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.
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