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By GreatSchools Staff
While many schools offer special programs for students identified as gifted, there are other programs open to any student who can demonstrate that he can succeed at an advanced level.
In the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District in North Carolina, for example, and in many middle schools across the country, advanced middle school students can take higher level math and foreign language courses at their local high school.
This school district, like many, also offers an International Baccalaureate (IB) program at several of its middle schools beginning in grade 6. Students have the option to enroll starting in grade 6 but can enter the program in later grades as well. The IB curriculum is a rigorous international curriculum. Teachers must take required IB training and write specialized curriculum units that encourage critical thinking, interconnectedness among subjects and an appreciation for international education. The middle school curriculum is cross disciplinary with core classes in language and the arts; there are also community service and physical education components.
What type of student is this curriculum appropriate for? "We want students who have a strong commitment to learning, love to excel, can make connections across areas, are curious and critical thinkers, have skills and interest in foreign languages and technology, and understand community service and what it really means," says Robbie Kale, director of magnet programs for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District. "They have to love to read and write as there are many projects assigned." The IB curriculum is offered at schools throughout the world; one of the added bonuses of the program is that students can transfer anywhere in the world where an IB curriculum is offered and they should be able to fit right in.
Students who continue on and complete the IB diploma curriculum in their high school years may qualify for an IB diploma, which is highly valued in American universities and throughout the world.
The next place to look is beyond the middle-school walls. There may be options at your local high school or community college or through online programs and special summer programs.
Online courses work best for self-disciplined, independent learners. Some have an interactive component where others involve just the student and the printed study materials. There are multiple online options available. Here's a sampling:
Duke University e-Studies (grades 8-12) is an interactive distance learning program. Students connect with instructors, course material and 10-15 classmates from around the world in virtual "classrooms." Courses run in the fall and spring (16-week sessions), as well as in the summer (8-week session). Students are admitted based on SAT or ACT test scores. Courses cost $750, which includes all text materials. There is an additional $20 application fee. Financial aid is available.
The Center for Distance and Independent Study at the University of Missouri-Columbia is mostly for high school students, but there are a few options - courses such as medieval life, applying the math challenge and creative writing - available for middle school students, too. This is a self-directed program where students can sign up at anytime for the course, and receive print materials (a study guide and text) and take up to nine months to complete the course. Each course for middle school students costs $130, plus varying fees for the print materials, depending on the course selected. Students write papers, do projects and take two proctored exams. (Generally they find someone in their community or school to act as an authorized proctor.)
The Education Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY) at Stanford University provides individualized, online instruction for gifted students of all ages, from kindergarten through university level. Students take courses and receive instructional support via telephone, email and a virtual classroom. To qualify for EPGY, students must provide evidence of their intellectual ability, generally a recognized standardized test such as the SAT. Courses range in cost from $495 to $740 and financial aid is available. Students may begin most courses on the first of any month.
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