Profoundly Gifted Students are Unique - We Think Their Education Should Be Too


The Davidson Academy of Nevada opened in 2006 as the first free public school for profoundly gifted middle and high school students. Located on the University of Nevada, Reno campus, students have the opportunity to partake in a rigorous core curriculum of middle and high school classes while surrounded by the wealth of resources a large university can offer.

Profoundly gifted students have a number of common characteristics that can often make learning in a traditional setting difficult. With an extreme need for constant mental stimulation, insatiable curiosity, an ability to learn and process complex information rapidly, and the need to explore subjects in surprising depth, profoundly gifted young people are often working years beyond age/grade level, and not challenged in conventional school environments. The Davidson Academy was created, and its curriculum designed, specifically with profoundly gifted pupils in mind.

“We have built our classes from the ground up, with the purpose of creating a solid, broad-based foundation of knowledge through a rigorous core curriculum and electives based on student interests,” said Academy Curriculum Director Carmen Garcia.

With the understanding that rote memorization or swift but superficial coverage of material is not sufficient for students of this caliber, the Academy coursework emphasizes critical thinking, creative engagement with materials, active discussion, collaboration with classmates, and a great deal of reflective, analytical writing.

The Academy curriculum spans both middle and high school. Due to the asynchronous nature of the profoundly gifted, students frequently utilize both levels of curriculum simultaneously. Each level has a base of English, science, math, and history. The middle school courses are structured around high school level material with appropriate support for younger students in the areas of organization, study skills, and time management. The high school curriculum is a blend of high school and college level material. If a student exhausts the Academy curriculum, they have the opportunity to access University of Nevada, Reno courses as honors students.

Students are grouped by ability in their core classes based on results from their Academic Readiness Assessment given upon acceptance or placement testing completed from year to year. Benchmarks were also developed to assist instructors in guiding students through the advanced curriculum and determining readiness for advanced courses.

With small class sizes a priority at the Academy, Garcia said, “We are able to differentiate for individual students as needed, as well as offer one on one instructional time for struggling students or for students who are looking for more challenge in a particular area.”

Each student along with their parent(s), Academy staff and the Curriculum Team create a Personalized Learning Plan (PLP). The purpose of the PLP is to provide an experience commensurate with their ability level, achievement, and motivation. It is also used to guide students through the core curriculum, help with elective decisions, adapt classroom experiences, and plan for graduation. Students are required to meet specific requirements toward graduation in order to earn a high school diploma in the state of Nevada. PLP’s are considered working documents and reviewed and revised at least once each academic year.

To help support students with such a rigorous curriculum in place, they each meet with an assigned Academic Advisor at least once a month. The goal of advising is to provide students time to discuss their progress in classes, current grades and homework load, time-management, study skills and other relevant topics on an ongoing basis. Advisors also monitor students’ overall experience at the Academy through surveys and guided discussions and refer to other staff members as needed. The Davidson Academy recognizes that the students who attend are unique and they firmly believe their education should be too.

In response to questions frequently asked by parents during public tours and discussion forums, The Davidson Academy faculty and administration compiled this presentation, entitled Davidson Academy Curriculum - An Overview (PDF).

“Our founders’ hope is that other districts across the country will implement at least parts of this curriculum model, if not in its entirety, in their own schools.” Colleen Harsin, Director.

For more information on The Davidson Academy curriculum or to download an application, visit Informational tours of The Davidson Academy of Nevada will be hosted on November 21, December 11, January 22, February 19, and March 26 from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. RSVPs are required. Please RSVP at, where you can also sign up for the Academy’s monthly eNewsletter.

Davidson Institute Updates


2010 Davidson Fellows $50,000, $25,000 and $10,000 Scholarships – Applications Now Available

The Davidson Fellows Scholarship awards $50,000, $25,000 and $10,000 scholarships to extraordinary young people under the age of 18 who have completed a significant piece of work. The application categories are Science, Technology, Mathematics, Music, Literature, Philosophy, and “Outside the Box” – graduate-level work in any other field. The deadline to apply is March 3, 2010. U.S. citizens or permanent U.S. residents age 17 and under are eligible; there is no minimum age to apply. To download an application, please visit


The Davidson Academy of Nevada - Application Available for 2010-2011 School Year

The Davidson Academy of Nevada, a free public day school for profoundly gifted pupils on the University of Nevada, Reno campus, is now accepting applications for the 2010-2011 school year. Application materials can be downloaded at Complete applications need to be submitted by the first of each month, with the final deadline being March 1, 2010. Admissions are on a first-come, first-served basis.

2010 THINK Summer Institute - Application Now Available

The Davidson Institute is seeking profoundly gifted students, ages 13 to 16, who are interested in attending the 2010 THINK Summer Institute, a three-week residential summer program on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno where students can earn six college credits by completing two university courses. The 2010 THINK Summer Institute will run from July 10 through July 31. Tuition is $2,700 and covers course credits, room and board and the cost of planned programs and activities. Need-based scholarships are available. To qualify, students must be 13 to 16 years old during THINK, and must meet or exceed designated SAT or ACT scores. The deadline for early acceptance is January 14, 2010. Homeschooled students are eligible to apply. To download an application or to learn more about THINK, please visit

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The Davidson Institute for Talent Development
Supporting our nation's brightest young minds.

9665 Gateway Drive, Suite B, Reno, Nevada 89521
Phone: 775-852-3483 x435      Fax: 775-852-2184
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NOTE: The appearance of selected programs and/or resources in the Davidson Institute's Educators Guild Newsletter does not imply an endorsement or affiliation. Programs and resources are highlighted for informational purposes only.

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