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Academy serves unique needs of gifted middle-schoolers

January 13, 2011

A school designed to meet the unique educational needs of gifted middle school students will open August 2011 on ASU’s West campus in northwest Phoenix. The Gary K. Herberger Young Scholars Academy features an innovative, accelerated high-tech curriculum enabling students who enter the school as seventh-graders to earn a high school diploma and up to 45 ASU credits by the end of what would be their junior year of high school in a traditional setting.

Applications for the inaugural cohort of 40 incoming seventh-graders are now being accepted. Information sessions providing details about the academy are scheduled for January to March on all four ASU campuses across metropolitan Phoenix.

The Young Scholars Academy is funded in part through a gift to ASU from Gary K. Herberger.

“I believe our society has a duty to provide gifted young people with educational settings that challenge them, nurture them, and help them reach their personal goals,” Herberger said. “I’m extremely pleased to see the Young Scholars Academy taking shape through the work of a group of dedicated, innovative educators at ASU. The academy will be a place where tomorrow’s leaders grow and develop intellectually, socially and emotionally.”

The academy’s curriculum will feature individualized, experiential learning with emphasis on digital tools and resources. The ratio of students to teachers will be approximately ten to one. Students in their first year will have classroom visits from ASU professors, laboratory experiences, and group field trips to local businesses. During the second year, students choose three areas of interest to explore and sit in on ASU courses related to these areas.

The focus on interest areas continues through the following three years of the curriculum, as students write annotated bibliographies and conduct independent study under the guidance of an expert in their selected field, and ultimately complete a research project and conference presentation.

“Gifted kids are significantly different from their age peers,” said Kimberly Lansdowne, executive director of the Young Scholars Academy. Lansdowne previously served as director of gifted education for the Scottsdale Unified School District. She possesses nearly 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher, gifted teacher, gifted program director, and university professor. Lansdowne was a longtime board member of the Arizona Association for the Gifted and Talented (AAGT) and currently is an active member of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) Diversity and Equity Committee.

“Because they are able to learn two to three years beyond grade level standards, being in a traditional classroom may lead gifted students to experience boredom, depression and loneliness,” Lansdowne said. “The Herberger Academy’s rigorous situational learning environment will challenge highly able students who are invested in learning. The support of their families also will be crucial to their success in the academy.”

Educational programming at the Young Scholars Academy will move at a rapid pace. The first year covers the equivalent of seventh and eighth grades; the second year covers ninth and 10th grade curricula; and the third year is the equivalent of the junior and senior years of high school. Students will take appropriate Advanced Placement assessments.

During the fourth and fifth years of the program, students will be doing university work through ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, based on the West campus. New College’s curriculum for university freshmen and sophomores emphasizes the integration of knowledge within and across disciplinary boundaries, helping students discover how forms of knowledge interrelate to produce meaningful solutions to today’s challenges.

When they complete the academy curriculum at age 17, students will be prepared to apply to continue their studies in any degree program on any ASU campus. They also may wish to augment their studies through Barrett, the Honors College, which is active on all campuses.

The cost of ASU tuition, fees and books is covered through the Young Scholars Academy’s $7,500 annual tuition cost. Scholarships are available for students whose families demonstrate financial need.

The Gary K. Herberger Young Scholars Academy is a private school operated under the auspices of University Public Schools, Inc., a nonprofit organization that works in collaboration with ASU to increase student achievement through innovation in K-12 schools.

For families interested in learning more about the academy, the following 90-minute information sessions are scheduled:

• 10 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 22, West campus, CLCC Building, Room 299;
• 6 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 2, Tempe campus, EDC Building, Room 117;
• 10 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 26, Downtown Phoenix campus, MERCC Building, Room C103;
• 6 p.m., Wednesday, March 2, West campus, CLCC Building, Room 299;
• 10 a.m., Saturday, March 12, Polytechnic campus, PICHO Building, Room 150.

For additional information, including admission criteria for prospective students, visit, email, or call (602) 543-8274.