There is currently no universally accepted definition of giftedness. The term itself is often shrouded in skepticism by the broader community and has been debated for years. According to The National Association of Gifted Children, “Gifted individuals are those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude (defined as an exceptional ability to reason and learn) or competence (documented performance or achievement in top 10% or rarer) in one or more domains. Domains include any structured area of activity with its own symbol system (e.g., mathematics, music, language) and/or set of sensorimotor skills (e.g., painting, dance, sports).”
Combined with outstanding aptitude, students often exhibit social and emotional characteristics consistent with their gifted peers. While it is possible for a student to display several different characteristics, it is also possible for students to display only one or two characteristics.
Because research has yet to yield one test that clearly identifies all aspects of giftedness, there continues to be significant misconceptions when discussingthis population.
MIS was founded on the ideal that no student waits to learn. Combine that vision with teachers who are certified in gifted education, MIS is a place where gifted students not only learn, they thrive. Our curriculum requires students to explore content with depth, complexity, and abstractness. While our acceleration of content is important for challenging gifted learners, we expect our students to be able to use the content critically and to solve complex problems.
At MIS, we believe that the development of the whole student is vital for success. Since we opened our doors five years ago, we have had a full-time counselor on staff. At least once per week, the School Counselor goes into each classroom to teach brain-based social and study skills to the elementary school, and leadership and organization skills to the middle and high school students. When needed, the counselor works with students individually or in small groups. Our counselor also conferences with parents and teachers to further support students.
At MIS, we teach a gifted curriculum in all subject areas every day. If a student has one very specific and narrow talent, MIS would not be an ideal fit. Our admissions process requires that students present strengths in at least three dimensions of giftedness, which allows them to work collaboratively with the accelerated curriculum throughout the school day.
The curriculum focuses on critical thinking, creating connections, and cultural awareness. Environmental and current global issues are continually incorporated into classes so that students may analyze and apply the information they’re learning while practicing what it means to be a global leader.
We believe that travel experiences provide some of the greatest lessons and learning opportunities for our students. In-depth exploration of the class destination is explored throughout the year to support the student experience. Travel fosters independence, curiosity, cultural and social exploration, and real-world problem solving. For this reason, domestic and international travel experiences are offered yearly for students and families in grades 3 and up.
Our teachers are trained in strategies specifically for gifted learning: including differentiation of the content, processes, and products. Our problem-based learning model removes limits on learning associated with content-driven instruction. Focusing on critical thinking and problem solving also gives our student opportunities for divergent and creative thinking.
It’s important to note that MIS does not believe in acceleration of content without critical and creative application. If, for example, a third grader is “doing 8th grade math”, we will challenge the student to think about mathematics as more than just computation and solving equations, and will expect them to delve deeply into math concepts for greater, more complex understanding.
In problem-based learning at MIS, students use research, inquiry, and collaboration to formulate solutions to global problems. Students are given an ill-structured problem, to which there is not an easy or “right” answer. Students work together to generate questions they need to answer in order to solve the problem. These questions are then prioritized and crafted into a research plan. Students work through their plans both independently and collaboratively, and then design and evaluate possible solutions. While this last step may manifest as a final project, faculty at MIS assess the problem solving, process, inquiry, and research leading up to the final product.
Our small class size is integral to learning each student’s needs and how to best support them. We often group students flexibly, so that students are always moving forward. Our amazing faculty are always available to collaborate with both the student and the parents to support progress and individual growth. In rare cases, and often involving lack of previous experience or instruction, students’ areas for growth may be significant and require tutoring or additional intervention outside of school.
Some gifted learners who come to us from more traditional school settings do not have experience working collaboratively (or may have not enjoyed it). The problem-based approach encourages collaboration in doses that can be managed student-by-student, and each of our learners has opportunities to grow in this lifelong skill. Because our groupings are homogenous, students often find themselves in groups with their peers–which is a very different collaborative experience than working in heterogenous groupings.
All learners are supported in ways that are appropriate to their success. Students are given opportunities to learn material through research, innovation, and collaboration. Teachers use a variety of visual materials to foster problem solving, critical thinking, and other content-specific skills. Students are also able to take notes and/or photos on their devices of relevant information throughout the day.
MIS is designed for gifted learners. Some gifted learners may have other diagnosis designating them twice-exceptional (2E). Often these diagnoses require significant support from parents and accommodations from the school. We partner closely with parents who have students with a dual diagnosis to ensure that the student is always moving forward academically. MIS limits the number of twice-exceptional students in each class.
Your perfectionist would be in good company. We have a staff and student body working daily to embrace a growth mindset and see the value in their mistakes. Our problem-based learning model creates a class environment where there are no rights and wrongs, only solutions with varying degrees of effectiveness.
Our core values are respect, responsibility, justice and global citizenship. We expect all students, parents, faculty, and staff to model these values in their choices and behaviors. We also set school-wide limits on behavior so that all students know the expectations regardless of grade and/or class. In setting the expectations, our teachers give process-oriented feedback that fosters a growth mindset. We do not use classroom behavior charts.
Each classroom is equipped with an Apple TV and projector and/ or interactive whiteboard. We also have a lab equipped with Raspberry Pis, PCs, Macs, robots, 3D printers, and other engineering devices to foster early computer science and programming literacy.
Students in second grade and above have a school issued iPad. High school students use a school-issued MacBook Air.
Specific technology skills are integrated across the curriculum. Some fundamentals that all students learn explicitly in their classes are:
Throughout the school day, iPads are used for instructional purposes. The App Store is disabled, and the school sets age-appropriate restrictions on websites and content on the iPads. The school downloads instructional apps as needed. Our Acceptable Use policy regulates additional uses and content on the devices.
Because gifted students learn at a different depth and pace, traditional classrooms can lead to boredom, diminished thirst for learning, disengagement from school, and the evolution of poor work habits. Working alongside teachers who have been trained in gifted education, students’ intellectual as well as social and emotional needs are met.
Every student is unique and has the potential to be great at something, but this isn’t the same as being gifted. In a society where the term “gifted” alone evokes strong feelings, parents often refrain from publicly admitting their child is gifted. Because these students have different needs, it is imperative that these parents are able to openly discuss their child’s educational and social needs to better support their children.
It is not uncommon for gifted students to receive poor grades stemming from a variety of issues. Research has indicated “that a mismatch between instructional approaches and learning styles of gifted students exacerbates underachievement if students are not provided with encouragement or viable ways of expressing their talents” (Baum, Renzulli & Hebert, 1994; Hebert, 2001; Montgomery, 2000).
Sometimes the asynchronies mentioned above are significant enough to result in a diagnosable learning difference. In these cases, the student’s classroom struggles can shroud their giftedness, or the giftedness can hide the learning challenges. In either case, the student is not receiving the support for both the gifts and struggles, leading to negative social and emotional implications.
For additional information on the giftedness and parenting the gifted child, we encourage you to visit the National Association for Gifted Children at https://www.nagc.org/.