New York Times Quiz Asks: Could You Get Into a Gifted Program?

As The New York Times explores giftedness, they also offer a window into the standard measure for admission into gifted programs: the IQ test.
In a September 13, 2018 article titled "Rethinking What Gifted Education Means, and Whom It Should Serve," New York Times writer Dana Goldstein looks at timely issues around gifted programs, including admission standards and inclusivity/equity. As one of the nation's few independent schools focusing on highly gifted learners, our experienced faculty and administrators have a lot to say on the subject.

As our understanding of gifted learners evolves, we are cognizant of the need to offer resources for parents of highly gifted and gifted learners, too. Mirman School boasts a faculty of lifelong learners, and part of that appreciation translates into encouraging the spirit of inquiry in our parent body (as IQ is heritable, parents of gifted students can take pride in the fact that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree!). In recent years, part of this parent education has included unpacking and demystifying the process of IQ testing.

"I think that people sometimes imagine that an IQ assessment is a high-stakes test you need to cram for, like the SAT. What this piece does a nice job of showing, though, is that the Weschler tests are really looking at things like reasoning ability and more general cognitive skills," said Mirman's Director of Admission and Enrollment Management Brad Barry. "We often hear from parents that their children have so much fun solving these puzzles and discussing them with the psychologist that they don’t want to leave when the assessment is over!"

If you've ever wondered what your children might be asked when they're inside with a tester, the Times piece has a fun ancillary activity for you: you can try your hand to see if you'd pass muster in a gifted program admission process. Click here to explore their sample IQ test questions. In the explanations that pop up after each question, the Times quotes testing experts including Susan Engi Raiford, a senior research director at Pearson, the company which produces the WISC and other IQ tests. Mr. Barry noted that, among other noted experts, he sought the counsel of Dr. Raiford in the past to inform his research on best practices in identifying gifted learners.

"I’ve had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Raiford a few times about her work on the Wechsler tests. Not only is her team intent on reducing any biases in the tests, but she has partnered with Linda Silverman at the Gifted Development Center to make sure that the WPSSI and WISC are accurately reflecting and reporting the cognitive and intellectual functions of gifted students."

Whether or not the quiz leaves you wanting more, it's undeniably fascinating to get a peek into the types of puzzles and questions that may hint at larger gifts beneath the surface. But it's important not to rely on the IQ test as the only measure of giftedness, said Mr. Barry, particularly when there are cultural and environmental considerations at play, another fact that gets ample treatment in the Times article.

"It is important to note that while these tests give us a great snapshot of a child’s cognitive ability and how they approach different types of problems, they do not measure other meaningful characteristics like curiosity, creativity, motivation, or the ability to collaborate with others. For those important factors, we rely on our experience in getting to know the child more fully when they come on campus for a visit," he said.

At Mirman, Mr. Barry and Director of Inclusivity and Equity Connie Chiu have started a task force to examine and set goals around issues of inclusivity and equity in the admission and enrollment process, citing that traditional testing and recommendation measures can, at times, be exclusionary to wide swaths of children who would otherwise be well-served by a specialized gifted program. And the notion that the admission process must be well-rounded is well understood by all faculty and staff at Mirman, who serve students under a mission celebrating a diverse community.
A Horse With No Name No More
from the 2018-2019 Meridian 

After the school rebranded a few years ago, Athletic Director Angela Brown felt that something was missing. While new uniforms were donned for the first day of school, new signs were hung around campus, and a new website launched to accompany refreshed marketing materials, the font-forward design left something to be desired when it came to truly raising team spirit to the power of Mirman. 

In a school where more than half of the student body participates in some form of competitive athletics, and on a campus where a significant expansion created pristine courts and fields upon which one can cheer on several teams on any given day, Brown saw opportunity and sensed desire to elevate the program. After working with Jenn Salcido, Director of Marketing and Communications, and Noah Kaufman, Director of Advancement, the school’s branding was expanded to include a strong, confident (though K-8-appropriate) steed. New universal uniforms, sweatsuits, and swag followed suit. 

“It’s a truly exciting time for athletics at Mirman,” said Brown. “It’s a sense of pride that you can see and feel. It’s almost like we’ve arrived. You could have taken a snapshot of the students in their old uniforms, and then with their new ones with the names on the back. It’s a rallying cry. You can see the pride on their faces.”  

