NYC Gifted and Talented Program and Testing

Marshmallows Anyone? Response to NY Mag’s Article – The Myth of the Gifted Child

Let me know if you’d like to get free OLSAT practice questions or receive my gifted and talented newsletter.  Email me:  Thanks – Michael

In the recent article titled “The Myth of the Gifted Child”, NY Mag takes jabs at parents for prepping  their 4 year olds for entrance exams into kindergarten. The article focuses on both private and public schools with the array of tests used in NYC for 4 year olds: ERB, Stanford-Binet, OLSAT and BSRA (Bracken).

The article begins with a cute, little 4-year old girl wearing intellectually stimulating, designer glasses who is being assessed (code word for prepped) for the ERB test in her home somewhere in NYC (location not disclosed). Of course I used my wild imagination…let’s see could she live on the Upper Eastside or maybe even Upper Westside or who knows, maybe even downtown in Tribeca?

The article fails to go in-depth of why parents do this beyond the obvious of getting their child into the “right” school. This wasn’t a system parents created so I’m a little confused on why parents preparing their child for these tests seem to be the focal point of the discussion and portrayed as the bad guys. The system we have in NYC (and now growing in popularity across the nation) is one of that educators and schools created (both private and public) not the parents.

Let’s examine the NYC Department of Education. They not only conduct information sessions for the NYC gifted and talented programs (in all 5 boroughs mind you) but actually have OLSAT sample tests included in the information packet. I’m sure their intent to include OLSAT sample questions was nothing but pure. Although to most parents this signaled implied permission to test prep their child for the OLSAT and Bracken for the gifted and talented program. By providing OLSAT sample questions the DOE (believe it or not) has actually helped the economy by creating a new and emerging cottage industry in NYC for OLSAT and BSRA (Bracken) test prepping. From workbooks to private tutoring – this can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on how much you want to do yourself vs. outsource to the local OLSAT and BSRA tutor in a neighborhood near you.

No system is perfect and the article didn’t really seem to address that in my opinion. There has to be some sort of way to identify “high potentials” or in the case of the DOE “gifted and talented” students even at the age of 4. Unfortunately, the DOE doesn’t have the time or resources to independently evaluate each child for the gifted and talented program beyond the OLSAT test. The article also fails to mention in the case of the NYC gifted and talented program the child can take the OLSAT every year through second grade so it’s not a 1-shot deal.

The article continues and goes into detail of how to buy an ERB on the internet underground black market from websites such as for the non-Craigslist price of $3,000. Doesn’t this rank up there with how to make a dirty bomb or how to make illegal drugs and needs FBI intervention immediately? I suppose if you’re willing to dish out $20K+ per year tuition for private school kindergarten then $3,000 is a drop in the bucket. I think NBC Dateline needs to go undercover to catch these parent-villains who buy these tests on the black market. “To catch an OLSAT predator!” …now that would make great TV… seeing neurotic NYC parents buying black market OLSAT test materials with white envelopes stuffed with unmarked $20 bills (that their gifted child counted for them) then the Chris Hansen (host from NBC Dateline) enters the kitchen to confront the parents…”You REALLY think your kid is gifted and talented? You should be ashamed of yourselves!” As the parents break down, weep uncontrollably, get handcuffed and head off to Riker’s Island to serve their time. As soon as their sentence is complete it’s SAT time for college entrance…the cycle continues. Oh yes, now that would make great reality TV.

There’s also the argument from many professionals (who have a bunch of letters and initials after their names) that “success” in the life (I suppose how you define success is up to you) isn’t’ necessarily about IQ tests at 4 years old but a better predictor is how well a child can delay gratification. Oh yes folks, another study…the dreaded Marshmallow test!  From Wiki: The marshmallow experiment is a well known test of this concept conducted by Walter Mischel at Stanford University and discussed by Goleman in his popular work. In the 1960s, a group of four-year-olds were given a marshmallow and promised another, only if they could wait 20 minutes before eating the first one. Some children could wait and others could not

I suppose there’s some validity to this study since I’m an avid marshmallow eater and couldn’t make it through that test more than 2 seconds let alone 20 minutes when I was 4 years old. What if the kid doesn’t like marshmallows? Is there a chocolate experiment? Or a peanut butter experiment? Here’s the video…try it with your child and see what happens. I suppose you could game the system by trying this with your child following a heavy meal with a sugary dessert to make sure your child will be successful in life.

What if the marshmallow test became the new entrance exam for private schools and G&T programs in NYC? How would parents prepare their children for that? Now, that’s an interesting thought.

Let me know if you’d like to get free OLSAT practice questions or receive my gifted and talented newsletter.  Email me:  Thanks – Michael

2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

The only reason why the DOE makes a sample test available is for the parents to prepare the child for the format of the test. Not the content.

Comment by Joe

i tried this test with my 4 1/2 and 3 1/3 year olds. When I came back, my daughter said, “She only took a small bite; she didn’t eat it”, and my son said “I don’t like marshmallows”. Very funny.

Comment by momof2

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