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Early testing to be discussed

Practice makes perfect. At least that is what the Colorado-based nonprofit Center for Bright Kids and the Park City School District believe about the two college readiness tests, the SAT and ACT. And that’s why the nonprofit is bringing the executive director of the Center for Bright Kids, Amy Rushneck, to Park City along with the Academic Talent Search program. Rushneck is scheduled to speak with parents next week about the national program, the Academic Talent Search, which allows eligible students to take the ACT and SAT tests early without fear of the scores ending up permanent records.

"This is about getting on the ground, meeting with families and communicating the history and benefits of a program like this one," Rushneck said.

The program targets children from third through ninth grade that test in the 95 percentile on any one subject on the annual standardized tests, slowing students to practice the SAT, ACT and EXPLORE tests without the pressure that the scores would end up on their permanent record.

The Academic Talent Search is a national program which got its start with a number of top universities, including the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, the Duke Talent Identification Program, and the Northwestern Center for Talent Development. For more than 30 years, the program has been in Utah schools.

"Kids can take these out-of-level tests, tests that they usually would not consider until they are preparing for college," said Gina Mason, the PCSD Gifted and Talented Program specialist. "This gives bright kids a chance to take these tests and we can gauge better where their abilities are at."

Beyond the practice the test provides to students taking the ACT or SAT, the program also includes the EXPLORE test, an eighth grade assessment test created by the ACT. Under the Academic Talent Search program, third, fourth and fifth grade students would be allowed to take the test. With high scores from the EXPLORE test, Mason said she works with teachers to develop those over-achieving students’ skills.

"As a parent, you maybe want to look into summer programs or after school programs," Mason said. "We want parents to look at how to enhance those skills by encouraging and developing the talents we identify in testing."

Another benefit of the program is removing that "scariness" associated with tests such as the ACT and SAT, Rushneck said.

Certain colleges are changing old policies where admission boards only looked at top scores, and are starting to ask to see every score on a student’s record. With that shift in attitudes toward the tests, Rushneck said the early testing approach is more important than ever.

"The score does not go onto students’ permanent record," Rushneck said. "People would take the test over and over again, dozens of times. Admission boards have become savvy to that practice, that it is not the purpose of these tests."

Rushneck is scheduled to speak with parents on Thursday, Sept. 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the Ecker Hill Auditorium. Rushneck serves as the executive director of the Center for Bright Kids and the Rocky Mountain region’s Regional Talent Development Center. She will be sharing information on participation in the Western Academic Talent Search.


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