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Rachel Carson Students Test High
Seven students from the middle school among nation’s top scorers for Center for Talented Youth.

By Mike DiCicco
Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Deborah Yates said her son Gregory Colella and six of his schoolmates from Rachel Carson Middle School "were all very, very excited to be recognized" at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth’s 2009 Grand Ceremony on Sunday, June 7.

"And we got a free lunch," said eighth-grader Lauren Huang.

Because it was the center’s 30th anniversary, cupcakes with little anniversary flags were also served, said Gregory, a seventh-grader.

In order to be honored at the ceremony at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the junior high-school students had to achieve high scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or American College Test (ACT), which are normally taken by college-bound high-school students.

In any given season, only one or two schools have something like seven students among the fewer than 500 hundred children from across the country who were honored at the Grand Ceremony, said Center for Talented Youth spokesman Matt Bowden, noting that these were often magnate schools. He said Center for Talented Youth founder, the late Julian Stanley, once estimated that the odds of a middle-school student scoring high enough to be honored in the Grand Ceremony were about 1 in 10,000.

Bowden said more than 30 Rachel Carson students had qualified for the statewide ceremony that took place the day before. "Rachel Carson’s numbers are really outstanding by any standard," he said.

In order to be tested by the center, students have to score in the 95th percentile of their state’s standardized test. This year, the center tested 63,000 students.

THE RACHEL CARSON students took the tests in January at area high schools alongside high school students, but Gregory said the environment did not intimidate him. "I knew a few people there," Gregory said, noting that three other seventh-graders were in his test-taking group.

To make the cut for the national ceremony as an eighth-grader, Lauren had to score at least a 750 out of a possible 800 on either the math or critical reading section of the SATs. As it turned out, she ranked second in the state for both sections, as well as for her combined score. "I didn’t expect it," she said of her score.

Students take all three parts of the tests, but Johns Hopkins doesn’t consider the writing sections.

"Overall, she’s very good," said Helen Chen, Lauren’s mother.

Lauren is also known as the winner of the school’s spelling bee, and she placed third in the county spelling bee.

Seventh-graders had to score at least a 700 on one section of the SATs or a 28 out of 36 in the math section of the ACTs or a 31 in the reading section.

Seventh-grader Sreenath Are scored a perfect 800 on the math SATs, giving him the highest math ranking in the state and putting him at the top in the country. He was awarded a $1,000 scholarship toward one of the Center for Talented Youth’s summer programs.

Bowden said the center offered more than 130 courses in a wide variety of locations, as well as online programs. The summer courses include anything from robotics to studying whales in estuary systems to a cryptography class in which students work with National Security Agency employees to learn to crack codes, Bowden said. Not only are the courses academically advanced, they are also accelerated, he said. "These students are covering a year’s worth of curriculum in three weeks."

All students recognized in the Grand Ceremony are eligible for the classes.

Sreenath said he had not yet decided which course to take but was leaning toward the subjects of math and logic.

"We are thrilled about his achievement," said his mother, Lakshmi. "He doesn’t seem to work very hard all of the time, but he achieves results."

Rohan Banerjee, also in seventh grade, was also awarded a $1,000 scholarship and said he planned to put it toward a three-week residential math and logic course at Johns Hopkins. His scores on the SATs ranked him first in the state for his combined score and second for critical reading.

HIS MOTHER, Ratna, said her son had worked hard and deserved the honor, "but we’re just thrilled."

Gregory took the ACTs and scored highest on the reading section, but he said he would take a math and logic-oriented course if he could fit it in between vacations.

"I wouldn’t say I was shocked, but I was pleasantly surprised," his mother said of his score.

Tony Xiao said he was not inclined to take a class over the summer. "Summer is to stay home, sleep late and play basketball," he said," although he conceded that he might cave to parental pressure and take a course. If so, he said, "I would probably take some kind of writing course because on the essay I got like a six, which is really, really crappy."

Two Rachel Carson students who had been at the Grand Ceremony but could not meet up with the others on Saturday afternoon were Phillip Yu and Ashley Xue.

"At least for me, as a mother, I’d like to thank Rachel Carson for encouraging them and having them take the test and helping smart kids like these flourish," Yates said. "I think it’s a great school for that."

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Photo by Mike DiCicco
Five of the seven Rachel Carson students recently honored at this year’s national Grand Ceremony for the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth pose with some of their mothers. From left are Deborah Yates; Gregory Colella; Ratna and Rohan Banerjee; Lakshmi and Sreenath Are; Loren Huang; Helen Chen and Tony Xiao. Not pictured are Rachel Carson students Ashley Xue and Philip Yu.

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