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University of Iowa News Release


May 9, 2007

Photo: Jan and Bob Davidson, founders of the Davidson Institute; click on photo for high resolution image (300 dpi)

Davidson Institute, UI Belin-Blank Center To Collaborate On Gifted Education

A new partnership between the University of Iowa's Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development and the Davidson Institute for Talent Development in Reno, Nev., will create opportunities for groundbreaking research in the area of gifted education.

"This is a very important partnership that will significantly advance the field of gifted education," said Nicholas Colangelo, director of the Belin-Blank Center. "The students enrolled in the (Davidson Institute) programs represent a national sample of truly exceptionally talented students. This gives us a unique opportunity to learn about highly intelligent students so we can make informed decisions about their educational and social development. It gives us a chance to understand and respond to their educational, social and emotional needs."

Former educational software entrepreneurs, Bob and Jan Davidson, founded the Davidson Institute in 1999 as a nonprofit operating foundation out of a concern that the nation's most gifted and talented young people are largely neglected and underserved by the current education system.

"Bob and Jan Davidson symbolize what caring people with vision and resources can do to benefit society," Colangelo said.

The mission of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development is to recognize, nurture and support profoundly intelligent young people and to provide opportunities for them to develop their talents to make a positive difference.

"As a result of our efforts during the past eight years to support this unique population of students, our team at the Davidson Institute and The Davidson Academy of Nevada recognizes the need for additional research to better understand and serve them," said Jan Davidson. "We believe this research initiative will be a springboard to a higher quality of life for these students that will give them more opportunities to make major contributions to society."

Bob Davidson added, "We look forward to this significant research partnership with Belin-Blank as we have collaborated with Belin-Blank in the past on projects such as our book, 'Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds,' and their publication, 'A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America's Brightest Students.'"

The research will focus on students in the following three programs of the Davidson Institute:

* Davidson Young Scholars - This is the largest group of the three highlighted programs and represents the top one-tenth of 1 percent of students nationally. Students qualify through standardized test scores and have access to numerous free resources, including educational advocacy, financial assistance, access to an extensive online community, and summer gatherings. To date, more than 1,050 students between the ages of 5 and 18 are being served in the Davidson Young Scholars program.

* Davidson Fellows - This scholarship honors students who have accomplished a prodigious project before the age of 18. A panel of independent experts in the field evaluates students' projects. The recipients are awarded a $50,000, $25,000 or $10,000 academic scholarship and participate in an award ceremony in Washington, D.C. where they also meet with their members of Congress. Davidson Fellows are not just academically exceptional, but they are students who think outside the box, composing original music or exploring new complex mathematical equations. They are exceptional in areas ranging from mathematics, technology and science to literature, philosophy and music. To date more than 90 students have received Davidson Fellows scholarships. An estimated 15 to 20 new Davidson Fellows will be named and honored in Washington D.C. this September.

* The Davidson Academy of Nevada - This is the first free, public school of its kind for profoundly intelligent students in the nation. The academy was established in August 2006 on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. Personal learning plans are developed for each student and they have access to university courses and professors. Currently, 35 students are attending the academy, which is a day school not a boarding school.

Colangelo said the students involved in these Davidson programs are individuals who are likely to go on to make substantial contributions in society, making this research collaboration even more significant.

"These are students we are going to hear from again later on in life in terms of Pulitzers, Crawfords and Nobels," Colangelo said. "I am confident they will become prominent people in the future."

Colangelo, along with Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center associate director, and Damien Ihrig, administrator for Belin-Blank Center Research/Evaluation and Talent Searches, will lead this research collaboration. Colleen Harsin, director of the Davidson Academy, will serve as the research coordinator for the institute.

The plan is to look at these three groups cross-sectionally, short-term, and longitudinally, Ihrig said. Very few studies have been done in this area, with the most notable ones being the longitudinal research on gifted children conducted by Lewis M. Terman in the mid 1920s, and current studies at Vanderbilt University using the SAT and ACT for above-level testing with middle school students.

"We want to take a snapshot of these groups as they are, and then follow at least a portion of them as they move through school, their careers and the rest of their lives," Ihrig said of the research. "We have a very real, tangible opportunity to work with a unique set of kids to discover some things that we haven't seen before."

While the Davidson Institute excels in helping to support these exceptionally gifted students, they have never taken the step of following these students later in life or doing research, Assouline said.

"What's different with the Davidson research collaboration is that it's not based on a test score as the main predictor," she said. "It's really based on exceptional achievement."

Colangelo said he believes this pioneering research may be a better predictor of future success than the previous studies, which defined gifted and talented in narrower terms or purely on test scores.

For more information on the UI Belin-Blank Center, visit

For more information on the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, visit

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACTS: Lois J. Gray, University of Iowa News Services, 319-384-0077,; and Julie Dudley, Director of Communications, Davidson Institute, 775-852-3483, ext. 424,

PROGRAM CONTACTS: Damien Ihrig, Belin-Blank Center, 319-335-6148,or and Colleen Harsin, The Davidson Academy of Nevada, 775-337-0171, or

WRITERS: Lois J. Gray and Julie Dudley.