SIKESTON -- On Saturday morning Lottie Norville of Sikeston will be one of several parents dropping off their seventh grade children to take the ACT college entry exam.
Norville's son, James, scored at the 99th percentile on the math portion of his sixth grade state standardized test last school year. As a result, James was invited by Duke University's Talent Identification Program to take the ACT or SAT. Because the ACT is more widely administered in the region, James has opted to take the test Saturday.
"He right away wanted to do it," Norville said about her son's eagerness to take the test.
An ACT prep book was sent to the seventh grader, and he's glanced over it, Norville said.
Norville said she didn't know about the program until her son's counselor sent home a letter saying James had qualified.
"I was surprised to learn he could take the test. I wasn't surprised that he was capable of it, and I'm aware my son is very smart," Norville said, adding James has always scored in the 96th and 97th percentile on the state's standardized test.
The Talent Identification Program covers a 16-state area and aims to find academically talented seventh graders based on standardized test scores achieved while attending elementary or middle school.
To be eligible for TIP, seventh grade students must score at the 95th percentile in one of three areas: math, verbal or composite of a grade-level standardized test.
Candidates are identified and invited to complete either the SAT Reasoning Test or the ACT Assessment college entrance examination. Duke TIP then provides the participants with comparative information concerning their academic abilities and resources for educational opportunities.
About 60 of the 270 students in seventh grade in the Sikeston R-6 School District qualified for Duke University's 29th annual talent search for seventh graders. Other school districts in the area likely have students who also qualified for the program.
"The goal is to provide information about their abilities by administering an advanced test of verbal and mathematic aptitude, which is done by offering the opportunity to take the SAT or ACT," said Bettina Dumey, seventh grade counselor at the Seventh and Eighth Grade Center in Sikeston.
Neither college entry exam test presents an advantage, Dumey said.
"It's a way for them to get their feet wet (with college entry exams). It's a voluntary program. They have financial aid available to students who qualify for free and reduced lunch prices," Dumey said.
Students who qualify for the aid will pay $20 instead of $61 to take the tests.
"They discover more about their academic abilities, find out what college entrance exams are like and get recognized for their scholastic talent," Dumey said. "Since they're already scoring at the highest level at the age and grade, it offers them a higher performance feeling."
There will be recognition ceremonies in Missouri for top scorers, and if they're a top scorer in the nation, they will be invited to attend a ceremony at Duke, Dumey said.
Norville said she thinks her son taking the ACT now is a good opportunity for him.
"It's mainly to help them so they feel more comfortable when they take it for real," said Norville.
Dumey also said it was a great idea for students to take the test early.
"They realize what the test entails so when they go to take it in high school, they will have more incentive to prepare more and will know what they're walking into," Dumey said.
Regardless of their scores, the counselor said she hopes students realize a couple things before taking the college entry test.
"As long as they (seventh graders) know it is designed for much older students and as long as they understand that, I think it's a good experience for them," Dumey said.