Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Talent Searches

Gifted middle school students around the country took the SAT or ACT this winter as part of "talent searches" run by universities including Duke, Northwestern and Johns Hopkins. Most have gotten their results, and some are now signing up for summer programs offered through these universities (for instance, I read the tale of two Texas students who will be attending summer programs on scholarship, here.)

I'm glad these talent searches and summer programs exist. I participated in the Midwest Talent Search in 7th and 8th grade. My school system had a little ceremony called "Achievers All" (we wouldn't want to suggest that not all students achieve, would we?) that honored all talent search participants and others who had good middle school attendance records, etc. I went to academic summer camps at Northwestern because of my SAT scores. It's safe to say the three weeks I spent at Northwestern University each of those summers were the absolute highlight of those years. But then what? Most students who are "identified" as highly gifted through high scores on out-of-level tests go right back into their age-grade level classes. Indeed, I wrote a piece for USA Today three years ago called SAT Talent Searches Lead Nowhere for Many with stories from some of these kids. When information isn't used, it's pretty much useless. Even if you do get a small trophy from the school for your efforts.

So what should happen? Parents and the talent searches need to push schools to have a policy that a high score on an out-of-level test triggers an individual education plan meeting. In an ideal world, a representative from the talent search would also be part of that meeting, to offer ideas for accommodations (many schools and parents aren't aware of all the options).

Schools love talent searches -- you get to advertise about your high scorers -- so I'd love to see the searches play hard ball. If you do nothing with the scores, we cut your school from the program. Any kid, after all, can sign up for the SAT if he wants, on his own. Families can participate even if schools are blacklisted. But if searches made known a list of schools unwilling to accommodate children, that could shake things up a bit.

15 comments:

Stormia said...

I was a JHU talent search kid. I wasn't one of those extrodinary kids who score like, 1400 or 1500 in seventh grade, but my 1160 got me into CTY summer camps. When I came home, I begged my parents not to make me go back to normal school... but there wasn't anything to do about it at the time. My school could not have cared less, and I started searching for private schools where I might be able to get scholarships. I found one, and would have been there for high school if i hadn't moved. Instead, I ended up at a pretty good school in Indiana, and then at the Indiana Academy. So it all worked out for me... but not thanks to my school. I just got lucky.

Anonymous said...

Could you please advise how to pursue an above level test for our 9 year old?

He is currently in 4th grade. He makes good grades, does very well on the grade level Terra Nova and has been IQ tested (above 140). Despite the fact that he doesn’t talk back to teachers, his homework is always complete (occasionally, he forgets to bring it) and he does well on tests, his teachers consistently give him check marks on the behavioral section of his report card including attentiveness, follows directions and uses time well. The usual complaint is that he daydreams and doesn’t work as fast as desired. –The psychologist who administered his I.Q. and individual achievement test (all composites were very superior-math was 99.9) noted that he “worked deliberately and slowly”.

He can hold a reciprocal conversation with any adult who is knowledgeable in physics. He doesn’t recite facts, but probes and debates to gain greater understanding. The good teachers have stated that science isn’t their area of expertise, one poor teacher made a point to knock him down in front of the class on several occasions.

We hope he is accepted in four years to the only high school within driving distance that we believe would offer him an appropriately challenging environment. It would be expensive and inconvenient but we are willing to sacrifice for his education. Our concern is that the opinions of his grade school teachers could defeat his efforts for acceptance to this school. We do not have any “connections”, just a highly gifted kid.

We think that above level test results while in 5th grade may provide additional supporting evidence for acceptance to this school.

Laura Vanderkam said...

Hi Anonymous-
I'm not sure where you live, but some of the big talent search programs offer opportunities for younger students. The Rocky Mountain Talent Search, for instance, has programs for students in grades 3-9. The younger ones take the Explore test, which was designed by the ACT for 8th graders. 5th and 6th graders take something called the PLUS Academic Abilities Assessment. Duke's TIP program also offers out-of-level tests for 4th and 5th graders (the 8th grade Expore test, again). So why don't you look into those, and also into having your son take the Explore test somewhere in the area? (there may be an educational testing service or consultant who offers it). I hope other parents who've faced similar situations will post on this thread.

The Princess Mom said...

