Stephanie Pace Marshall and the creation of IMSA
The Illinois Math and Science Academy, a residential high school for gifted kids in Aurora, IL is now 20 years old. It appears to be well-established. The newly appointed school president is actually the former Illinois state superintendent of schools. But none of this could have been predicted when Stephanie Pace Marshall, IMSA's first president, helped establish the school. She recently decided to step down, and this article from the Chicago Tribune talks about her legacy. IMSA has become a leading light in the field of gifted education, training hundreds of kids each year to see math and science as cool (I wish the school name included the humanities, but the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics and the Humanities in Indiana does, and it's partially modeled after Marshall's creation in Illinois). The school has survived budget cuts and constant criticism about its elite nature. It was always a great idea, but great ideas need practical people in order to bring them to fruition. Marshall managed to be both visionary and builder. While about a dozen states now have residential high schools for gifted kids, hopefully Marshall will use some of her free time to push the rest to step up to the plate. I recommend reading the linked article from the Chicago Tribune to get a feel for the debate over these specialized secondary schools, and to learn more about one of the best education ideas to come along in the past 25 years.