h2. How to school a prodigy

AS PROUD AS you may be to learn that your child is one of the 11 percent deemed gifted by Portland Public Schools, it is not a pass for you to put your child’s education on autopilot. “Being talented and gifted isn’t sufficient for success,” says Jeffrey Sosne, a psychologist with Portland-based mental health clinic The Children’s Program. In fact, gifted children who aren’t sufficiently challenged actually may end up falling behind their peers at school, so finding out the apple of your eye is a pint-sized whiz comes with unique responsibilities. To help your brainiac reach his full potential, consider the following.

IN THE CLASSROOM: At Portland Public Schools, students who score at or above the 97th percentile on a national test (such as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills) and who have been evaluated on other performance and behavioral criteria have the option of being identified as “talented and gifted” (TAG). Educators are required by state law to teach to these students’ elevated abilities. Andrea Morgan of the Oregon Department of Education recommends that parents first talk to the child’s classroom teacher about what strategies he’ll use to instruct your child, such as flexible grouping (in which the class may work on sixth-grade math while a TAG kid works on seventh-grade math). Contact the district’s Office of Talented and Gifted (www.tag.pps.k12.or.us) to find out about more in-class options.

OUT IN THE WORLD: Your child may have the brainpower to ace his tests, but Sosne says that “you need to have activities to instill a child’s passion.” That means parents may need to seek other resources in the community to ensure their child is being properly challenged and motivated. Enrolling your kids in programs like Saturday Academy (www.saturdayacademy.org) and OMSI Science Camps (www.omsi.edu) can often help meet the demands of a gifted child. (Both offer scholarships.) —Brian Barker

h2. How to ease your test anxiety

WHEN PRESIDENT BUSH signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law in 2002, student test scores became the primary evaluation tool for gauging the performance of schools—prompting a nationwide testing craze. But just how important and accurate are test scores in determining your child’s real abilities? Wilsonville-based W. James Popham, author of Testing! Testing!: What Every Parent Should Know about School Tests, sets the record straight when he says, “Tests just aren’t as accurate as you think.” Here’s why. —Sally Powers

CLASSROOM TESTS: Most teachers aren’t required to take a preparatory course on test construction, so the subject tests your child takes in school will vary greatly in quality.



STANDARDIZED TESTS: “They’re far better, but parents should not bow down to the ‘experts,’” Popham says, noting that every test carries with it a certain margin of error. And even reputable firms sometimes fail to be as spot-on as they’d like.



ACT & SAT: “Research suggests that aptitude tests are far less predictive of a student’s ability than people think,” says Popham. A better predictor are things like study habits.



The bottom line? Don’t ascribe too much significance to any one test. Just because your child brings home a single low score, that doesn’t mean he’s destined for mediocrity. “The big message is that effort is a far greater measure of success in life and college than tests [are],” Popham says.