DANIEL KOKOTOV, a senior at Beth Tfiloh Community School in Pikesville, clearly has a gift. After all, not many teen-agers score a perfect 1,600 on the Scholastic Assessment Test that helps determine a student's fitness for college.
But what makes Daniel's achievement even more remarkable is the fact that he and his family migrated to the Baltimore area from Moscow four years ago. The 16-year-old has spoken English for less than half his life, and yet, as he recently learned, he aced the SAT when he took the exam last spring. (By comparison, the average SAT score in Maryland is 909.)
Of his preparations for the test of math and verbal skills, Daniel says, "I got a few books from the library and took some practice tests. It was that simple."
And you thought Cal Ripken was Mr. Modest.
Not to question Daniel's humble view of his accomplishment, but it probably involved more than his cracking a few SAT guides a few weeks before the test. His parents obviously deserve credit for their commitment to their son's education. When they were still living in Russia but knew they would be moving to the United States, they hired tutors to teach English to Daniel.
The Beth Tfiloh school can be proud, too, claiming not just one but two students who scored 1,600 on the SAT -- Daniel Kokotov and his classmate Lisa Exler, who managed the rare feat a month before Daniel did.
Julian Stanley, a Johns Hopkins University psychologist who studies precocious children, rightly raises the question, "If someone can do that well being a Russian immigrant, why can't more [American-born] kids do it, too?"
To be sure, the SAT is only one measure of a student's academic record and aptitude. A high SAT score is not always a guarantee of scholastic excellence -- though that seems to be the case with the gifted Daniel Kokotov. But, as Dr. Stanley's question suggests, success is more likely when a motivated student from a caring family gets good schooling.
If only scoring a perfect three-for-three in that test were as "simple" as Daniel Kokotov found scoring a perfect 1,600 on the SAT.