Jul 01, 2020 By Team YoungWonks *
Which are the leading schools and communities in the US for gifted kids? This blog brings you an elaborate list. But before we get to it, let’s look at the meaning of the term gifted.
Who does the term gifted child apply to? It is a term typically used to refer to bright children who have displayed high potential. The Marland report, the first national (US) report on gifted education, shares a commonly known definition of giftedness of children. It reveals that the term ‘gifted and talented,’ when used with in the context of students, alludes to students, children or youth who have shown high achievement capability in spheres such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic areas, and who thereby require services or activities not usually offered by the school in order to hone these skills / capabilities.
Twice exceptional (also called 2E or dually exceptional), however, is the term used to refer to a child who is not just exceptionally able, but also has additional learning difficulties or a disability. So it could be a gifted child with learning difficulties, physical or emotional disabilities or even someone who is on the autistic spectrum and thus needs teachers with specific training who can in turn accommodate the child’s “twice-exceptional” nature. You can read more about 2E kids and the best resources for them in this blog of ours: https://www.youngwonks.com/blog/Top-Schools-for-2e-Kids-in-the-US
What Gifted Students Need
Parents and teachers of gifted students are often faced with several challenges in offering them resources and instruction best suited to them. The first step is to identify these gifted students through tests and other assessment methods. One such exam is the Test of Mathematical Abilities for Gifted Students (TOMAGS) or Screening Assessment for Gifted Elementary and Middle School Students (SAGES).
Once identified, it is important to look at the best ways in which one can enrich the lives of gifted students and help them on their learning journey. Bear in mind the fact that these are kids who may not really need any extra help in excelling in regular classrooms. In fact, gifted children display mathematical and verbal precociousness along with superlative creative thinking and problem solving abilities. It is the lack of proper access to the right resources that affects the performance of gifted students, both in school and outside. Common struggles faced by gifted students include an unhealthy pursuit of perfection, a far too rigorous schedule resulting in barely any free time, greater maturity than their peers (which makes peer-to-peer interaction not so smooth) and an inability to focus on things that do not interest them.
This explains why studies have revealed promising results in cases where gifted students were clustered with specially trained teachers. Parents of gifted kids are also known to be on the lookout for extra resources outside the classroom that can help their children realise their highest potential.
Characteristics typically exhibited by gifted children
Gifted kids are known to possess a range of cognitive, creative and behavioral traits, including but not limited to: keen power of abstraction; interest in problem-solving and applying concepts; voracious and early reader; large vocabulary; intellectual curiosity; ability to think critically including criticising oneself; very energetic and ability to get by with very little sleep or down time and wide range of interests and greater levels of awareness. These can be accompanied by high expectations from self and others and a greater need for emotional support especially in situations which are frustrating.
Ideal Resources for Gifted Students
So what can parents do and where do they look to be able to provide their gifted children instructive and engaging environments that will help students realise their true potential? We list some resources that parents could bank on (in alphabetical order):
Brightmont Academy: Brightmont Academy, with its 14 campuses in the states of Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, and Washington, is an accredited private school offering 1: 1 instruction for students in grades 6-12, and tutoring for students in grades 3-12. It welcomes students from across the spectrum: the kids could be gifted, 2e students, or those with learning disabilities, attention deficits, emotional issues, health concerns or other special needs. The individualised instruction ensures that the needs of each student are taken into account. What also helps is that the school believes in a flexible schedule and mastery-based instruction which encourages students to have a full understanding of subjects at the current level as opposed to buckling under the pressure of having to make it to the next within a specified time. For more information, visit: https://www.brightmontacademy.com/.
Center for Talented Youth: The Center for Talented Youth, an initiative of Johns Hopkins University, has many educational programs for gifted students and their families to better meet their needs. A world leader in gifted education, it strongly believes in creating an environment that challenges, engages and nurtures academically advanced students. It provides a range of programs that can be broadly classified under: summer programs, online programs, international programs and family programs. CTY International brings its expertise to countries throughout the world through educational advising, program development, research, teacher training, and licensing. The organization also provides information to resources through its website and the bi-monthly magazine. For more information, visit: https://cty.jhu.edu/.
Davidson Academy: In 2006, the Nevada-based Davidson Academy opened as the first free public school of its kind for profoundly gifted middle and high school students. Unlike traditional schools, the classes at this top-ranked school are organized by ability, not by age. In 2016, a fully accredited online campus was launched for Davidson Academy’s 2017-2018 academic year. To be able to attend either, students need a score in the 99.9th percentile on accepted intelligence and/or achievement tests; in addition to performing at a certain academic level and displaying social and emotional maturity and an aptitude for intellectual and academic achievement. Once enrolled, every student gets to take part in developing and executing a Personalized Learning Plan (PLP) that doubles as a roadmap for academic and personal goals. For more information, visit: https://www.davidsonacademy.unr.edu.
FlexSchool: A well-known learning network for gifted and twice exceptional (2e) middle and high school students, its main campuses are at Berkeley Heights, New Jersey and in New Haven, Connecticut, along with new campuses in Bronxville, New York and another one in Bergen County, New Jersey. FlexSchool is known for creating a positive environment for its students and supporting them as they learn to grow. Subject experts at the school conduct short, ability-based discussion classes which in turn help in unhindered interactions with students about high-level questions. The faculty, taught and supported by learning specialists and mental health professionals, lays emphasis on critical thinking across different fields of learning. Students are also encouraged to pursue topics that interest them. For more information, visit: https://www.flexschool.net/.
