In Connecticut, the law requires that public schools test to identify the gifted, but they are not required to provide special programs for them. As a successful model, Joseph S. Renzulli Gifted and Talented Academy in Hartford is in its fourth year, and now has about 120 students in kindergarten and grades 4 through 9. Visitors come from as far as Australia to tour this model for Connecticut’s school districts, which can prepare children for Ivy League universities.
As a result, in the most recently administered Connecticut Mastery Test, all 27 seventh-graders who took the exam this spring met the state’s goal in reading, but educators here say that the high test scores are only a snippet of what makes the Renzulli Gifted and Talented Academy special. With an all-day gifted curriculum, it is tailored for some of Hartford’s brightest students.
And, Renzulli is a public school.
“I don’t know if there are any others like it in the country right now,” said Joseph Renzulli, a renowned figure in gifted education and the director of the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented at the University of Connecticut.
Renzulli Academy opened in 2009 with grades 4 to 6, housed temporarily in a wing of Simpson-Waverly Elementary School. Now in Renzulli’s second year in a building on Cornwall Street, there are 115 Hartford students in kindergarten and grades 4 to 9, with the goal to gradually expand to more than 350 K-12 students.
Admission is extended to Hartford students from across the city who scored highest on the mastery exam, received teacher recommendations or showed exceptional creativity, among other factors such as attendance, school officials said.
Nearly all of Renzulli’s students are minorities, many of them are African-American, and about 70 percent of the student body qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch.
Founder Joseph S. Renzulli is Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut, where he also serves as director of the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented. His research has focused on the identification and development of creativity and giftedness in young people and on organizational models and curricular strategies for total school improvement.
A focus of his work has been on applying the strategies of gifted education to the improvement of learning for all students. He is a Fellow in the American Psychological Association and was a consultant to the White House Task Force on Education of the Gifted and Talented. He was recently designated a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor at the University of Connecticut.
Renzulli, whose decades of research with his wife, Sally Reis, have driven the academy’s curriculum, said he is in talks with prospective school systems.
“The recession has taken its toll,” Renzulli said, “and there’s only so much money to go around” as districts work to raise basic achievement among struggling students. But in the process, he said, some of the smartest kids lose interest in school.
“They’re the ones hammered over the head with remedial stuff they don’t need. … We’ve got bright, young, low-income minority students and the country is losing a lot of its future and intellectual capital if we don’t do something with these young people.”
Now there is an opportunity to expand to other cities: The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has awarded UConn’s Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development a $500,000 grant to replicate the Renzulli Academy model in three other urban school districts, possibly in Connecticut. The gift comes after the foundation gave a renewable $250,000 grant to establish a six-week, full-day summer enrichment program this year at the Hartford school.
“Even if it’s only 115 other students in Bridgeport or New Haven, I know what it’s done for our small school,” said Ruth Lyons, Renzulli Academy’s director and lead teacher. “I hope this is the first of many Renzulli academies.”
The National Association for Gifted Children (www.nagc.com) has an eye opening report on the current status of education for gifted students in the United States.
(it is a pdf file, for a free reader go here: http://get.adobe.com/reader/)
You can find the report here —
In Connecticut, the CT Association for the Gifted has information on Educational Options, Educator’s Program Options, a Teacher Research Group and a Parent Handbook among other resources: