Vanderbilt University announced in a Sept. 6 press release that research taken from the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY) found that SAT scores of 13-year-old gifted students can predict their future career paths and creative direction, giving some insight into how the country’s most intellectually talented youngsters might be identified. The findings are likely to be useful to the goals of the new America Competes Act.
On Aug. 9, President Bush signed into law the $43 billion America Competes Act of 2007. In announcing the signing, the White House said that the bill “shares the goals of the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI), a comprehensive strategy to keep America the most innovative nation in the world by strengthening our scientific education and research, improving our technological enterprise, attracting the world’s best and brightest workers, and providing 21st century job training.”
In essence, the goal of the bill is to keep the U.S. scientifically and technologically competitive by focusing on the most intellectually gifted in those areas. Vanderbilt’s SMPY study suggests that looking at the SAT scores of gifted youngsters is a reliable way to identify the “best and brightest.”
The SMPY was founded in 1971 at Johns Hopkins University and involves the 50-year longitudinal study and tracking of more than 5,000 intellectually gifted individuals in order to better understand the unique needs of “intellectually precocious youth.” The study looked at the educational and professional accomplishments of 2,409 adults who had been identified as being in the top 1 percent of ability 25 years earlier, at age 13.
Drs. David Lubinski and Camilla Benbow, both are professors of psychology at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College and co-authors of the SMPY. Lubinski said that the nation’s “economy depends upon the creative sector – science, technology, the arts, medicine, law and entertainment. Our research finds that differences in creative potential among highly gifted youth can be identified at age 13, offering opportunities for educators and policy makers to develop programs to cultivate these individuals based on their unique strengths and abilities.”
Benbow said they found “significant differences in the creative and career paths of individuals who showed different ability patterns on the math and verbal portions of the SAT at age 13. Individuals showing more ability in math had greater accomplishments in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, while those showing greatest ability on the verbal portion of the test went on to excel in the humanities-art, history, literature, languages, drama and related fields.”
The press release says that the overall creative potential of the study participants was exceptional. Among them, they have earned a total of 817 patents and had some 93 books published. Benbow said that SMPY “has already shown that highly achieving adults can be identified at an early age. These results now show us that we can also predict in which areas they are most likely to excel. The policy question becomes: how best can we support individuals such as these, especially during their formative years, to help promote their development and success?”
These findings contradict even recent reports that the SAT has no predictive value. Lubinski explains that the “key factor in our study is that the SAT was administered at a young age. When students take the test in high school, the most able students all score near the top, and individual differences are harder to see. Using the test with gifted students at a young age allows us to easily identify differences in strengths and abilities that could potentially be used to help shape that person’s education.”
The SAT is an important step toward gaining college acceptance. But the newest research with gifted youth shows that the SAT goes far beyond predicting college success. For those gifted 13-year-olds, it may actually predict his or her success and life satisfaction after graduating from college or university.
Press release, Future Career Path of Gifted Youth Can Be Predicted by Age 13; http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/533096/
White House; http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/08/20070809-6.html