Hampshire Country School: Established in 1948 and located in Rindge, New Hampshire, Hampshire Country School believes in creating and fostering an ideal environment for high ability boys in later elementary or middle school. The school provides what it says is a “family-style, supportive, and calming learning community”. With a sprawling campus of 1700 acres of New Hampshire farmland and woods, the school offers a combination of structured academic classes and experiential activities so as to indulge the bright, active and curious side of each student. Academic growth and social, behavioral, and emotional intelligence are focused on; this is perhaps why the school is said to have done well with students who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Non-verbal Learning Disorder (NLD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) etc. For more information, visit: https://hampshirecountryschool.org/.
Lang School: Based out of New York, Lang School describes itself an alternative school offering gifted, and twice exceptional (2e) students (grades 1-12) with a child-centered, STEM- and STEAM-focus education. The class size is rather small with no more than 12 students in each and there are specially trained educators who personalize the content taking into account each student’s needs. The Talent Development program has been crafted so as to encourage passions, a sense of purpose and dedication among students. Increased emphasis on digital fluency and collaborative problem-solving are other major pluses. For more information, visit: https://thelangschool.org/.
MENSA International: The largest and oldest high IQ society in the world, MENSA (established in 1946) is open to people who score at the 98th percentile or higher on a standardised, supervised IQ or other approved intelligence test, such as the Stanford–Binet Intelligence Scales. The minimum accepted score on the Stanford–Binet is 132, and for Cattell, it is 148. Most national groups test using well known IQ test batteries, but American Mensa has its own application exam which does not provide a score comparable to scores on other tests; it instead serves only to qualify a person for membership. Regardless of this, Mensa is akin to a prestigious club that allows only those with the IQ of upper two percent of the general population.
It proclaims to have the following goals: to identify and to foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity; to encourage research into the nature, characteristics, and uses of intelligence; and to provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members. Mensa is thus associated with various programs for gifted children, literacy, and scholarships, and it hosts numerous gatherings, including an annual summit. It is an excellent platform for intellectual exchanges between its members from over 100 countries in the world. For more information, visit: https://www.mensa.org/.
National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC): NAGC seeks to develop educational resources to benefit gifted children from all ethnically and racially diverse backgrounds. It has been working extensively in areas such as research and development, staff development, advocacy, communication, and collaboration with other organizations and agencies so as to improve the quality of education of all gifted students. The organization has played (and continues to do so) a key role in driving policy, programming and teacher preparedness - all aimed at offering gifted students in the US the best quality education there is.
Its aim is to enhance the growth and development of gifted and talented children, help them achieve their personal best and contribute to their communities. Also, as part of its efforts to acknowledge outstanding leaders, scholars, advocates and dedicated contributors in the field of gifted children, the NAGC hands out several awards and scholarships to deserving candidates. For more information, visit: https://www.nagc.org.
Online communities: Online communities such as Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page (https://www.hoagiesgifted.org/) and Prufrock (http://blog.prufrock.com/) discuss in detail various topics related to gifted children. These sites are full of resources, articles, books and links to help and support parents, teachers, and gifted children. Some of them even host annual summer programs to this end. Teachfine (https://paper.li/teachfine/1309463716) is another impressive site that aggregates resources on technology especially tailored for gifted children.
The International High IQ Society: The society comprises members having an IQ score in the top five percent of the population. Prospective members can apply with the IQ test certificate/ scores from the Culture fair intelligence test hosted at https://www.123test.com/culture-fair-intelligence-test/, or by submitting proof of qualifying IQ scores from a previous intelligence test that’s on the society’s approved list of IQ tests. The list includes leading tests such as Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scales, Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities and Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales, among others. This community acts as a springboard for gifted students to meet with other brilliant students and learn from top experts. For more information, visit: https://www.ihiqs.org/.
YoungWonks: After-school programs such as those provided by YoungWonks (www.youngwonks.com) aim to provide exemplary tech education. Gifted students are especially poised to benefit from their 1:1 student to teacher ratio. Apart from the individual attention, gifted students also gain from the fact that here students are encouraged to learn at the pace that is most comfortable for them. Besides self-paced learning, YoungWonks also prides itself on offering flipped classroom and project-based learning. While the former is about lessons being conveyed through videos and the classroom session getting devoted to students actually working on assignments, the latter relies on imparting deeper knowledge through an active exploration of real-world challenges and problems. A case in point would be the nine-year-old Kairan Qazi who has benefited from YoungWonks’ self-paced learning program. (You can read more about him here: https://www.youngwonks.com/blog/This-9-year-old-goes-to-college).
YoungWonks emphasis on pursuing innovation with creativity is perhaps why this after-school coding program has won many students (and parents) over. In fact, it even finds a place on the list of the most popular online coding programs used by Davidson Young Scholars as shared on https://www.davidsongifted.org/search-database/entry/a10959, the website of Davidson Institute of Talent Development. This is an American nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people and is affiliated with the Davidson Academy.
*Contributors: Written by Vidya Prabhu; Lead image by: Leonel Cruz