ability students develop greater expectations, feel better about themselves, and engage in higher-level processing or discourse when working with other students of similar abilities (Fuchs, Fuchs, Hamlett, and Karns, 1998).

Programs designed to meet the needs of these high-ability learners include governors’ schools, both academic year and summer programs; residential and day academies that specialize in mathematics, science, and technology; charter schools;11 schools-within-a school;12 and magnet schools.13 Admission to most of these programs is highly competitive and selective. The configuration of these specialized schools varies markedly from institution to institution. Some of the programs embrace innovative curricula and instructional approaches; others incorporate and/or expand on programs such as AP or IB; while still others use some of the college-level learning options described above.

There are 58 secondary schools that belong to The National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science and Technology.14 In addition, there are hundreds of other specialized schools, some of which focus on mathematics and science, which are not members of that organization.

Distance Learning

Technology has created myriad opportunities to provide advanced study options for students who otherwise might not have access to such programs. As with the other opportunities described in this section, distance learning is a rapidly growing national phenomenon that is configured in a variety of ways, depending on a program’s mission and available technology.


A publicly funded school that is formed by legislation rather than by the standard school incorporation process. It has the autonomy to make decisions concerning structure, curriculum, and educational emphasis and is held accountable for the academic achievement of its students by means of its charter (www.uscharterschools.org [November 23, 2001]).


A separate and autonomous unit formally authorized by the board of education and/or superintendent that plans and runs its own program, has its own staff and students, and receives its own separate budget. The school-within-a-school usually reports to a district official instead of being responsible to the building principal except in matters of safety; teachers and students typically are affiliated with the school-within-a-school as a matter of choice (Raywid, 1995).


A school or education center that offers a special curriculum capable of attracting substantial numbers of students of different racial backgrounds. A key feature of magnet schools is a specialty curriculum designed to embrace a subject matter or teaching methodology not generally offered to students of the same age or grade level under the same local education agency, such as a science–technology center or a center for the performing arts (Magnet School Assistance Program, Title V, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended in 1994).


More information can be found at: http://www.ncsssmst.org/ (November 27, 2001).

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