Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response: Donate and Lend Your Support

A "transformative opportunity"

March 9, 2021 by Sara Falligant

Support from CTY’s Advisory Council fuels development of online testing

In March 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic prompted stay-at-home orders that shuttered schools and businesses, Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) was faced with a twofold challenge — creating online testing to identify gifted students without the availability of traditional testing centers and funding those efforts, fast.

“We had this crush of students and families seeking this additional support and engagement because they weren’t getting it at home. If we had not turned on the testing, we would not have been able to allow those students into our program,” says Rob Arena, senior director of CTY’s online programs. “That was crucial for us to be able to grow at the rate we were growing.”

The School and College Ability Test, or SCAT, presents elementary to high school-aged students with the opportunity to gain eligibility to attend CTY’s programs. But building an online testing program, including real-time proctoring to maintain the integrity of the test, required quick funding. The CTY management team took the request to CTY’s Advisory Council. Four members of the council — Laura and John Overdeck, Pete and Beth Hammack, James and Ashley Li, and Jesse Wu — gave $160,000 to build and launch the program.

It’s critical that programs like CTY find our most talented kids and give them the intellectual challenges that will motivate them to become tomorrow’s trailblazers. Testing is the tool that unearths that talent, often in the most unexpected places, and it benefits us all.”

Laura Overdeck, CTY parent and advisory council member

For Laura Overdeck, a CTY parent of three children and past advisory council chair who is also married to a CTY alumnus, funding online testing was imperative.

“Whether it’s a new vaccine, a green source of energy, or a better cell tower, our most talented inventors improve our quality of life every day,” she says. “It’s critical that programs like CTY find our most talented kids and give them the intellectual challenges that will motivate them to become tomorrow’s trailblazers. Testing is the tool that unearths that talent, often in the most unexpected places, and it benefits us all.”

Once the project was funded, a cross CTY team worked quickly to get it up and running. The team spent hundreds of hours developing the online testing and worked with departments from across CTY, including IT, communications, and disability support services.

“We had to come up with a solution pretty quickly,” says Frank Williams, a psychometrician and CTY’s associate director of testing and assessment. “That was an all-hands-on-deck approach. It was a huge, huge effort.”

CTY’s efforts have produced tremendous results, with more than 10,000 students taking the online tests since May 2020. Online program participation doubled in just 60 days.

“I think, for our families, they appreciate the convenience. We were sending our students to adult testing centers. It’s not the most optimal testing experience for our kids,” Williams says.

In addition to being more geographically accessible, making SCAT available online helps students with disabilities and gives all students the freedom to choose when they take the test.

“It worked out for a lot of students with disabilities, with anxiety,” says Luke Kasim, CTY’s director of recruitment. “It gave us the ability to be able to ease a lot of the anxiety for our students.”

CTY now offers 180 courses to more than 21,000 students and their families across the globe.

“This really did open a lot of doors of access to families,” Arena says. “It ended up being a transformative opportunity. The amount of collaboration, coming together, the fact that this all came together in such a short amount of time was a remarkable, remarkable feat and a real shining moment in what was otherwise a dark time. This is our mission. This is why we’re here.”

Make Your Gift

Interested in supporting CTY initiatives to advance the world's brightest young students?

Topics: Parents, Center for Talented Youth, Support Scholars