Davidson Institute for Talent Development: A Decade of Supporting our Nation’s Brightest Young Minds
California Association for the Gifted
Gifted Education Communicator
Vol. 40 No. 4
Winter 2009

This article appeared in the Winter 2009 issue of Gifted Education Communicator, published by the California Association for the Gifted.

In the mid-‘90s, after selling their educational software company Davidson & Associates Inc. publisher of the popular MathBlaster™ and ReadingBlaster™ series, Bob and Jan Davidson wanted to give back in the field of education. They discovered that profoundly gifted students, who score in the 99.9th percentile on IQ and achievement tests, were the most underserved in today’s education system.

In 1999, the Davidsons founded a national nonprofit, called the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, to support profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. The Davidson Institute is based in Reno, Nev., with several local and national programs.

Profoundly gifted students score at least three standard deviations above the norm on the bell curve, placing them at the extreme end of the intelligence, or IQ, continuum. Thus, these students have special educational needs. However, a common misperception is that extremely gifted students can fend for themselves. This is a false assumption – all students, including the gifted, need to be nurtured with access to an education that helps them learn and achieve at a level appropriate to their abilities.

Many parents of profoundly gifted students report that their children become frustrated, depressed and develop behavioral problems when they are not appropriately challenged in school. Students, especially girls, will “dumb-down” and hide their intelligence to fit in socially.

In fact, up to 20 percent of high school dropouts test in the gifted range and nearly half of all gifted students are underachievers because the educational program they are provided is too easy.

“We are losing our brightest students - our nation’s most precious natural resource - because the one-size-fits-all approach to education is not working,” said Jan Davidson. “We started the Davidson Institute to help these students develop their talents and advocate that they receive an education matched to their abilities. These efforts will not only benefit the students, but also the entire nation by keeping us competitive in the global marketplace.”

The Davidsons founded the Institute with the following beliefs in mind:

  • All young people should be lovingly nurtured in a safe, supportive environment where each person is accepted and appreciated as a unique individual.
  • All young people should have access to an education where they can learn and achieve at a level appropriate to their abilities.
  • All young people should have an opportunity to develop their talents in positive ways to create value for themselves and others.

The needs of profoundly intelligent young people should be recognized and accommodated. Their uniqueness should be understood and nurtured. Rather than be locked into an age-based curriculum, profoundly gifted young people should have the opportunity to be challenged to excel and achieve.

The Davidson Young Scholars program began in 1999 with 15 students. Today, that program has served more than 1,800 students. Davidson Young Scholars is a free, individualized, family-oriented program that supports the educational and developmental needs of profoundly gifted young people between the ages of 5 and 18. This program assists parents and students with academic support and educational advocacy, child and adolescent development, peer connections and talent development. The Davidson Young Scholar application deadline is the 1st of each month. (DavidsonGifted.org)

Since 1999, the Davidson Institute has continued efforts to build a free, online database, called the Davidson Gifted Database (formerly known as GT-CyberSource) to be the gateway to gifted resources on the Internet. The new Google search feature helps users find topics of interests in hundreds of articles and thousands of resources. Plus, each state’s gifted education policies are listed with an easy-to-use click-through map and an events calendar of conferences throughout the nation – all available free to anyone with access to the Internet. (DavidsonGifted.org/DB)

In 2001, the Davidson Fellows scholarships were established to recognize extraordinary young people 18 and under who have completed a significant piece of graduate-level work. The categories are: science, technology, mathematics, music, literature, philosophy or outside the box, which is defined as graduate-level work in any other field of study. Davidson Fellow Laureates are awarded $50,000 scholarships, and Davidson Fellows are awarded either a $25,000 or $10,000 scholarship. The deadline to apply is the first Wednesday in March. (DavidsonGifted.org/Fellows)

In 2004, the THINK Summer Institute began as a three-week residential summer program on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno. Today, profoundly gifted students ages 13 to 16 apply for this summer opportunity to take university-level courses and earn six transferable college credits. Tuition covers course credits, room and board and the cost of planned programs and activities. Need-based scholarships are available. To qualify, students must be 13 to 16 years old during THINK, and must meet or exceed designated SAT or ACT scores. The deadline for early acceptance is January. Due to the intense nature of the program, enrollment is limited to 60 students. Homeschooled students are eligible to apply. (DavidsonGifted.org/THINK)

Next, the Educators Guild was started to assist teachers, counselors and school administrators interested in gifted education with networking opportunities, locating resources and opportunities to discuss strategies for serving gifted students. Members of the free Educators Guild have access to electronic mailing lists and the Davidson Institute’s team of consultants who are available to assist via phone and email. (DavidsonGifted.org/EdGuild)

In 2004, Simon & Schuster published Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting our Brightest Young Minds co-authored by Jan and Bob Davidson, with Laura Vanderkam. This award-winning book has generated conversations throughout the nation about the importance of educating our nation’s brightest students and is hailed as a “manifesto for change.” (GeniusDenied.com)

The most recent endeavor has been The Davidson Academy of Nevada which opened in 2006 on the University of Nevada, Reno campus as the first public school of its kind for profoundly gifted middle and high school students. The Davidson Academy seeks to provide profoundly gifted young people an advanced educational opportunity matched to their abilities, strengths and interests. Unlike many traditional school settings, the Academy’s classes are not grouped by age-based grades, but by ability level. Students can subject accelerate through required middle and high school curriculum at their own pace with access to university courses when appropriate.  Admissions are on a first-come, first-served basis. (DavidsonAcademy.UNR.edu)

During the past decade, the Davidson Institute has impacted the lives of thousands of profoundly gifted young people, their parents and educators, as well as the millions who have searched the free, online Davidson Database for information about the gifted population. For more information about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit our website (DavidsonGifted.org) or email info@davidsongifted.org.


The appearance of any information in the Davidson Institute's Database does not imply an endorsement by, or any affiliation with, the Davidson Institute. All information presented is for informational purposes only and is solely the opinion of and the responsibility of the author. Although reasonable effort is made to present accurate information, the Davidson Institute makes no guarantees of any kind, including as to accuracy or completeness. Use of such information is at the sole risk of the reader.

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