Tag Archives: IQ

The Perfect Test

By Lisa Hartwig

Lisa is the mother of 3 gifted children and lives outside of San Francisco.

At my son’s kindergarten parent/teacher conference, his teacher played a game with my husband and me. She put 3 marbles on the table and asked us to close our eyes. When we opened them, we saw 2 marbles. She asked us how many she was holding in her hand. When we told her “one”, she repeated the game with 4 marbles.

Our son’s teacher told us she played this game with each student until the child no longer gave the correct answer. All the children in her class stopped at 10 marbles, except my son. She played with him until she had 20 marbles on the table. Then she stopped. She told us that he was clearly very good at math.
I left the meeting feeling proud of my son’s talent and satisfied with the teacher’s assessment. My husband wasn’t.

“Why didn’t she keep going until he gave the wrong answer?”

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Why We Do What We Do: Portfolio-Based Applications

By Jessica Houben

IEA’s programs – Academy, Apprenticeship, the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship, Yunasa, and Yunasa West – are geared toward gifted children ages 7-18, who think and learn differently from the norm. Every year we receive numerous applications for each program, and every applicant is truly amazing and unique. Identifying students who will most benefit from our programs and services is critical to our success. In order to do this, we need to find out who they are, what they know, and what interests them.

Because each gifted child has so many interests and dimensions, IEA feels that it is important to gather a variety of information to assist our selection committees in matching applicants with the most appropriate programs and services. These decisions are very difficult. We have to determine the students for whom the program will best fit their intellectual, social, emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. Even when applicants are not chosen or placed, they are still some of the best! We have to look at all aspects of the applicant, as grades and test scores do not tell the whole story. This is why each application that comes to us is evaluated by several members of our staff, why we conduct interviews, and why we use a portfolio-based application.

Our portfolio-based applications are designed to provide each student with the opportunity to highlight their individual talents, skills, creativity, and problem solving abilities. These are not things we could determine from a test score alone.

As part of our applications, we ask for several things:

  • Application form (we need everyone’s general information)
  • Short-answer questions
  • Essay questions
  • Test scores
  • Transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Parent statements
  • Samples of student work

Short-answer questions show us what the students are passionate about, what their interests are, and what their daily life is like outside of all of the academics in which they are involved.

Essay questions highlight problem solving skills and help us to understand how students think about things, what their perspective is on the world, and how they see themselves as part of their families, communities, and society as a whole.

Test scores give us a measure of the students’ strengths, so that we can place them in a situation that is the best fit for their educational needs. We like to set our participants up for success!

Transcripts tell us the applicants’ academic stories, what their experiences have been, and what they are currently doing to meet their goals.

Letters of recommendation give us a sense of the applicants’ attitude, values, and unique characteristics that other aspects of the application are unable to provide. These letters are usually from people who have worked with the student and know them well.

Parent statements provide us with even more information about a student’s personal strengths and weaknesses, give insight into the applicant’s character, and highlight the reasons why he or she would be a good fit for our program. A parent’s voice is often an invaluable resource for assessing who an applicant is and what he or she has to offer.

Samples of student work demonstrate what the students have already told us through the other pieces of the application. For the Apprenticeship Program in particular, we use the work samples to gauge their past work experiences. For all programs, the work samples often bring an applicant’s passions to life.

We know that students are more than just a list of their academic accomplishments, that there is a person behind the application. This is why it is necessary to have several determining factors when making our decisions, so that we know as much about an individual as possible. We also do our best to create an application that is of interest to the applicant, providing an important opportunity for self-reflection, critical thinking, and discovery. Our hope is that the application and evaluation process helps us to have a positive impact on the lives our programs touch!

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By the Numbers

By Lisa Hartwig

Lisa is the mother of 3 gifted children who lives outside of San Francisco.

"As part of the gifted community, I think it is our responsibility to share our stories so that we feel less isolated."I feel responsible to a number: my son’s IQ score. I’ve spent 9 years struggling with my relationship to it. I’ve gone from feeling absolved of any responsibility to taking full responsibility for what the number means for his future. Eventually, I found a peaceful place in which the number and I can coexist. I just needed to see his IQ score for what it is: an invitation to challenge my assumptions about what giftedness means and to educate myself about my son’s needs.

I received my son’s IQ score by accident. I shouldn’t have been surprised; after all, I hired a psychologist to have him assessed. She told me that she was going to give him a test to “see how he learns.” She was, after all, an expert, and I needed help. I had no idea that this was her euphemism for an IQ test.

I contacted the psychologist when my son was in kindergarten. He was multiplying and dividing large “defense” and “attack” points while “dueling” with his older brother during Yu-Gi-Oh games. At the same time, my son’s intense nature took a turn for the worse. He cried every day on the walk to school. The timing of these two events made me wonder if his mathematical talent was connected to the distress he experienced on the way to school. It seemed coincidental, but I wasn’t sure.

My husband and I talked about what to do. I thought he should be tested. I had no idea what he should be tested for, but I was sure that there was some sort of test that could help me better understand my son. My husband made a prophetic statement. He said, “Before you get him tested, you should know what you are going to do with the information.” I thought he was crazy. How could I know what to do before I got the results?

When I received the results, I still had no idea what to do with them. Everyone else, however, thought they knew exactly what they meant and what I should do. According to my friends, my son was “cream,” as in “the cream will rise to the top.” Homework would be easy, GPAs would be high, and I didn’t need to do anything. The teachers at my son’s public school seemed to agree with this assessment. Their idea of differentiating the curriculum for him required no work on their part. They assigned projects and expected my son to extend and enhance them on his own. I call this type of differentiation “smart kids will act smart.” He didn’t oblige, so I changed tactics.

I swung wildly to the other extreme and took full responsibility for ensuring that the promise indicated by the number was realized. We hired tutors and subscribed to online learning courses. We enrolled him in an independent school for gifted children. After all, if the IQ number represented my son’s ability, then a subpar GPA or SAT score would reflect an inadequate educational or family environment, right? This view of his IQ score fit my “middle child” sense of responsibility perfectly. It just wasn’t true.

The substantial resources we directed to my son’s education turned out to be money and time well spent, though not exactly for the reasons I expected. I was not guaranteeing excellence; I was addressing challenges. I needed to reevaluate my assumptions about my son’s education much the same way that parents with children who have learning differences need to adjust their expectations about their children’s needs.

It turns out that his emotional intensity is connected to his gifted intellect. His sensitivity to sensory stimulation exhausted him and made him irritable. His aptitude for pattern recognition caused him to overcomplicate simple tasks. His classmates’ reaction to his developmental asynchrony caused him to “dumb-down” his performance. When we changed his environment, he found peers who were similarly excited about learning and teachers who understood his occasional outbursts and celebrated his creative problem solving. He developed new passions and let some of his anxieties go.

With the help of organizations like the Institute for Educational Advancement that study and support gifted children, I learned about my son’s needs. I still get it wrong, and it’s those stories I like to share because I learn more from my failures than my successes. As part of the gifted community, I think it is our responsibility to share our stories so that we feel less isolated. So, I’ll start with this story, because I am, above all, very responsible.

What was your experience when you first found out your child is gifted? Please share with us in the comment section below!

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