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ASU launches school for gifted middle-school students


April 22, 2011

Members of the first class of a new school designed to meet the unique educational, social and emotional needs of gifted middle-school students gathered April 15 at ASU’s West campus. They were joined by parents, community members and ASU officials to launch the Gary K. Herberger Young Scholars Academy, which will open in August.

The Young Scholars Academy – the first school in Arizona for gifted students – will feature an innovative, accelerated high-tech curriculum enabling exceptional 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 as many as 40 incoming seventh-graders are now being accepted.

The Young Scholars Academy is funded in part through a gift to ASU from Gary K. Herberger and Jeanne Herberger. Jeanne Herberger attended the April 15 celebration along with ASU President Michael M. Crow, Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth D. Capaldi, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College Dean Mari Koerner, and Young Scholars Academy Executive Director Kimberly Lansdowne.

“It is just as appropriate for us to provide specialized programming for academically talented young people as for athletically talented young people,” Lansdowne told the audience.

“Gifted children often wonder, ‘Is there someone out there like me?’ They did not choose to be gifted; they need us to understand them, just as other children with exceptional learning characteristics need our specific understanding and support,” said Lansdowne.

“The Young Scholars Academy advances the Teachers College mission of providing ways for all children to reach their potential,” Koerner said in her remarks. “Our own students on all ASU campuses who are future teachers will have the opportunity to visit this innovative school, located on the West campus, and observe the outstanding teaching practices being implemented on a daily basis.”

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 an independent study under the guidance of an expert in their selected field, and ultimately complete a research project and conference presentation.

Educational programming at the Herberger 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 tenth 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.

This rapid pace is exactly what gifted youngsters need to be challenged and avoid experiencing boredom, depression and loneliness, according to Lansdowne, who 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 is now an active member of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) Diversity and Equity Committee.

The academy’s rigorous situational learning environment will challenge highly able students who are invested in learning, while the support of their families also will be crucial to their success, Lansdowne said.

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.

Gary Herberger, whose gift helped make the school that bears his name possible, is the president of Herberger Enterprises Inc., a closely held family corporation involved in property acquisition, planning and development. He is also the president of the Herberger Foundation, has been a registered architect in Arizona since 1965, and attended Pomona College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Herberger and his wife, Jeanne, are long-time supporters of ASU. He has been a trustee of ASU since 2002 and also serves on the Herberger Center for Design Research Advisory Board and the W. P. Carey School of Business Dean’s Council of 100.

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.

“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,” Jeanne 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.”

For additional information about the academy, including admission criteria for prospective students, visit http://herbergeracademy.asu.edu/, email herbergeracademy@asu.edu, or call (602) 543-8274.