Braeden’s Story: Our “Gifted” Child Isn’t Gifted Says OLSAT

puppetsFor the past few years, I’ve watched my nephew thrive in pretty much whatever he set his mind to doing. He’s pretty meticulous about everything and fully commits himself to whatever feat that he is trying to accomplish. If you follow my postings via here on my blog or on instagram, I’m constantly sharing the insanely creative contraptions that he builds. From light up clay figurines and hand sewn professional grade puppets (image at the left) to his new super galactic solar system, this kid literally blows me away.


The Solar System Project

planetLet me explain the contents of the box to the left. When Braeden was assigned his solar system, which he had a month to do, he immediately made a list of items that we needed to purchase from the store and demanded that we got them pronto. He made a plan that was more thorough than the house that we built as well as a timeline. He researched planets using everything from apps to NASA. The kid even “evaluated” his sources before validating their value. The first part of his project involved painting each planet according to his research with the most meticulous detail that I have EVER seen in my life. Somewhere along the line, Braeden decided that he wanted to create informational books featuring his drawings too. This is the only place that he asked for help was in laminating as he did not know how to use the machine. He does now.

There is a rocket made from a water bottle and foil, that lights up, which should be no surprise since he also made clay figures that light up as well as a video explaining how he did it. In addition, those red and gold strips that give the “illusion” (his words) of fire light up too. Just to give your brain a break…He is 9!!

On the computer, Braeden made signage to place in specific places of the cardboard box “painted thing” that will hold his solar system. We come home everyday and watch as he completes his other assigned work before turning his attention to the solar system that he only rushed to complete so that he can get back to drawing, molding clay and creating puppets, which he loves. I’m going to guess that he never envisioned himself enjoying this project but clearly he does as it keeps growing in magnitude to his excitement.

I’m Sorry But Your Child is Really Smart but NOT Gifted

Braeden has been tested for GT via the OLSAT (Otis Lennon School Aptitude Test…Pearson) three times and each time he did not qualify as gifted according to our district standards of scoring in the top 5%. This test, which is timed, does not account for kids like Braeden who are artistically and technologically gifted. This is a kid who takes his time to make sure that every thing that he does is to the utmost perfection…also a bad thing according to this test.

Even sentences written for school are specifically crafted to be more thorough in their structure. Watching Braeden take his time to write, say aloud and reflect on each sentence is a poetic experience in and of itself. Math is evaluated from multiple forms before receiving his approval of logical correctness. He too, feels that the “check boxes” of his Excel Math worksheets are ridiculous. Braeden prefers to check each individual problem in context instead of adding answers to reach a number in a box. (his words) This kid brings home science worksheets that teach him nothing so that he can self-learn concepts that he wonders more about. We didn’t train him to be this way. This is how he is.

This kid, who by my non-biased highly educated account, displays every sign of giftedness…yet the school district, THIS TEST, says that he is not.

What To Do If This Is Your Child

You can continue to advocate for him/her. You can challenge the system. You research state requirements for GT testing. You can even continue to push until the district listens and evaluates the equity of their entire program. You can fight while you watch the kids of the “top 5%” have access to learning opportunities that your child won’t have in his/her regular ed classroom in the hopes that one day he/she will.


You create a blog and share your child’s educational journey. Your child can create blog too which will serve as their digital portfolio. (which they will update as they see fit) You push for all classrooms to have access to rich learning opportunities so that every kid has the chance to shine as well as equitable exposure to rich resources on or above their level.

You share everything…and not just because you KNOW that his teachers will assume that his parents did the project (never fails)…but because somewhere there is another parent experiencing the same frustration and your kid’s story might just help them too.

To be clear…Braeden is surrounded by a well informed family who understand the system and his needs. His is NOT the norm by any accounts which begs the question…

What about the “Braedens” who have no voice? Who is fighting for them?

Comments 8

  1. The Braedens of the world were my joy as a teacher. I loved working to help them connect their gifts to the work of doing school, which is not always hospitable to this kind of creative problem solving.

    I have so many things to say on this because it is close to my heart. I will for now just say that Braeden and other children like him show the urgency for a professional teacher workforce… One that is trained to recognize his potential and support it to flourish. Like you I worry about the kids without advocates who are just as gifted. What a waste of talent to let it go uncelebrated.

    1. Post

      That is exactly the reason that I share him and that I wrote this piece. He has yet to have an experience where his gifts were supported. He goes to school, as required, in order to prepare for the test.

      With that said, this project has given him life and I appreciate his school for doing it as well as Flat Stanley which he is really excited about. We will no longer put him through testing. At the end of the day, our encouraging of his “wonder” at home far exceeds what he might get at school.

    2. I echo your sentiments. This is very troubling and all too common. No ONE test should determine who is gifted and who is not gifted. We miss so many gifted students this way, esp. if they are non-White and/or low-income. Test bias is a serious problem for these students. We must find more equitable ways to recruit and retain Black, Hispanic, and ELL/ESL students in gifted programs. I talk about this extensively in Recruiting and Retaining Culturally Different Students in Gifted Education. I hope school personnel will seriously examine inequities in access to gifted.

  2. You are absolutely correct. We have several generations of students (generation meaning grade levels) whose aptitude for learning surpasses traditional methods. We are still stifling students to fit into a prescribed package for approval. Education has to change the approach. That means educators have to close their learning gap and catch up to our students.

  3. I have a Braedan myself. Missed the district overall cognitive aptitude required score of 98% by one point. He didn’t finish any section due to his need to bubble in every answer meticulously. For three days we heard how he enjoyed the test content but couldn’t stand the bubbling and timing. In the meantime, he languished in his classroom, literally, and began to detest going to school, physically sick each morning. Although his teacher recognizes and is feeding his gifts this year in third grade (yes!), the district’s continuing answer for him is to retake “that test.” We are losing these kids in our school systems! We are so concerned with proficiency that we fail to nourish the gifts of all of our children. How much will we regret this in the future?!

  4. Pingback: Unprescribed and Authentically Learning, Beyond a Test | RafranzDavis.com

  5. You could replace “Braeden” with my son’s name and your story is mine – from the multiple OLSAT tests, in which he ran out of time, to the creative projects that he immerses himself in. I am just thankful for the teachers that he has had who embrace and encourage his creativity. Thank you for sharing this.

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