Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Chicago GAT Project

About 18 months ago, in one of my articles I suggested where my work was heading.   I'm now ready to begin.  See if you can guess.

For six years, I've been researching how to teach academic skills and cognitive skills with the end goal of a strong academic performer who can blow away entrance exams and eventually go on auto pilot.   With the last round of school testing and the release of report cards for this grading period, it looks like I'm there.  The 7th grade project will continue, but it's more of a covert operation.

The curriculum page lists plenty of material that I found on the market, and the 4 books I created to close the two big gaps for gifted success.   The last one is now on the publisher's website and will be available on Amazon next week.  Gifted preparation involves learning the vital thinking and academic skills that are measured by cognitive skills tests, as well as articulation skills that the test doesn't measure but provide a distinct advantage in school.  If you've ever seen one of the Test Prep Math books, you discovered that it's about teaching grit as well.

I really enjoy coaching average parents and their average children, but I don't play to take coaching average children into GAT programs beyond my research and the testing of material.

If you're still in the dark, the key word is average.

The official goal of The Chicago Project is to eliminate poverty and violence among the African American community in Chicago.  With the recent release of Pre-K Phonics and Shape Size Color Count, I'm ready for battle.

Here's the plan.  I'm going to find 3 African American parents on the low end of socio-economic measures, co-opt them into my research study, and put their children into one of the gifted programs that starts in Kindergarten.  If it goes well, I can do 6.  That's the limit of the pilot.

The project will focus on getting the parents to manage the schedule and library related activities during phonics, and to teach them the proper way to coach math, e.g., teach cognitive skills under the guise of math.  For decades, hundreds of millions of dollars of government funding of education has been wasted on teaching materials while the biggest problem that needs to be solved is the parent.

The first hurdle I face is finding candidates.  Chicago has section 8 housing in every neighborhood including mine, and I live near a couple of minority schools that I would describe as sub par.  I live a block away from the third biggest library in Chicago, but frequent walks through the children's section confirmed that I have to look elsewhere.  I may have to bribe a social worker to turn over a list.

Once found, signing them up should be easy.   If a fairy godfather knocked on your door to announce your little price was about to become the king, you would probably jump at the chance.

Next, I've got the material.  The Pre-K Phonics book raises the culture of the home from average to gifted.  I specifically designed the book to make up for the fact that I spent the critical years of language development working on projects with my children.  Lots of doing, less talking than optimal.  I expect the homes in this research project to need a similar lift. Shape Size Color Count is phonics for quantitative and visual math.  It's a game changer.  It put my child at about the half way point of the 2nd and 3rd grade BTS book at age 4 and he's never hit below 99% since.  The cost of color printing is high, but everyone one who buys this book to cheat their way into a GAT program will be funding the Chicago Project.

I'm a bit worried because my books are not easy.  I expect to have to spend at least 6 weeks on Executive Function skills and learning how to do a single question that takes 20 minutes.

The next hurdle is the transitory nature of the target group.  I need them to be in the vicinity from about age 3.5, when selection and planning begins, 3.75 when the training begins, through about 4.5 at test time.  Ideally they are still here starting in 2nd grade for the 18 month refresher course needed to solidify the gifts and talents of the child.  My biggest fear is losing a child to a move.

The big unknown is the ability of the parent to step up to the plate.  I need 1 hour of reading a night and 1 weekly trip to the library.  I also need a Word Board and lots of conversation happening.  Is this going to be possible in the face of all of the other issues they face?

I'm not sure how the approach to academics will go on the part of the parent.  Hopefully, I'm working with a clean slate, so that when I state that a workbook lesson should take about 20 minutes and I don't expect the child to actually be able to do any of it for a month, I'll get 20 minutes and lots of patience.

I have no idea what is going to happen with these last three issues, and this is the topic of research. The deal is this: I'll put their child into one of the best schools in the country if they are willing to give it a try.  By the way, Chicago has different cutoffs for the GAT test scores for each of the 4 socio-economic tiers in the city.  40% of the seats in the GAT programs are at large.  I'm shooting for one of the at large seats, with a cutoff of about 99%, because taking a seat from the low tier doesn't seem right.

I'm considering publishing a research paper.  Maybe this will point the academic community in the right direction.  Poverty and violence end with education.   The MacArthur Foundation asked for someone to step up for $100 million of funding to fix Chicago.  I'll think about this over the next two years.  It's going to cost about $250 per parent for books, at least 30 hours for basic coaching, and the overhead organizing it all, upgrading the libraries and working with the school.  The only insurmountable challenge is an education industry that prefers testing children for skills instead of teaching them.  I might need $100 million to fix that.


  1. That's a great project that you are working on! Wish you and the participants the best of everything!

    1. I'm nuts for trying this. On the other hand, 6 years ago I started this blog with a fairly crazy idea that turned out pretty well.

  2. Using your TigerDad skills for good works! What a laudable idea. Do you need contacts in your targeted communities?