The Johns Hopkins Gazette: February 25, 2002
February 25, 2002
VOL. 31, NO. 23


CTY to Guide British Program

sponsored academy will target top 5 percent of students

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Boiled down to a simple form, the vision of the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth is that no country can afford to let academically gifted children fall through the cracks. Across the "pond," that message is being heard loud and clear.

CTY, which already has helped develop programs in Ireland and Spain, will now serve as the model for Great Britain's new National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth, a British government-sponsored program to provide services and advanced courses for the top 5 percent of English elementary and secondary students. CTY will assist the University of Warwick in the academy's formation and talent search.

Lea Ybarra heads the Center for Talented Youth, which enrolls 9,000 students in summer programs annually. Great Britain's academy will begin this year with a target audience of 100.

Stephen Timms, school standards minister for Great Britain, said, "We ignore the needs of our most able young people at our peril. If we are to have a truly inclusive education system, we must enable every single child to fulfill his or her potential, including those with exceptional ability.

"I am particularly pleased that as well as the University of Warwick we have been able to secure the expertise of the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University in the U.S.A.," said Timms, who will visit JHU and CTY this week.

The British academy is scheduled to open this summer, admitting 100 students for a three-week residential program on the University of Warwick's campus. The program will be expanded to serve 600 in its second year and is eventually expected to enroll 3,600 students annually.

Founded in 1979, CTY is a self-supporting unit of Johns Hopkins that identifies the country's most academically able young students, grades two through 10, and offers them three-week summer programs, distance-learning courses and weekend conferences to nurture intellectual abilities and enhance personal development. More than 9,000 students annually enroll in CTY's summer programs, held at Johns Hopkins and on 18 other American college campuses across the country. An additional 4,300 take its distance-learning courses, and 9,000 students participate in its conferences.

In 1992, CTY partnered with the University of Dublin to create the Irish Centre for Talented Youth, which provides college-level courses for high-ability students ages 12 to 16. Late last year, CTY Espagna was created in Pamplona, Spain, by a professor at the University of Navarre, also in Spain.

The British government initially contacted CTY a year ago about its interest in being involved with the creation of an English equivalent of the successful Hopkins center.

"They wanted information on how our programs are run to be included in the request for proposal," says Lea Ybarra, executive director of CTY. "We were happy to know that there are other countries that would want to use our model."

It was not long before someone came calling.

Last July, the newly named vice-chancellor of the University of Warwick, David VandeLinde, came to Baltimore to invite CTY to collaborate on a proposal. VandeLinde knew the program well--from 1979 to 1992, he was dean of the Whiting School of Engineering.

"In my years at Johns Hopkins University, I was privileged to witness the growth and development of [the CTY] program and to see what a difference it made to the lives of so many young people," VandeLinde says. "I, therefore, retain a strong personal commitment to the creation of similar opportunities for gifted and talented youth in [England] and believe that the University of Warwick and its partners will deliver a national academy of which we can be proud." The other core partner is the Research Centre for Able Pupils at Oxford Brookes University.

Ybarra, a former adminstrator in the University of California system who took the helm of CTY 1997, says what she believes drew Warwick to Hopkins is that few, if any, of CTY's competitors offer as extensive a program or have the amount of international exposure and experience--students from more than 60 counties have participated in CTY programs.

"I also think they really wanted someone who had hands-on experience in not only talent identification but in curriculum: What kinds of courses do you offer, and how do you structure them during the summer so you can really give the students a good experience?" Ybarra says.

Paul Greatrix, interim director of the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth, says that University of Warwick officials were attracted to CTY's time-tested model.

"CTY was first to develop programs for gifted and talented young people," Greatrix says. "[It has] the track record, the experience and knowledge gained over many years about what works and what doesn't and an international reputation for their activities."

Greatrix says that in the organization and operation of the pilot summer program, the academy will be drawing heavily on CTY's experience. CTY also will offer assistance in providing online materials for students.

CTY's relationship with Warwick will be primarily as a consultant. In return for its services, the center will receive 100,000 annually (approximately $143,000 at today's exchange rate) through the academy's first five years.

Ybarra says that in the coming months the center will help select tests to identify gifted students and help arrange testing sites. She says the need for CTY's expertise in this area is based partly on the fact that K-12 standardized tests are not as common to overseas students as to their American counterparts.

Warwick also will ask for input into the new academy's curriculum, she says, but adds that the final product will be inherently different from what CTY offers. One major difference is that the British academy will be offered to the top 5 percent of students, ages 11 to 18, whereas CTY focuses its efforts on the top 2 percent of American students.

"We understand that our colleagues will adapt for their own communities what we have to offer," Ybarra says. "We do know, however, that the academy has the same commitment to reaching underrepresented students as does CTY."

This summer Warwick University will send its officials to Baltimore to observe CTY at work; likewise, CTY will send some of its staff to England to observe the first three-week residential program there.

Ybarra says the center is honored to play an important role in the new academy's creation.

Greatrix, her British counterpart, says, "We are hopeful about further fruitful interactions, and some research, as we compare the different approaches in England and the U.S."

As for the next CTY international endeavor, Ybarra says that may not be too far off.

"We have a consultant who is currently working with us to see in what other places in Europe, and other parts of the world, it might be feasible for us to start CTY programs," she says. "We have been approached by many countries, but we have to be very careful that we don't grow so quickly that we lose the quality that we have in place right now."