as 3rd grade (applying to enroll in 4th grade). If your child isn’t selected for admission as a 4th grader, you can reapply each spring. Sometimes spaces open up for higher grades.

You can find more information about the high achievers magnet schools at the county’s school choice page.

Magnet schools of the arts

If your child is creatively gifted and has an interest in art, music, dance or theater, you may want to consider one of the county’s magnet schools with an emphasis on arts:

DeKalb Elementary School of the Arts (K-7)

DeKalb School of the Arts (8-12)

Children applying for grades K-3 will be selected by a random lottery. Those applying for grades 4 or above will be asked to give an interview and audition, and to provide recommendations in both arts and academics. Some applicants to DeKalb School of the Arts may need to present a portfolio.

You can find more information about the schools for the arts in the county’s school choice page.

International Baccalaureate schools

DeKalb County has seven schools using the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme, a well known, rigorous course of study.

The three IB high schools (Druid Hills, MLK Jr. and Tucker) offer the IB Diploma, which will earn sophomore status for incoming students at many colleges.

Druid Hills (Shamrock) Middle School, Salem Middle School and Tucker Middle School offer the IB Middle Years Programme; the Primary Years Programme is used at Avondale, Fernbank and Midvale elementary schools.

Other magnet schools

DCS operates a number of additional magnet schools:

To enroll at one of these schools from outside the regular attendance zone, a student must have a B average and must complete the school choice application process.

Science classes at Fernbank Science Center

For students with a strong interest in science, DeKalb County offers free, hands-on classes for high-school students at Fernbank Science Center. All of these classes earn course credit.

The Advanced Studies program meets after-school — generally twice a week — and teaches classes in a variety of scientific topics, from ecology to physics. Some courses are one semester long; others last the entire school year. Students can register anytime prior to the beginning of the course, provided space is available.

Ninth graders may also take Scientific Tools and Techniques (STT), which exposes them to the process of scientific inquiry. Students take STT during the school day in lieu of taking a science class at their home school. Transportation is provided by the county. Students should apply for this program in 8th grade through their home school.

At the county office

Donyell Atkinson is the gifted coordinator for DeKalb County Schools. You can reach her at (678) 676-0175.

Michael Thurmond is the interim superintendent for DeKalb County Schools.

Elected officials

DeKalb County Schools are governed by a nine-member Board of Education. Board meetings usually take place on the second Monday of each month. Meetings are held at the Mountain Industrial Center Complex, located at 1701 Mountain Industrial Blvd. in Stone Mountain, just off U.S. Hwy. 78. If you can’t attend meetings in person but want to keep up with what’s happening, you can watch past meetings online.

Other resources

A group of knowledgeable parents discuss gifted education in DeKalb County Schools in a Yahoo! group called DeKalb Advocates for Gifted Education.

A special note for Decatur residents

DeKalb County residents who live within the city limits of Decatur are served by the City Schools of Decatur. Gifted services falls under the system’s Department of Exceptional Education.

Links and content on this page were last verified 12/28/2014.

  1. Tilondra Barnett
    April 26, 2016 at 8:13 am

    I signed my daughter up for the magnet program and was interested as to what day the actual lottery drawing is going to take place.

  2. orrin neptune
    May 11, 2016 at 6:51 am

    my son is on the wait list for Arabia mountain high school #25 .as of yesterday may 10,2016 that number went up to #26 can someone explain why the number went up instead of down ….thanks

    • May 12, 2016 at 12:23 pm

      I suggest you contact the school choice office.

  3. Marie
    September 21, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    Kittredge lists minimum ITBS scores, but it looks like Dekalb phased out ITBS in favor of MAP. Is there any news on this?

    • October 5, 2016 at 11:20 am

      Great question. I don’t know how that will work this year.

      • Christine Delano
        November 16, 2016 at 5:13 pm

        The new requirements for magnet eligibility are 90th percentile math AND 90th percentile reading on MAP Fall 2016.

      • Zach
        April 11, 2017 at 1:55 pm

        Actually the requirements are 75th percentile math and 75th percentile reading on MAP Fall 2016. See the official Dekalb county documentation here:

        In my opinion the standards are entirely too low (if the very limited published statistics I have found are to be trusted) with 4000 QUALIFIED applicants competing for 400 spots. A 90th percentile bar would certainly make the school a much more “gifted” oriented school, At the very least, the profoundly gifted students in the county (students with a maxed out 99th percentile in both scores) should be admitted first and remaining spots may be distributed by lottery, if we are, indeed, trying to provide opportunities to service our most gifted students.

      • April 11, 2017 at 2:31 pm

        Zachary, I assume your post is about the Kittredge and Wadsworth magnet programs for high achievers. If indeed those programs were intended to “service our most gifted students,” then your approach would be correct. However, that is not what the magnets at these schools purport to be. “Gifted” is not even in the name of the program. Rather, they use the term “high achievers.” Gifted and high achieving are not the same. (For more on that topic, see my previous post, “Gifted Kids: Different brains, different needs.)

  4. Hildryn Knight
    August 28, 2017 at 8:50 am

    I’m desperately seeking an elementary school for high achievers (2nd grade) with a small classroom setting and a challenging curriculum. What I’ve found are schools for grades 4-7 and up. HELP!!!

    • August 28, 2017 at 10:55 am

      Sounds like you’ve found what there is, I’m sorry to say. DeKalb public schools’ high achiever magnet schools start at fourth grade. You likely won’t be happy to hear that admission to those two magnet schools is done by a lottery, so unfortunately you can’t count on getting your child in, even in fourth grade. There are some private schools for gifted kids that would serve a second grader. If you want to stay in public schools, your best bet at this point is to advocate for your child within their current school to be sure they are grouped with high-achieving peers in small-group learning within their classroom wherever possible.

  5. Emil Delioche
    November 7, 2017 at 8:31 am

    Some of the schools “drive-in” their gifted programming, as I understand the policy is to provide 225 mins. per week for gifted children.

    Firstly how can one effectively “drive-in” programming with 23 + other students to look after?

    Secondly, whom is monitoring/verifying that the kids actually receive the programming?

    • November 7, 2017 at 9:01 am

      I don’t know what you mean by “drive in.” Could you explain?

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