NYC Gifted and Talented Program and Testing

New York Times Article on OLSAT Test Prep for pre-k 3 and 4 year olds
December 1, 2009, 10:09 pm
Filed under: NYC Gifted and Talented Program | Tags:

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The recent NY Times article about test prepping for the OLSAT and ERB test has many parents up in arms over test prepping at the ages of 3 and 4 while other parents are embracing the idea to get the “edge” they think their child needs to do well on the OLSAT and ERB tests. Competition is not only fierce among parents but among tutoring and test-prep companies popping up all over Manhattan. In the NY Times article the director from Dalton School on the UES indicates it’s “unethical” to test prep students for admissions into kindergarten. I suppose that’s easy to say if you don’t have a child going into kindergarten or if you can afford the $30K+ per year tuition. Or maybe you’re content with the status-quo at general education programs at both private and public schools that teach to the middle or low-end of the class.

I’m not so sure if I agree with the ethical issues behind prepping besides it’s becoming the “norm” as the article suggest.  Over time, high school students prepping for the SAT and ACT has dramatically increased. When I took the SAT (many years ago mind you) test prepping wasn’t even available nor was it even a thought that crossed my parents mind (let alone a mind of a 17 year old). Over time, that has dramatically changed as admission standards tighten and getting into the best colleges relies heavily on these types of exams. SAT and ACT test prepping has become a huge business in and of itselt – for the  US and abroad.

I think the article in the NY Times does a pretty good job of telling both sides of the story but I thought they missed the mark on the “mindset” of parents who actually prep their 4 year old child for these exams and those parents who are opposed. It’s becoming the norm in NYC to test prep for the OLSAT and ERB for kindergarten along first and second grades so does that even out the playing field? The NYC DOE did offer OLSAT test sample test questions on their site although they recently removed the link (email me if you want the OLSAT sample questions: I’ve personally reviewed the questions myself and it’s my understanding from my sources the actual test the child takes is much “harder” than these sample questions the DOE offers to parents.

I suppose the great debate will continue as test prepping 3-4 year old not only becomes acceptable but the norm of the direction we are going with the schools in NYC (both private and public). All I can say is my personal experience with the NYC gifted and talented program so far this year has been simply amazing.

9 Comments so far
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It’s an intelligence/school readiness test. There is no such thing as “easy” and “hard” questions in those tests. I personally think prepping for such tests is unethical and makes those tests meaningless. Instead of fleeing general ed schools we should all just work together and make them a better place.

Comment by Joe

Is prepping for the SAT and ACT at the ages of 16 or 17 unethical as well? These are minor children as well. Where is the line drawn? At what age does test prepping become acceptable?

Comment by skipper646

The SAT/ACT is based on things that you were supposed to have learned in school. I.e. all SAT/ACT prepping is about refreshing your knowledge. The ERB/OLSAT are tests that measure your child’s academic and mental capacities. There is a huge difference between prepping for an IQ test and a “knowledge” test. I am totally fine with SAT/MCAT/LSAT etc. prepping because it just gives you the opportunity to refresh and not to cheat the system.

Comment by Joe

The same argument could be made that the OLSAT, ERB and BRSA for a 3 and 4 year olds. It is knowledge they should already have obtained. I’m not sure if prepping for the OLSAT and ERB is cheating the system since there are absolutely no guidelines or regulations about helping your child to succeed on these tests. The DOE even sends out sample OLSAT questions which implies they promote some sort of test prepping.

Comment by skipper646

Yes, they promote getting your child used to the format of the test with that sample. I still stand by my opinion: ERB, OLSAT (not Bracken – in that I agree that prepping is fine if you think that prepping a 4 year old is an acceptable thing to do), SB, etc. are intelligence tests and prepping skews the scores. Every psychologist who is familiar with this topic will agree with me on this.

Comment by Joe

Sorry Joe, I am amused by your comments… I have two children at Anderson and I saw the all of their tests (ERB’s, SB5 and the most recent OLSAT/BSRA) – they look more like assessments of enrichment to me. So if I take my child everywhere(museums,etc.) and play puzzles and games with them and help them enjoy the math courses on, is that test prep? or enrichment?

Comment by Kate

hysterical! People, if everyone is doing it..which they are, you must too give your child a fighting chance. Get over what is right adn recognize everyone is doing it..and lying about it.

Comment by mommy1

I used to agree with the moral police against test prep, until I looked at the value it added. All these tests whether for Pre-K and Kindergarten or High School do NOT and I repeat DO NOT test intelligence or often even a lot of critical testing. Many of the concepts are culturally insensitive and just re-enforce a status quo that children of certain communities and prepping receive nearly all the spots that were “open to everyone”. It sounds ridiculous at 3 and 4, but then there is another dilemna – Do you withhold the “ridiculous” preparation from your child and leave it to change that he/she loses a well deserved spot in a gifted and talented program. An outcome that can impact the rest of his/her education opportunities especially if you are unable to afford college tuition priced private school or to move into a community where the schools actually cater to his/her talents and abilities? Or do you take advantage of the prepping and put him/her on an even playing field with the children often from those well taken care of school communities, often with trust funds to take care of their children education from nursury to PhD whose parents have prepped them to be able to win those limited gifted and talented spots anyway?

Sometimes having a kid who can be affected colors your thoughts on these matters.

Comment by nat

Well said, Nat. I agree. Having a child colors your thoughts on this topic. Joe, are you willing to gamble with your child’s future because you are morally opposed to test-prepping for the OLSAT and the ERB. I think not.

Comment by Haydee

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