Davidson Academy: personalized learning for the profoundly gifted

A large map of the United States decorates the hall of the University of Nevada. Almost every state has multiple pins, even a few abroad. These pins represent the original cities of the attending students at the “Davidson Academy” in Reno. These students have relocated to Reno to be able to get education for profoundly gifted. Femke, one of the founders of Take on Talent, was intrigued by this and decided to visit Reno to find out for herself why this academy in Nevada is so special.

The Davidson family started in 2006, the middle and high school Davidson Academy as a public school. An important goal of the philanthropist Davidsons is to provide education to everyone regardless of their financial situation. However, there is an admittance procedure, which includes both an IQ test and additional assessments such as interviews. In terms of IQ, the Davidson Academy students score in the 99,9th percentile – an IQ score of 145 or higher.


Meeting profoundly gifted peers

Many of the attending students seem to lighten up when they start at this academy. Before coming to Reno, they have usually switched from schools a couple of times. As the Davidson Academy is the only school in the USA educating the profoundly gifted, it is often seen as a last resort. Students are able to connect with their peers at an emotional and intellectual level, and they are no longer the brightest in their class.

The personalized learning plan is according to the 150 attending students what set this school apart. The academy does not make use of age-based, or lockstep grades to define which combination of courses will appropriately serve the student. Rather they make a plan based on materials acquired before coming to the academy, combined with the interest and need for grow of each individual. This means a 12-year old can take Calculus II in the morning, whereas he/she can be in a basic history group in the afternoon. Students decide when they are due to graduate and will be put into a group accordingly.


12-year olds in University

The Davidson Academy works closely with the University of Nevada. Students who are ready, can take classes at the University as part of their curriculum. And many do so. A famous example of this is Taylor Wilson who specialized in neuro physics from a young age. Upon graduation he was offered a fellowship, which he is currently dedicated to. Some of his peers went to prestigious universities such as Yale. However not all students choose a high performance path. Some choose to have a gap year, others decide to stay at the University of Nevada.


Our opinion

The Davidsons started a wonderful academy that helped many profoundly gifted from dropping out of school. Femke got so enthusiastic about all possibilities in the school, she almost envied the students there. However, the one concern is the policy for underachievers. Femke was an underachiever herself, and was – despite being bright enough – not able to make it through high school well. How does the high-achieving academy deal with the profoundly gifted who are not (yet) able to achieve? They will usually not get through admissions.

Overall, we were very enthusiastic about the Davidson Academy. If you recognize your child/student to be profoundly gifted, we definitely recommend you to contact the academy and can be found here.