Taking the SCAT Test and Testing for Talent

by Sandra Foyt on September 22, 2011. Updated February 11, 2012

in Enrichment Ideas

When these articles first appeared on www.TheJourneyMom.com, my eight-year-old son had just taken the SCAT test. In the years since, I’ve come to appreciate the inherent value in learning not to fear standardized tests as well as the opportunities that this admission test opens up – not least of which is the Johns Hopkins family academic and educational travel programs.

Taking the SCAT Test

cty_alex.jpgMy son took his first standardized test today.

In less than one hour, he completed the SCAT test on a computer where he quickly clicked on the multiple choice questions.  Perhaps too quickly.  The test administrator mentioned that he didn’t seem to be reading all the possible answers, and he seemed to choose “A” way too many times.  We’ll find out in three weeks whether he chose well, or not.

Afterwards, he told me that he didn’t understand some of the questions.  It took some digging but I finally figured out that he was introduced to analogy questions, the bane of college entrance exams.

I suppose that in our society this could be considered a rite of passage.  Today, he discovered the intricacies of  an analogy question.   Why, you ask?  Will he ever need to understand analogies in the real world?  Is this just a bizarre verbal question only found on college admissions tests?  What is the point of subjecting an 8-year-old to a standardized test?

I can’t say that I have a good answer.  The Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth offers a list of testing benefits, and I have a few of my own.   Mostly, I’m still figuring our what I’m doing homeschooling a child who may or may not be intellectually gifted.  I guess I’m hoping that this test will give me some indication of whether or not he excels in verbal or mathematical reasoning.

If he does excel in either area, I may need to reconsider whether I’m offering enough challenging instruction.  If he does poorly, I may want to review whether I’m giving him enough exposure to age-appropriate material.

Still, it’s just one assessment tool, and perhaps not the best one.  I’m still debating meeting with a Gifted & Talented Counselor who can administer a barrage of tests and give me specific advice for my son, especially about some of the social and emotional challenges that we face.  We’ll see.  I have to ponder that for a bit.

In the meantime, I asked my son how he felt about the SCAT test.  He said it was mostly OK, except for the math material that he had never seen before.  And he really didn’t like the self-assessment at the end where he was asked to rate his performance.  When asked why, he responded, “Well, I really don’t like to face the truth.”

Testing For Talent

One of the joys of homeschooling is the absence of tests. Yet, today I registered both of my kids in Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth (CTY) Talent Search. As part of this program, they can both look forward to taking the SCAT test which compares their verbal and math reasoning skills to that of students two grades above.

Why did I sign them up for the Talent Search? CTY provides an excellent list of benefits:

  1. Reveal or reaffirm academic abilities
  2. Provide statistical data about Talent Search participants’ test scores by grade
  3. Recognize your child for academic talent
  4. Provide access to CTY’s rewarding Family Academic Programs
  5. Give your child a chance to qualify for CTY’s Summer and Distance Education Programs

These are all good reasons to have your child participate in the Talent Search; but I would add two more: academic check up and ammunition.

First, the Talent Search test is a kind of academic check up. I already know or suspect that both of my kids are gifted learners. This has been confirmed through tests and experience with my older child, while my younger child appears to have similar abilities. What I don’t know is what impact our school choices (project based private school for one, homeschool for the other) will have on their ability to perform well on the standardized tests that determine academic opportunities. Testing this year, and in future years when required for the homeschooled child, will give us some insight about the efficacy of our schooling while giving them a chance to practice their test-taking skills.

Second, the Talent Search results provide a kind of ammunition when advocating for your child. School administrators and teachers are more likely to believe that a student is a gifted learner when there are test results backing up that assertion. Even with this kind of empirical evidence, there may be very little that a school district can do for your child. For now, we chose to remove our children from the public school because there wasn’t adequate programming for them at their grade levels. In the future, if things change, we may want to let them return to public school, and then these test results may help them get into desired programs.

If I thought that these tests would be stressful to these kids, none of these reasons would be worth any amount of emotional hardship. So far, neither kid has ever worried about a test. So, why not test for talent?

Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) Talent Search

The CTY Talent Search identifies, assesses, and recognizes students with exceptional mathematical and/or verbal reasoning abilities. After online application, students in Grades 2-6 take the SCAT test while those in Grades 7-8 take the SAT to qualify for:

Prepping for the SCAT

It is unnecessary to prepare for the SCAT test, but a little familiarity with the test format might help reduce stress:

Otherwise, reading a lot and working through challenging math problems is all the prep needed. Additionally, offering a rich assortment of enrichment programs can help inspire passionate lifelong learners. For a long list of enrichment ideas –  in a variety of subjects such as art, engineering, and storybook travel – visit our Enrichment page.

| Sandra Foyt inspires lifelong-learners to travel the world. A former education advocate and enrichment coach, she lived in Buenos Aires, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Washington, D.C., New York City, and Southern California before settling in Northeast NY with two teens, an outdoorsy husband, and a well-indulged Chocolate Lab. Sandra contributes to Being Latino, and her portfolio appears at www.SandraFoyt.com. Email: sandrafoyt@albanykid.com, Twitter @SandraFoyt.

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