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Talent Searches: Gateway to Opportunity

by Ann Lupkowski Shoplik, Ph.D.,
September 1998

(An earlier version of this article was published in Update, the newsletter of the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education (http://giftedpage.org/). Reprinted with permission.)

The idea of a talent search was developed by Dr. Julian Stanley, a psychology professor at Johns Hopkins University. Starting in 1971, Stanley studied a number of exceptionally talented youngsters. He found that standardized tests they took in school, such as the Stanford Achievement Test or Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, simply didn’t provide enough information about the students’ abilities. They got nearly every item right on the test and hit the “ ceiling” of the test. Stanley gave a large group of 7th graders a test designed for older students, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT, now the SAT-I). This is the same test that high school juniors and seniors take each year as part of the college admissions process. Stanley found that the SAT did an excellent job of identifying exceptionally talented youngsters, and he developed a host of educational opportunities for those students, including fast-paced summer classes and weekend programs.

Stanley’s Talent Search concept has grown over the last 27 years. Now all 50 states are served by one of the regional Talent Searches housed at Johns Hopkins University, Duke University, Northwestern University, the University of Denver, and others. Over 150,000 students participate in a Talent Search each year. To qualify for the 7th grade Talent Search, students must have scored at the 97th percentile on a grade-level standardized achievement test (e.g., Iowa Tests of Basic Skills).

An outgrowth of Stanley’s work with the 7th grade Talent Searches has been the Elementary Student Talent Search (3rd - 6th graders), offered by Carnegie Mellon University, Northwestern University, the University of Iowa, and Duke University, as well as the Young Students Talent Search (5th and 6th grades) offered by Johns Hopkins University. The requirements for participation include scoring at the 95th percentile on the grade-level standardized test. For more detailed information about Talent Searches, including research findings, see the Spring 1998 issue of The Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, available from Prufrock Press (800-998-2208).

What Happens in a Talent Search?

  1. Academically talented students take an above-level test (one that was designed for students 2 to 5 years older).
  2. Students’ scores on the above-level test are spread out across the entire range of the test. The test scores help us to know more about the students’ abilities, and help experts to give educational advice tailored to the abilities of the individual student.
  3. Detailed score reports are mailed to the students and their families.
  4. Students receive educational information in the form of booklets, handbooks, newsletters, parent meetings, and career education sessions.
  5. Students are given the opportunity to participate in academic summer programs. These courses may enrich students’ educational experience and/or allow them to accelerate their academic program in middle school and high school, either resulting in early entrance to college or more time to pursue in-depth study of topics of interest.

Why Participate in a Talent Search?

  1. To have a better measure of the students’ abilities.
  2. To become eligible for educational opportunities (summer classes, informational mailings, and career symposia).
  3. For information useful in educational placement and guidance.

What Should Pennsylvanians Know?

Pennsylvanians are served by regional Talent Searches at two universities:

  1. Carnegie Mellon University’s “C-MITES Talent Search” for 3rd - 6th graders. C-MITES offers EXPLORE testing, Summer Programs at sites throughout Pennsylvania, Weekend Workshops, scholarships, newsletters, and information and resources booklets.

  2. Johns Hopkins University’s Institute for the Academic Advancement of Youth (IAAY) offers two talent Searches. The 7th grade Talent Search offers SAT-I testing; summer programs in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere; career seminars; newsletters; scholarships; and educational counseling. The Young Students Talent Search (5th and 6th graders) offers PLUS testing, summer programs, educational mailings, and scholarships.

Some Advice

Take advantage of the opportunities available to you. Consider taking the EXPLORE through Carnegie Mellon in one grade, then taking the PLUS through Johns Hopkins in another grade. Then, you will have the advantage of obtaining information from two universities specializing in offering services to gifted youth. Plan to take the SAT-I in 7th grade; taking this test opens the doors to a host of opportunities, including educational programs, scholarships, educational counseling, and recognition for your abilities.

How Can I Learn More?

Contact:

C-MITES
Carnegie Mellon University
5136 Margaret Morrison St. MMP30
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
(412) 268-1629
e-mail: cmites@cmu.edu

IAAY
3400 N. Charles Street
Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, MD 21218
(410) 516-0337

About the Author

Dr. Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik is Director of C-MITES at Carnegie Mellon University.
She was a postdoctoral fellow with Julian Stanley at Johns Hopkins University from 1986-1989.


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