'Gifted of the gifted'


POSTED: Sunday, May 24, 2009
This story has been corrected.  See below.

The sole Hawaii student singled out in a nationwide search for exceptionally talented middle-schoolers is surprised by the honor, but not by the high math score that won him the accolade.

“;There were only two questions that I couldn't answer, so I left (the test) feeling I had done pretty well, but I didn't expect all this. It's very exciting,”; said Zhaodong Chen, 12, a seventh-grader at Punahou School who won a Study of Exceptional Talent award last week from the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University.

The SET identifies students younger than 13 who score 700 or higher (800 is perfect) on either the math or critical reading section of the college-entrance SAT Reasoning Test, typically taken by high school juniors. This year, 341 pre-teens nationwide made the cut, including only Zhaodong in Hawaii.

SET recipients qualify for special college-level summer classes and free educational counseling and are connected with other exceptional students nationwide, via an online program.

“;These are the gifted of the gifted, basically 1 in 10,000 kids, and we try to help them develop their full potential,”; Matt Bowden, a CTY communications coordinator, said in a telephone interview from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.

Zhaodong said he does not feel unusual at Punahou, which he entered at sixth grade.

“;There are a lot of challenging activities and I have a lot of friends here, so I feel really comfortable in this environment,”; said Zhaodong, who attended Hokulani Elementary School for fourth and fifth grades, after moving to Honolulu from China's Hunan province, where he excelled in math from an early age, thanks to tutoring by his father, a computer engineer.

“;My dad helps me in math especially. My mom (a doctoral candidate at UH) taught English language in China, and she helps me with that,”; said Zhaodong, who looks forward to taking honors algebra next year.

Although Zhaodong was the only SET honoree from Hawaii this year, 97 other students in grades two through eight did qualify for “;high honors”; in various other Center for Talented Youth testing categories. One student - 'Iolani School eighth-grader Amanegentoku Morigami - posted the top score nationwide among 497 seventh- and eighth-graders who took the Spatial Test Battery (STB), a test measuring visual-spatial ability.

“;It's a great honor. He had the highest score last year, too,”; said his mom, Nathalie Morigami.

Amanegentoku, 14, also took the SAT and earned “;high honors”; on that exam.

Even being eligible for CTY's Talent Search is an achievement, as tryouts are limited to students who have scored at the 95th percentile or higher on a nationally standardized test.

Bowden said 518 such Hawaii students signed up for the 2009 Talent Search, and 98, or about 19 percent, scored high enough on subsequent tests to earn “;high honors”; from CTY, qualifying for online courses and summer classes at colleges such as Johns Hopkins, Stanford University and Hawaii Pacific University.

“;These kids are basically testing in the top 1 to 2 percent. It's quite an achievement,”; he said.

CTY released first- and second-place Hawaii rankings for participants in fifth through eighth grades, a list that includes a total of 20 students from 11 private and public schools.

The broad spectrum pleased Niu Valley Intermediate School principal Justin Mew, who especially praised two Niu eighth-graders - Jason Cheng and Wataru Sugahara - cited by CTY.

“;They're great students. We advance kids if they are ready for it and want to move ahead,”; said Mew. “;In this case, both boys are taking high-school algebra in eighth grade.

“;We set high standards at our school and want all our students to be challenged,”; Mew said. “;When they soar, we soar. So this is great news.”;



Hawaii's top students in the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth's 2009 Talent Search. Fifth- and sixth-graders took the SCAT test; seventh- and eighth-graders took the SAT.

Koen KomeyaFirstQuantitativeAssets School
Kento TanakaFirstVerbalAina Haina Elem.
Kaitlyn TakataSecondQuantitative'Iolani School
Malia BrooksSecondVerbalWaialae Elem.
Taja Hirata-EpsteinSecondVerbal'Iolani School
Logan UyedaSecondVerbalAina Haina Elem.
Bradley WongSecondVerbalHawaii Baptist Ac.
Shirley LinFirstQuantitativePunahou School
Thomas HarmonFirstVerbalParker School
Kady MatsuzakiFirstVerbal'Iolani School
Kelsey KidaSecondQuantitative'Iolani School
Samantha CrozierSecondVerbalSt. Andrew's
MatthewFirstCombinedHawaii Tech.
Beattie-Callahan  Academy
MatthewFirstReading**Hawaii Tech.
Beattie-Callahan  Academy
Zhaodong Chen*FirstMathPunahou School
Zhaodong ChenSecondCombinedPunahou School
Aidan MoritaSecondReading**Punahou
Viola MoczSecondMathMililani Middle
Adam FongFirstCombined'Iolani School
Jason ChengFirstReading**Niu Valley Inter.
Adam FongFirstMath'Iolani School
Jason ChengSecondCombinedNiu Valley Inter.
Adam FongSecondReading'Iolani School
Kristy LauSecondMath'Iolani School
Wataru SugaharaSecondMathNiu Valley Inter.

* Zhaodong Chen was the only Hawaii student to qualify for CTY's Study of Exceptional Talent.

** Category is “;critical reading”;

+ More than one student in the same category denotes a tie score.







Friday, May 29, 2009


The original subheadline on this story mistakenly described all 98 Center for Talented Youth honorees from Hawaii as being “;1 in 10,000”; students. That distinction is held by the one Hawaii student qualifying this year for CTY's Study of Exceptional Talent.