By Kristen Smith
Capital News Service
ASHBURN – Virginia’s only middle and high school for advanced students is challenging the way traditional gifted education is taught.
Loudoun School for the Gifted is a private school in the Northern Virginia town of Ashburn. It offers a full-time gifted education to advanced students.
In 2008, Dr. Deep Sran founded Ideal Schools High School. It became Loudoun School for the Gifted in 2012 when the campus added a middle school for grades six through eight.
Sran founded Loudoun School for the Gifted because he felt other schools did not serve advanced learners across subject areas.
“I was in the gifted and talented program throughout my time in Montgomery County, Md., growing up. What I found is that traditionally gifted education means acceleration in science, technology and math. But what I realized was that there is quite a bit more that you can do with advanced learners,” Sran said.
Students at Loudoun School for the Gifted come from a 25-mile radius. The school draws students mostly from Loudoun County but has had students from Prince William and Fairfax counties.
Annual tuition is $18,400 for the middle school and $20,500 for the high school. Discounts are given to students whose parents are police officers, firefighters, teachers or members of the military. The school also offers a discount when siblings enroll.
The teachers all have advanced degrees – often a Ph.D. in their field. The school currently has just 35 students, with an average of six students per classroom.
“A small class size also means that we can make sure that the social climate is healthy. It’s an adult-led social environment, which means that the social experience is very healthy and supportive. Every student is well known,” Sran said.
While still meeting the state’s graduation requirements, students from Loudoun School for the Gifted have a voice in their education. They vote to decide what elective courses the school will offer: The ballot lists 17 possible electives, from cooking to religion and architecture. The four classes that receive the most votes will be the ones students can register for next semester.
For many literature and history classes, Loudoun School for the Gifted uses authoritative books as anchor texts and then structures the course around those books.
“We try to take a really rich text as the core and then build a force upon it,” Sran said.
Physical education is also important at the school. The school offers offered classes such as kickboxing, jiu-jitsu and yoga.
The goal of Loudoun School for the Gifted is to “close the gap between how knowledge works in the world and how it is taught in school.”
Students enjoy real-world experiences through opportunities such as the social entrepreneurship program, which allows them to run real businesses.
The school takes learning beyond the traditional classroom and textbook. Students take two to four field trips every month and an optional international trip every year.
“You get to know each individual,” Sran said. “And you’re able to really focus the content and focus the types of questions and the opportunities you offer based on the student as a whole – not just how they’re doing in your subject.”
On the Web
You can learn more about the Loudoun School for the Gifted at its website, http://loudoungifted.org