To Baltimore City public school student DaQuan
Chisholm's way of thinking, police officers would be a lot
safer if they could walkie-talkie each other without
removing their helmets. So, like any enterprising engineer,
he designed and made a prototype — undeterred by the
fact he'd only just finished fourth grade.
His invention earned him a meeting and pep talk last
fall with Robert Cammarata, chair of the Department of Materials Science and
Engineering at Johns Hopkins.
It's students like Chisholm that the
Center for Talented
Youth aims to spotlight in its national conference
Helping Talent Soar: Identifying and Serving Gifted
Students from All of America's Neighborhoods, taking place
at the Homewood campus this week.
The conference, which expects a national audience of
250 educators and public policy, foundation and business
leaders, will spotlight the abundance of youthful academic
talent found in students of all backgrounds. Invited guests
also will survey the American public education landscape
and describe successful programs and practices.
The conference, said CTY executive director Lea
Ybarra, poses a simple but critically important question:
Do the estimated 3 million gifted students in the United
States, out of an annual enrolled school-age population of
53 million, receive the proper accelerated, enriched and
tailored instruction necessary to make the most of their
Thursday, May 13, will kick off the conference in
Hodson Hall, with remarks by university President William
R. Brody and CTY's Ybarra, followed by the keynote address
by Johns Hopkins pediatric neurosurgeon Benjamin Carson.
The conference continues on Friday with a series of
panel presentations by national authorities; among them,
from Johns Hopkins, are Ralph Fessler, dean of the School
of Professional Studies in Business and Education; Robert
Lindgren, vice president for development and alumni
relations; Paul White, assistant dean for admissions and
financial aid in the School of Medicine; and Ybarra.
The conference receives added urgency as a dismantling
of public school gifted education programs is sweeping the
country. Baltimore City, for example, has discontinued all
gifted programs for its 103,000-student district. The
Illinois Legislature in late 2003 axed all state gifted
programs. A state funding holdback imperils funding for
gifted programs in Miami-Dade County, Fla., and its
While education cuts are being driven by state budget
shortfalls, consequences for gifted programs have been
deeper and more widespread, experts say, due to the effects
of the comprehensive No Child Left Behind Law, enacted in
"The law, though rightfully praised for its goals to
raise struggling children to proficient levels, virtually
omits mention of gifted education," Ybarra said. "Left
vulnerable for that reason, gifted programs across the
nation are ending."
Although all gifted students are hit by such cuts,
experts believe the brunt is borne by minority and
low-income students clustered in urban schools. Unlike
suburban middle-class families, low- and modest-income
households can lack the knowledge base and expendable
family dollars to seek special gifted education programs
outside school to replace discontinued public gifted
"Such students are caught by their circumstances,"
Ybarra said. "We at CTY believe that it's a critical part
of our mission to find such promising students."
While gifted programs in schools are declining,
special programs, such as Hopkins' CTY, increasingly are
serving students beyond their original, largely suburban
populations. Last year, 10.4 percent of the students in
CTY's summer programs came from groups historically
underrepresented in gifted programs — an increase
from 1 percent in 1998. Since that time, more than 260
Baltimore City school students have enrolled on full
scholarship, with financial awards totaling $670,000.
"We're encouraged by the increase and are striving to
do even better," Ybarra said.
Financial support from such philanthropies as
conference co-sponsor Goldman Sachs Foundation is giving
energetic life to this new influx of students. In addition
to student aid, the foundation has encouraged CTY to pursue
innovative new programs. In one, CTY students learn formal
business methodologies from M.B.A. students and Goldman
Sachs executives, and then appear before a jury of senior
Goldman Sachs executives to present detailed plans of their
A key goal of the foundation is to place into the
national pipeline increased numbers of students from
historically underserved groups, and prepare those students
for high-impact careers and lives.
Said Stephanie Bell-Rose, president of the Goldman
Sachs Foundation, "There are huge practical consequences
for our nation and our future generations if we fail to
cultivate the minds of our nation's brightest students from
every background. Lose them, and we lose a precious
national resource: the ingenuity, creativity and
perseverance that have been hallmarks of the American
The conference is co-sponsored by the Johns Hopkins
University Center for Talented Youth and the Goldman Sachs
Foundation, in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Council
on K-12 Education.
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