All three of my boys participated in CTD/Northwestern's talent search this year and did better than average on the out-of-level tests. Yet, my 5th grader "did not qualify" for accelerated science in middle school next year, despite scoring at the 91%ile on an 8th grade test. My oldest got no gifted services in middle school and the middle one is having to fight to keep the accelerations he has (which still aren't sufficient.)

I'm tired of fighting with this school system. Next year, we're homeschooling.

Laura Vanderkam said...

Princess Mom: Good luck with it! I will start a thread soon on tips for homeschooling gifted kids, and hopefully some other parents will chime in with good ideas.

Anonymous said...

I applaud your idea for the talent searches to play hardball with the schools - as a parent I think it's over due.

Anonymous said...

I know there have been some studies correlating SAT to IQ, but at an adult age level. Any idea if there is a way to correlate IQ with SAT for 7th graders? My child's 7th grade SAT score is in the top 1% among Duke TIP SAT takers. We've never had his IQ tested, so I'm just curious.

Darlene said...

My son has qualified for and participated in JHU CTY since the 4th grade. He just requalified with 7th grade SAT scores and will attend his 3rd annual summer session, plus he receives a "state award" tommorow at a local University. He is also a Mensa member.
With all of that, the respected private school he attends will not recognize his JHU CTY achievements-- Why you ask? He is what the school calls an "underachiever" and they don't want to "reward" his "C-average" grades by recognizing his high testing abilities. He has also been recently diagnosed with dysgraphia which most likely explains the homework/handwriting struggles at school. I totally agree with your sentiments about holding schools accountable. Not all of these high-ability kids are going to be straight-A students.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I am getting my pre-K son tested for the Saturday Enrichment program at Norhtwestern. Any insight on what to expect? Was told that he would need to "draw stick figures performing a particular tadk on command." Can anyone be more specific????

Anonymous said...

I am a sixth grader who took the SAT test about a month ago.
I scored 1660 (430 on the critical reading portion, 520 on the writing portion, and 710 on the math part). I just got my results yesterday, and I'm looking at the average test scores for many colleges. As it turns out, my math score would be accepted by pretty much anyone except for MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and CIT, the California Institute of Technology.
The way I found this website was by searching "what is the average sat score for a 6th grader?" on Google.com.

Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous 6th grader, you are extremely smart! I am a seventh grader and lately I took an sat and got 560 in critical reading (drat those sentence completions, they really lower my score!) 630 on math, and 630 on writing. I am curious to know where and how you learned your math skills because I wish to improve my math score by at least 30 points. Can you tell me how you learn the math that you do?

Anonymous said...

I just received my act scores as an 8th grader and got a 31 composite score can anyone recommend a follow up program and how to reach it/if I qualify because I haven't found one much thanks

Davidson Institute Staff said...

Hello, and thank you for your interest in gifted education. We have two programs in which you and your family may find interesting and helpful:



Davidson THINK Summer Institute: THINK is an intensive three-week residential summer program in Reno, Nevada where gifted participants can earn up to 6 transferable college credits. Applicants must be 13-16 years of age, a US citizen or permanent US resident, and they must meet the test score criteria (qualifying SAT or ACT score reports). Our applications are closed for the 2012 program, but look for our 2013 applications and course listings to be released this October. Contact THINK@davidsongifted.org if you have further questions.



Davidson Young Scholars Program: The Young Scholars program is a free service, which is designed to provide information and resources to help parents address the needs of their exceptionally bright children in the areas of educational advocacy and planning, talent and interest development, and child/adolescent development. Applicants are ages 5 to 16, and we serve Young Scholars until age 18. For parents, this is in the form of access via phone and email to our team of Family Consultants and can conduct individualized searches for information, contact educators and administrators as needed, and function as a supportive sounding board and partner with you in addressing issues and concerns that arise in the context of raising an exceptionally bright young person. Parents and Young Scholars also have access to one another through an online community, which includes a private website, electronic mailing lists, and online seminars with various experts. If you have additional questions, contact DavidsonScholars@davidsongifted.org.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous I do not have a child who is 9 but, I am/was a child who was 9 and I took my ACT and SAT to get in a school and my scores fell sort enough that they gave me the next step in testing, so I think it is worth a try. (I'm not good at grammar)

Anonymous said...

I got a 35 in 4th grade. Is my IQ 200¿