In 1979, a seventh-grader possessing the advanced math chops to tackle calculus first needed to tussle with an even larger foe--a school system often reluctant to meet the special needs of high-ability learners.
In this environment was born the Institute for the Academic Advancement of Youth, formerly known as CTY, which celebrates its 20-year anniversary this weekend.
"The institute started as a grass-roots effort by Julian Stanley and a small circle of ardent supporters of gifted education who wanted more enriching academic work for their children," says Lea Ybarra, executive director of the institute.
The story actually begins earlier--in 1971--when Julian Stanley, then professor of psychology, had a chance meeting with a seventh-grader named Joe Bates who had exhausted many math and computer science offerings then available in the Baltimore area. The result of that encounter? "My life and career were never to be the same," wrote Stanley in Intellectual Talent (Johns Hopkins Press), as he worked with Bates and others to accelerate and enrich their educations.
Flash forward to the late 1970s, which saw the maturing of the institute's methods, in which students were assessed through standardized testing and then, if found qualified, offered challenging academic course work. The first summer program was held for 109 students in 1979 at St. Mary's College in southern Maryland.
Twenty years later, in 1999, the institute's talent search identified more than 90,000 students in grades two through 10. Its summer programs served more than 8,000 students, from 40 states and 42 countries, at 17 different sites throughout the United States. An additional 10,000 students participated in other educational programs, ranging from one-day conferences to distance learning courses. Many institute students are able to attend programs with financial aid, as the institute provided a half million dollars in assistance in 1999.
Programs like the institute's have garnered greater credence and national attention. On Sept. 21, USA Today reported, "In the past two decades, Stanley's concept has been replicated throughout the nation, providing a research base for gifted education. ... Indirectly, the talent searches helped nudge high schools to expand their offerings to all students."
As for the future? "My three chief goals are to make programs available for all children who otherwise qualify, to make gains in the diversity of our student body and to continue to focus on effective educational practices," says Ybarra. "We have a lot to be proud of, and a lot yet to accomplish."
The institute celebrates its anniversary at Hopkins this Saturday, Oct. 9. About 500 institute students, parents, alumni and donors will be on hand.