Monday, August 21, 2006

Live from the Davidson Academy

For those wondering why I haven't been posting... I took a vacation out west doing some hiking, camping, and wedding attending. Now I'm back on line. Yesterday, I drove across Nevada from Salt Lake City. I landed in Reno, where I'm now blogging live from the Davidson Academy, the nation's first public school for profoundly gifted students.

The kids and parents all showed up this afternoon for a ribbon cutting ceremony (quick, given the 95 degree heat!) Tomorrow we'll be hearing from Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and other VIPs.

The school will be starting next week with just shy of 40 students from around the country. Any Nevada resident student who qualifies can attend free of charge -- and several of the families of these profoundly gifted kids became Nevada residents to attend.

School hasn't started yet, so it's hard to render a verdict, but I can say this. You rarely see kids so excited about school. I spoke with a young lady in the parking lot who told me "I can't wait for school to start!" This is a sentiment you rarely hear cross the lips of very gifted kids in regular schools. So I'm thrilled for them. The higher-levels literature teacher reports that the curriculum will be quite connected -- kids may read Darwin's Origin of Species as they're studying evolution in science. I'm typing at a computer that's perched next to a stack of math textbooks of various levels, all thrown together so kids can work through them without the artificial structure of grades dictating what they're ready to know. And people who've spent a lot of time around gifted kids can appreciate this last observation: Some "misbehavior" (noisiness during the Davidsons' board meeting from a few kids who were still here) involved what appeared to be a very raucous and advanced game of Scrabble.

You've got to love it.


Kim Moldofsky said...

I know that the Davidsons have worked tirelessy to make the Institute a reality. Congratulations all around! I look forward to your updates.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to seeing whether the Davidsons' school really lives up to its goals. The intent seems good, but it is often harder to make schools work than one might think.

I wonder how many of the people who moved to Nevada for the school will be moving again in a couple of years, disappointed that they overly-high expectations could not be met. It isn't as if Reno provided a lot of other options if the Davidson's school turns out to be a bad fit for a particular child.

Anonymous said...

I wish the best to the families and teachers. I am confident that the challenge and mission of this school will serve the children well!
I don't know whether our son would qualify, but if there were career opportunity in Reno for our family, we would certainly apply.
I hope more states will follow this model.

Laura Vanderkam said...

Anonymous #1: I agree that it is very hard to run a school, and that these families are placing a huge amount of faith in the University of Nevada and the Davidsons. Fortunately, there are a few good things in place: First, a principal with lots of experience in education who also has some personal experience with highly gifted kids. Second, they're starting small with plans for growth. A lot of families didn't move to Reno for precisely the reasons you suggested. They thought they'd see how the school went for the first year. If it goes well, then I believe the school will grown in earnest (there are plans to move to a larger facility in fall '08).

If the school doesn't work out for a particular family, they may move back home. Or they may homeschool, or have the child enroll mostly at the University of Reno, or something along those lines. I think the reason people did choose to move is that they had run out of other options.

JulieW said...

I think that what the Davidsons have done for these gifted children is such an accomplishment. It is so great to see children with smiling faces when they are learning. I know the Davidsons will succeed in their efforts for these children. The educational and emotional benefits already show I am sure. Keep up the great work!!! I someday hope to be teaching (or guiding) with you.