A More In-Depth Look at Highly Capable at NOVA

NOVA's definition of highly capable does not map exactly to the Washington State definition. Here, Head of School Barbara Mitchell Hutton offers a deeper look into whether your child would be considered highly capable according to NOVA.

Is your child like no other?
We recognize our highly capable/gifted students as individuals. They have many traits in common and, at the same time, each brings a different set of skills, experiences, goals, motivation and personality to NOVA. It’s our job to help them discover and claim those traits unique to them, and help them grow into their “best self.” We partner with the student and family to support the learner as they move further along on their path to living a full and meaningful life.  

Is your child a complex puzzle of mixed developmental levels?
At NOVA the term highly capable or gifted refers to learners who have a much more complex profile than the term typically implies. In one or many ways the external and internal developmental pattern is outside of or out of sync with the developmental trajectory that is expected. This is often referred to as asynchronous development. Consequently "complex" may be the singular word that describes a NOVA student and the program that has been developed to meet the needs of that student. 

Does your child demonstrate deep understanding but the tests don’t reflect that?
While NOVA students are academically advanced in one or more areas, for some students that might not be revealed through standardized testing. In fact, sometimes there is conflicting evidence between standardized assessments, student grades, teacher and parent observations and a student’s self-reporting. There are many factors that could influence this including, but certainly not limited to, a lack of standardized testing experience, anxiety, a learning style not compatible with prior educational settings and thus learning wasn't maximized, or the learner’s capability is masked by learning disabilities. Further, from the test-taker’s perspective, the assessment questions might seem ambiguous — the answer was “too obvious to be correct” or the options couldn't stand up to the "what if" question in the test-taker’s mind. Consequently NOVA looks beyond testing to recognize a highly capable/gifted student.

Are issues of fairness and social justice often a priority for your child?
At NOVA we consider not simply the intellectual development of the student, but also the social, and emotional development of the student. It is not uncommon for there to be a discrepancy between different academic areas and the student’s social and emotional development, maturity, physical development and, certainly, wisdom. A NOVA student might have advanced moral, ethical and leadership development or potential. Their heightened sensitivity might be to fairness, justice, global issues, individual relationships, humanitarian ideals and concerns for the environment. Often this heightened awareness and sensitivity overwhelms them and they struggle managing their responses and emotions. They might have deep understanding of complex science, philosophical or mathematical concepts, yet be unable to express themselves in writing because their brains work much faster than their hands. Or they might have dyslexia or fine motor skills that aren't fully developed. Some students struggle with social relationships. NOVA considers the whole package.

Is your child intense and sometimes hyper-focused?
NOVA students' intensity often reveals itself in passions about certain issues and current events, specific academic disciplines, friendships, and/or areas of interest such as art, mathematics, music, games, poetry or sports. In that place of passion, all else seems to them like a distraction. It is sometimes difficult to capture their attention for other things including homework, eating and sleeping. For some, the passions might evolve into their life's work, for others it's the passion de jour and for most it falls somewhere in between. 

Does your child ask a lot of questions – really, a lot?
NOVA students have an intrinsic need to know. They are deeply curious and intellectually intense. They ask questions, lots of them, resulting in a deep dive into content. Their more advanced abstract reasoning enables them to make connections, identify relationships between seemingly disparate topics and often recognize both intentional and unintentional consequences of behavior and actions. That quality often leads to what, on a surface level, may appear to be obscure tangential discussions and awakenings. If you follow the web, you’ll have a glimpse into how they got there.

Does your child have a unique, sometimes quirky, personality?
Many NOVA students have personality traits that make them unique. There are introverts who quietly observe, rarely participating in discussions and, when they do, bring a depth of awareness that lifts the learning and experience for all. They may come alive in drama in which they assume another persona. There are the storytellers who weave compassion and insight into a standard assignment or classroom discussion. There are the emotionally and socially sensitive students who are aware of other people’s concerns and experiences and work overtly and subtly to make others’ lives calm. Jokes, stories, interactions between and among those who value humor provide amusement and an unusual twist on learning. There are those who view and experience the world so deeply and in such a way that that sometimes it’s hard for them to describe and for others to comprehend. There are those who demonstrate their hidden and developing selves through drama, music and art. There is no one-size-fits-all.