First Public School for the Gifted Scheduled to Open Next Year
Cy Ryan, Las Vegas Sun, November 20, 2005
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CARSON CITY --
This time next year a new public school for "profoundly gifted"
students -- believed to be the first of its kind in the United
States -- will be open at UNR.
For purposes of this special school, profoundly gifted means
those whose evaluations and test scores rank them in the 99.9th
percentile, children whose IQs are 160 or higher -- a standard
that only 1 in 10,000 students will meet, according to Keith
Rheault, state superintendent of public instruction.
The school is the creation of Bob and Jan Davidson of Incline
Village. They have pledged $10 million to $20 million to the
Davidson Academy of Nevada.
The retired couple, who made their money designing educational
software, want to set up the school to shepherd highly
intelligent students through high school classes and into
university coursework as quickly as possible.
In 1999 the Davidsons created a summer scholarship program that
enables gifted students ages 12 to 15 to earn up to seven
college credits at UNR.
The academy is an outgrowth of the summer program.
Jan Davidson told the Legislature that profoundly gifted
children need an individualized learning program different than
regular students, just as special education students do.
It is difficult for students from the summer program to return
to a regular junior high school curriculum, Davidson said.
The Davidson Academy is the nation's first public school for
gifted students created by a private foundation and codified by
state law. In June, Gov. Kenny Guinn signed a bill that
authorized public schools for profoundly gifted pupils to
operate in a university setting.
"I really support this," said Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell,
D-Carson City, a former teacher who chairs the Assembly
Education Committee. "This is a population of our students we
have ignored. Not only do we need to close the achievement gap,
but we can't forget to challenge our brightest students."
Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, said the state
was barred by the Constitution from giving public school money
to the Davidson Academy through the university system. The
couple could receive state money if they started a charter
school, said Giunchigliani, a member of the Assembly Ways and
Means Committee that considered the legislation.
But the Davidsons are sticking with their concept to have the
students at UNR.
Giunchigliani suggested they should keep their students in
separate classes at the university "to see if they can handle
the socialization" because most of the other students are 18 and
Mark Herron, a trustee for the Davidson Institute for Talent
Development, said there are three potential scenarios for young
scholars: They may be taught by instructors from the Davidson
Academy; they may sit side by side in class with university
students; and if there is enough interest in a subject, they may
have a university professor teach them at the university campus.
The contract with the university is being worked out, Herron
The state Board of Education will hold a Dec. 3 workshop in Las
Vegas on the proposed regulations governing the school. The
regulations could be adopted in January.
The plan is for the academy to accept 30 students for its first
year and 60 the second year.
Herron said Tuesday the school is progressing. Applications are
starting to come in and there "is a high level of interest
around the country," he said.
"We're committed to take anybody who qualified," he said.
The requirement that the children be Nevada residents has
prompted parents in California and on the East Coast to say they
would be willing to move here.
Amanda Rookei, application coordinator, said the Davidson
Academy has received "scores" of e-mails and telephone calls
since the New York Times published a story about the school
For initial qualification, students must have scored in the top
99.9 percentile in either of two IQ tests or the Scholastic
Aptitude Test, the ACT Assessment or the Explore examination
within the last two years.
Three letters of recommendation and transcripts from all schools
that the student has attended must be submitted. After meeting
all of those qualifications, students are eligible for an
interview with Davidson administrators, Rookei said.
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