School Choice & Charters

Stanford Online School to Serve Highly Gifted

By Christina A. Samuels — August 29, 2006 1 min read

A self-contained program for the profoundly gifted, in the 5,000-student Madison school district in Phoenix, was once the perfect place for 12-year-old David Sell.

But the district goes only through 8th grade. And David, who has already completed calculus and advanced classes in science and English, needed a new, challenging course of academics. His parents considered moving to other states in order to take advantage of programs they believed met David’s academic needs.

But with Stanford University’s announcement that it is creating an online private high school for the gifted this fall, David can be challenged at home.

“I think this is a huge solution for a big problem,” said Dr. Miriam Sell, David’s mother and a family physician in Phoenix.

Parents of profoundly gifted children are used to cobbling together academic solutions—a college class here, a summer enrichment program there. Since 1990, Stanford’s Education Program for Gifted Students has been one of those options. The university has offered online courses since 1990, and summer on-campus enrichment programs since 2000.

The Online High School, which will offer a cohesive curriculum, is a natural outgrowth of those programs, said Raymond Ravaglia, the deputy director of Stanford’s program for gifted students.

Full-time students will pay $12,000 a year to take classes through the online school, which offers courses in such subjects as multivariable differential calculus and quantum mechanics.

David Sell, who has taken Stanford online courses before, is looking forward to the new challenge.

“It allows me to take courses at my own pace, and I don’t have to be dragged down by other people,” he said.

Joseph S. Renzulli, the director of the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, in Storrs, Conn., sees both good and bad in such offerings as the Stanford online school.

“People that can afford it can take advantage of it,” Mr. Renzulli said. “Public schools aren’t doing enough for children who need high levels of challenge.”

A version of this article appeared in the August 30, 2006 edition of Education Week

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