According to standardized tests he's taken in the past, my almost-thirteen year old son qualifies for both the 'gifted' classification and the John Hopkins Center for Gifted & Talented Youth.
That's all well and good, but I don't care about labels. And I can't afford a summer program, anyway. The only thing I currently care about for which test results are relevant is where he'll go to high-school in the Fall of 2013.
And, because, as any Mutual Fund will tell you: Past results are no guarantee of future performance, I decided that he can spend the Summer studying to take the SHSAT: Specialized High School Admissions Test.
To that end, we got the prep books with their practice tests. He did one. The score was... okay. But, a good distance away from his scores on previous standardized tests.
My husband and I took a look at the questions.
I have been writing professionally for almost twenty years now.
My husband is an MIT trained engineer.
I looked at the English section. He looked at the math. (The reverse would have been tragic - trust me.)
And we both - separately, then together - came to the same conclusion: What was on this test, in both English and math, bore no relation to any skills any person would ever need to succeed in any endeavor - save taking this test.
The English portion has something called Scrambled Paragraphs. The student is given five lines of text to put together into a coherent narrative.
Who ever needs to do this?
Is this in case a book you're reading accidentally falls into a paper shredder? When would such a situation ever come up?
If you want to test reading comprehension - a skill many, many people lack these days - wouldn't it makes sense to, I don't know, test reader comprehension by asking a student to read something and comprehend it? Not to turn it into a jigsaw puzzle?
As for the math, according to my husband, the equations are written in a manner you'd never encounter in the real world. It's like they are deliberately testing your ability to solve problems no one has any use for.
However, this is the test that eighth graders all across New York City must take for placement into a specialized High School. Which means that, over the Summer, we'll be teaching our son how to acquire a useless skill set in order to jump through a set of required hoops.
Now that is a lesson in real life that everybody would do well to learn.
And the truly gifted ones? They're the ones who figure out how to work it to their advantage.