Hartford’s Renzulli Academy to be Replicated in Other Districts

Sixth-graders work on writing projects
Sixth-graders work on writing projects with teacher Kim Albro at Dr. Joseph S. Renzulli Gifted and Talented Academy in Hartford. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Hartford Public Schools’ acclaimed Renzulli Academy for Gifted Students is set to be replicated in at least three other districts, under a $500,000 grant announced in October by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, as part of the foundation’s Centennial Celebration to honor Mr. Kent Cooke’s legacy.

The Talent Development Award, presented to the University of Connecticut’s Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development, is the first of its kind for the foundation. It comes on the heals of a $250,000 grant that the foundation presented to the Renzulli Academy earlier this year to provide a six-week, full-day summer enrichment program in science, art and math for its students. The foundation has pledged to renew the grant for up to three years.

The foundation’s mission is to advance the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. It regards these students as a powerful and untapped resource for the United States. The academy is named after the director of the Neag Center, Dr. Joseph S. Renzulli, who provided much of the expertise needed to launch the school in 2009. Dr. Renzulli and the Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development are part of the Neag School of Education.

“At the Renzulli Academy, we have implemented a model program that has enabled Hartford to become a leader in yet another area of urban school reform,” said Superintendent Christina M. Kishimoto. “Students have an opportunity to learn advanced thinking skills, complete independent studies and do high-level project learning in their interests and academic strength areas.”

Since the academy was founded, Renzulli students have consistently recorded the highest scores in the district on the Connecticut Mastery Tests.

Prospective students are extended a preliminary invitation to apply to the academy based on exceptional test scores. The district follows up the initial application with a thorough examination of grades, attendance and discipline records, as well as a nomination by each student’s classroom teachers.

In addition, the student must demonstrate advanced levels of knowledge, outstanding communication skills, creativity, curiosity and resourcefulness in solving problems. In short, students must be highly motivated to excel.

“Three districts in Connecticut and several out-of-state districts have expressed an interest in replicating the academy model,” Renzulli said. “As part of the grant, teachers from the selected districts will be receiving staff development training and internships at the academy in Hartford.”

In addition to the grants, the Renzulli Academy, at 121 Cornwall St., and the district have been recognized by the National Association for Gifted Children and the Connecticut Association for the Gifted for their work in helping high-ability students reach their full potential.

The academy currently serves students in kindergarten and grades 4 through 9. Plans call for the Renzulli Academy to expand to a full K-12 program by 2015.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, under the direction of Dr. Lawrence Kutner, is a private, independent organization established in 2000 by the estate of Jack Kent Cooke, a Canadian entrepreneur born in 1912, who owned the Washington Redskins football team, the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team and the Los Angeles Kings professional hockey team. The foundation supports exceptionally talented students from low-income areas through scholarships, grants and direct services, including the largest private scholarships in the United States for students transferring from community colleges to four-year institution.