Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Teaching and Learning Sciences

First Advisor

Norma L. Hafenstein, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jimmie Smith, M.Ed.

Third Advisor

Paul Michalec, Ph.D.


Gifted, Early childhood, Early entrance, Identification


Early access, as defined in Colorado statute, remains optional. There is a shortage of administrative units engaged in an early access process to admit gifted young learners ahead of neurotypical age peers. Only 21 school districts currently use their addendum as evidenced by the receipt of Colorado state funding. Indeed, “there exists a basic lack of awareness of the effectiveness of the intervention, the impact on the student’s social-emotional development, as well as concern for the lack of consistent procedures for making this decision” (Assouline, Colangelo, Van Tassel-Baska, & Lupinski-Shoplik, 2015, p. 54). In this retrospective mixed-methods study, the researcher gathered quantitative and qualitative data and applied the lens of diffusion of innovations theory (Rogers, 2003) to understand the positive aspects of early access processes according to those currently implementing an early access addendum in Colorado. The researcher also sought to identify which aspects contribute to creating and conducting successful early access processes. The researcher examined 31 early access documents noting the similarities and differences in the processes. In addition, a survey was sent to 31 Colorado gifted leaders engaged in early access to gather perceptions of their successful processes. Conclusions drawn from this study include evidence that successful processes exist. Positive aspects included open communication among stakeholders, following clear process guidelines, and decision making based on a body of evidence. The recommendations call for ongoing professional learning about early access, open iii communication with all stakeholders and using a team of professionals to evaluate young gifted learners. With increased adoption of the legislation, additional gifted children across Colorado can benefit, and early access can become a more widely diffused innovation.

Publication Statement

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