Finally, everyone could don uniforms featuring their own names writ large. Everyone except, of course, the horse. Everyone knew we had a mascot — you’d see the nameless Mustang trotted out for the occasional assembly or championship bout — but nobody really knew the mascot. 

What if the community could help change that? 

Last fall, Brown and her colleagues in the Physical Education department introduced a contest at an all-school assembly. The objective: not only to name the Mustang, but to tell the mascot’s story. Over the course of a 6-day cycle, ballots were collected from every grade level in both divisions. With Salcido’s help, Brown and Assistant to the Athletic Director Alyssa Woods tallied the results. 

The judges carefully considered the entries, assessing them on an unwritten rubric including points for overall catchiness, gender-neutrality, universal appeal, and other considerations. As the dust settled, one clear winner emerged: Rider. In retrospect, it seemed rather obvious. The school had only recently unveiled its Core Values (Responsibility, Integrity, Discovery, Empathy, and Resilience). And as equine monikers go, Rider makes a certain degree of sense. The name was revealed with much aplomb at an all-school assembly, with Rider trotting out on stage to show off a newly-minted personalized jersey. 

The winning entry belonged to Room 4L students Victoria A. and Amelie S., who soon revealed that they had a little help from their friends, specifically former Room 4L co-teacher and current Librarian Allison Sparks. 

“We had just had a community circle in class talking about the Core Values,” said Sparks. “This was something new to me as a new member of the Mirman community. When I asked the class out loud if they’d considered Rider for the Mustang name, a few of the students wanted to suggest it.” 

“I laughed it off and dismissed the idea,” Sparks admitted. “I thought that since it had come from an adult, it wouldn’t count. But when I saw how excited they were when they submitted it, I knew the name rang true. It really came out of an ‘a ha’ moment we had together as a class. 

“It relates so much to our school and Core Values and helps us make sure we’re always doing the right thing,” said Victoria A. of the new name. 

“It’s amazing to be part of our school history,” added Amelie S. 

The two girls, who themselves represent Mirman on the basketball court and soccer fields as part of the Room 4 teams, admitted that, like many great ideas, their first iteration didn’t ring quite as true. “I think we wanted to do mustard,” said Victoria. 

“Or mayonnaise,” said Amelie. 

As it turns out, most things do get better with teamwork. 

Like any ballot box, this one was not without its curiosities once opened up. Here were a few of the voting trends: 
  • More than a few students wanted to name the Mustang after themselves or their classmates 
  • One entry suggested “Vegan” 
  • “Uncle Grandpa” popped up more than a few times, much to the confusion of one judge. It was revealed upon further investigation that this is in fact an affectionate nickname for Coach Allen Foster. 
  • Regarding “The Mysterious Moose:” decidedly not a horse, but good alliteration. 

A Biography of Rider 
By Victoria A. and Amelie S., Room 4L 
(with editorial assistance from an anonymous magazine editor) 
Once upon a time, a beautiful horse was born. He* shook himself and stood up, curious about the world around him. He began to walk through the forest, stopping every so often to grab some fruit from a tree. After a while, he came upon a group of two little girls and their teacher walking through the woods.

“Hi horse! What’s your name?” the little girl asked. 

“I don’t have a name, actually. What’s yours?” the horse answered. 

“Woah, I can actually understand you,” said the little girl. “That’s so cool!” 

The girls and their teacher spoke with the horse a while longer, introducing themselves and getting to know each other. They wondered aloud why the horse didn’t have a name. 

“I just haven’t thought of one yet,” he said. “I’ve only just been born!” 

The trio brainstormed about names for a while, but then got sidetracked with what they all wanted to be when they grew up. “Do you have any ideas,” asked the teacher?” 

“I want to be a head of school!” one of the girls said. “And my school will need to have Core Values, but I don’t know what those should be.” 

“Maybe I can help you,” volunteered the horse. 

“You need to have responsibility,” began the teacher. “And integrity.” 

“And empathy for other horses!” said the horse. 

“We’ll need to discover things along the way!” said the other girl. 

“And you’ll need some resilience,” the horse finished. 

Suddenly, the trio and the horse looked at one another. “How would you feel if we called you Rider in honor of those core values?” asked the teacher. 

By now, you know how this story ends — happily ever after, surrounded by the cheering crowds. 

*while Rider is a male horse in this story, we know from his biographers that he really can be any gender! Everyone can and should be able to identify with Rider. 
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