COVER STORY: Talent Discovery

January 12, 2022
TIP Program

If your child is talented in athletics, music, theater, or art, you have likely looked into specialized programs in those areas of focus. Children who are creatively and academically gifted can reap similar benefits through enrichment and acceleration programs, say Baylor’s experts in gifted education.

For 38 years, Baylor School of Education has offered an array of summer and Saturday courses for gifted students to foster innovative thinking and provide academic challenge through programs including University for Young People (UYP). UYP is offered through the Baylor Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development and has focused on providing courses for high-ability students.

“When your child is a great basketball player, you send them to elite basketball camps,” said Dr. Todd Kettler, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Educational Psychology and an expert in gifted education. “Students who are gifted with academic and creative talents can similarly hone their skills at university programs, where they can become more competitive for college admission and explore career options.”

Student in Class

Now the Center is adding a new talent search program that will greatly expand the University’s services for gifted students. Based on established research and theory in identifying exceptional talent among K–12 students, the School of Education is launching the Baylor Talent Identification Program (TIP).

Baylor TIP will add new components to Baylor’s history of engagement with gifted students, while maintaining its previous commitment to excellence and equity in advanced learning opportunities.

Baylor TIP will be part of the Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development, directed by Dr. Jennifer Robins, Clinical Assistant Professor. Robins has collaborated with other gifted centers at universities across the U.S. to ensure that gifted students continue to be identified and served through talent search programs after the closing in 2020 of one of the nation’s best-known programs, Duke TIP.

Through a talent search process like Baylor TIP, students take a college-readiness assessment in an earlier grade than would be customary — a strategy called above-level testing. Baylor TIP will roll out the implementation of above-level testing opportunities, customized educational recommendations, and new programs this academic year.

Robins said the assessment piece is important in analyzing the gifts of students and how those gifts can be optimized.

“When gifted students take standardized tests on their own grade level, they often do so well that they hit the test ceiling, providing little information about their true abilities and potential,” Robins noted. “Offering an above-level test reveals what the student is capable of doing and offers information to the parents and school to better meet the child’s academic needs.”

Goals of the Baylor Talent Identification Program

  • Provide transformative learning opportunities to precollegiate student in the area of STEM and the humanities
  • Identify and recruit diverse students from Texas and surrounding areas with the ability, interest, and motivation to achieve at exceptional levels.
  • Prepare precollegiate students for exceptional achievement by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment in a caring environment.

Baylor TIP is much more than testing. Students taking the Baylor TIP assessment will receive a detailed score report and cognitive profile in math and verbal aptitude, plus customized educational recommendations for interventions based on the student’s profile.

“Baylor TIP will provide a diagnostic profile of each student’s strengths and educational recommendations to go with it,” Kettler said.

Baylor’s addition of new programming is also important, Kettler said, noting that a significant part of student learning happens outside of the formal classroom. That’s one way students can translate high ability into high achievement.

Baylor TIP will use two new college-readiness assessments —
the College Readiness Assessment and the Indicator of Academic Readiness. The Center has partnered with Knowsys Educational Services, a testing company with offices in the U.S. and Europe and significant experience in test-preparation courses. The partnership is exclusive to Baylor, and it allows Baylor to offer tests with a similar profile to standard college admission tests. Through the Knowsys partnership, Baylor faculty experts can continue to analyze individual test items to evaluate levels of difficulty or discrimination, and revise test items to continually improve the psychometrics of the assessments.

The test designed for eighth and ninth graders will be offered to fourth- and fifth-grade students, and the test designed at the tenth- and eleventh-grade level will be offered to seventh and eighth graders.

Robins noted that the assessments will add a new dimension to the Center’s outreach. “Using the talent profiles developed through assessments, Baylor will not only provide customized advice for each student, but also develop accelerated courses that are targeted and designed specifically to meet the students' needs and capture their interests,” 
Robins said.

For more than 20 years, Baylor’s programs for gifted students have offered a scholarship component, and those efforts will continue, Robins said. Baylor TIP will focus on identifying, recruiting, and serving gifted students from diverse backgrounds — through financial supports and by using multiple measures for nomination and identification of students.

For more information about Baylor TIP, parents and school personnel may contact Baylor Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development:
Website: ">
Phone: 254-710-2171