Talent Searches: What should schools do with the results?
On Monday, I spoke about my new book, Grindhopping, at the Kellogg School of Management. This is located at Northwestern University just outside Chicago. It's a place I have many fond memories of. For 3 summers in grades 7-9, I spent 3 weeks taking classes there through Northwestern's Center for Talent Development. If it hadn't been snowing like crazy, and if I hadn't had an 8:30pm plane to catch out of O'Hare (which was subsequently delayed... like every flight I've ever taken out of O'Hare...) I would have loved to spend more time walking down memory lane there.
I took classes through CTD because I'd participated in something called the "Midwest Academic Talent Search." Through this program, middle school students take an out-of-level test (I took the SAT) to provide more data on their level of advancement. On grade-level tests, gifted students tend to score in the 99th percentile, but on out-of-level tests, their scores spread out over the whole bell curve. I'm happy to report that I did quite well, even winning a partial scholarship to the summer program my 8th grade year. I received the award at a ceremony at Northwestern University. I also was recognized at a ceremony called "Achievers All" that the South Bend Community School Corporation held at the end of the year.
This experience is pretty typical for students who do well in talent searches. A survey by CTD found that after receiving MATS results, 66% of school coordinators recognize participants by handing out certificates at a special ceremony. However, in most schools, they don't do anything else. Only about 20% held meetings with parents and/or students to help them interpret the scores, and only 16% provided some sort of letter or materials they'd developed about the topic. A grand total of 2.8% communicated with parents about subsequent educational services that might be available. A full 22% of school coordinators said they did no special follow-up. I am traveling in Canada right now and don't have my HTML cheat sheet, but here's a link to the study results:
Since Dr. Julian Stanley did the first talent search at Johns Hopkins years ago, talent searches have done an excellent job of finding highly gifted kids. They have also done a great job of providing summer classes at top universities for these gifted kids. But the classes are expensive. Ideally, when a child does incredibly well on an out-of-level test, it should trigger action in their regular school. It should be time to figure out that, hey, if the kid is achieving the same scores as a high school senior, maybe she should be taking the same classes as high school seniors. But this almost never happens. Instead, schools treat it as a fun reason to hold an award ceremony.
Across the Midwest, schools should be receiving MATS scores around now (the SAT date was 1/27 and the ACT was 2/10). And unfortunately, most schools will fill out a certificate and file the scores somewhere to never be seen again.