NYC Gifted and Talented Program and Testing

Fostering high-order thinking for the OLSAT and NNAT-2 tests
November 30, 2017, 6:07 pm
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High-order thinking needed for the NYC Gifted and Talented Test

The definition of cognition states that it is “the mental faculty or process by which knowledge is acquired.”  When a child combines aspects of cognitive skills to evaluate what he sees, hears, and reads, and then makes decisions, reaches conclusions, or solves problems based on analysis of information, he is using “higher-order thinking.”  Kids naturally use these skills, often getting it wrong, but only because they are just beginning to understand the laws and rules governing the world.  For example, they might surmise that since you grew tomatoes from seeds, why couldn’t you plant a steak bone and grow a cow?

This “higher-order thinking” was explained and is still relevant today by Russian author Korney Chukovsky in his 1928 book, From Two to Five.  He demonstrated through observations that children’s higher-order thinking process takes shape in this way:

  • Observing and asking questions – watching and listening begins their exploration.
  • Sorting, classifying, and comparing for conceptual thinking – children then sort the information that has been gathered into groups and classifications.
  • Reasoning – they now start to make sense of concepts or form opinions. (I always liked the story of the little boy who witnessed his grandma remove her dentures who said, “Wow, now take out your eyes, Granny!”.….out of the mouths [and minds] of babes!)
  • Hypothesizing – they can now use reasoning skills to predict what might happen next.
  • Problem Solving – children will eventually realize with experience that situations can be changed. And, using creative thinking, they can generate ideas, look for alternatives and try to see beyond the obvious to solve a problem (cheers to Thomas Edison!)
  • Critical Thinking – the child will now consider different sides of an issue or a possible solution, while weighing the pros and cons and forming an opinion.
  • Decision Making – after examining and evaluating all sides of an issue or the options on the table, he makes the best choice he can.

And, it’s been proven that children who grow up using higher-order thinking become more creative, flexible and persistent because they know how to generate, critique and choose from an assortment of ideas and don’t become flustered when they hit a dead end, because they know how to seek out alternatives.

As a parent, you can foster your child’s higher-order thinking skills by doing the following as you prepare for the OLSAT and NNAT-2 tests for entry into the NYC Gifted and Talented Program:

  • Promote questions: Yes, I said it….keep the barrage of questions coming, no matter how painful they may be!  And, offer up answers that will encourage his desire to explore deeper, engage in conversation on the topic and expand the discussion.
  • Don’t Solve Problems for your child: If you solve your child’s problem for him, you’re taking away an opportunity for her to use her own problem-solving skills.  Plus, if a child is constantly directed on how to do things, she will look to you for the answers rather than try for herself.
  • Encourage experimentation: Teach your child that there is rarely one correct way to solve a problem and praise and applaud her even if it doesn’t work.
  • Teach adaptability: If, after using problem-solving, your child’s decision didn’t work, simply show your child that you can go back, reevaluate and try something else.  This ability to roll with change is critical to succeeding in our dynamic, ever-changing world.
  • Let go of control: This is the hard one, but it’s known that parents who constantly exert control over their children squash their creative spirits. So, next time there’s a mud pie bake off, BACK OFF and let the baking begin, because this is where your child gets to experiment, explore, think and try out her ideas.  The value of play is the play itself, not what is produced, although a Fruit Loop mud pie is enticing!

Gifted programs vs. general ed
November 17, 2017, 5:16 am
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Is there a difference between a gifted program and general education?

Many gifted programs in New York City work at an accelerated pace. Unfortunately, in a general education program there may be slower learners and a lot of times the teachers are pressured to bring the slower learners up to speed. In a gifted program you rarely have that case because all of the kids are performing at or above grade level, so therefore the pace of the program can be very rapid and the teacher doesn’t feel like he or she is leaving kids behind because all of the kids are pretty much at the same pace.

I would also say in many instances, and you would need to check with your local school district depending on where you live, many of the teachers are certified in gifted education, which means they have a deeper knowledge of gifted every education and how it all works. Many of these teachers want to be gifted teachers so they have an excitement, not only for teaching, but also for teaching gifted or advanced students which adds index to layer of, I would say extra layer of credibility to the teachers who actually teach in many of the gifted programs. But you want to check your local school to see if the gifted teachers are certified or what type of extra education the teachers may have.

The next question is, “Shouldn’t I just let her,” I guess her child, “be a kid in a regular class without all that pressure?”

Well, I don’t think there’s a lot of extra pressure in a gifted classroom. I wouldn’t worry about that. If your child does qualify to be in the gifted program chances are they’ll be able to handle the level of work that’s in the program. What you want to do, certainly before you choose a gifted program, you want to go visit the schools, tour the programs, see if it feels like a good fit for your child, but it’s not like because they’re in a gifted program they’re going to be under a lot of pressure to perform that’s that different from being in a general ed classroom. It’s just that they’re going to be working at a different pace that is the pace they can handle and that they love to learn in.

I mean there’s nothing worse than when you have a gifted child in a general ed classroom whose very, very bored because they’re doing lessons that they already know and understand. Like if you’ve got a child who’s, let’s say a kid in first grade and she’s reading at a second or third grade level, and they’re just learning how to decipher and decode basic words that child’s going to be bored. It’s really more about getting your child in a class that’s at the right level for their intellectual capabilities. That’s what you’re looking for so if your child qualifies I wouldn’t worry about them feeling like they’re under a lot of pressure.


Folding laundry and preparing for the OLSAT test
November 6, 2017, 11:05 am
Filed under: NYC Gifted and Talented Program | Tags:

Did you know that something as simple as sorting laundry helps develop your tot’s higher order thinking?

Sorting laundry into different colors requires that your child arrange items into different categories, classify them into groups and compare what goes together and what doesn’t. These skills are very commonly assessed on OLSAT test that your child will take for admissions into the NYC Gifted and Talented Program.

When children use their minds to evaluate what they see, hear or read and then make decisions, reach conclusions or solve problems based on their analysis of that information, that child is using higher order thinking or cognitive skills. The OLSAT test evaluates how well children think in many different ways.

Here are three types of questions that assess a young child’s higher order thinking skills.

  1. The child has to decide which picture doesn’t belong. Four of the insects have wings, so they go together. The snail can’t fly so it doesn’t belong and that’s our answer.
  2. In another type of question, the child has to decide which of these figural images doesn’t belong. This type of question can be very tricky. Here all the small black boxes are set in corners except for the middle picture. That’s our answer because it doesn’t belong.
  3. Other OLSAT questions require a different kind of sorting. The child must choose one picture on top that goes with one picture on the bottom. The pig goes with the cow because they’re both farm animals.

Sorting laundry is just one of the ways you can teach your child the skill of classifying in everyday life. You can start today with Testing Mom preparing your child for the New York City Gifted and Talented exam.


Back story on my situation
October 30, 2017, 11:43 am
Filed under: NYC Gifted and Talented Program

How I began writing about the NYC G&T program

I think, and just to give you a little backstory on my situation, my daughter is now in middle school. I can’t believe it. She’s in 7th grade. She was accepted into the New York City Gifted and Talented Program at the ripe old age of four going on five, going into Kindergarten. She took the G&T test here in New York when she was in Pre-K. She started the kindergarten program at a gifted school PS 33 Chelsea Prep. It just really accelerated her learning. It really put her in an environment where she could thrive. It put her in an environment where children were working at her same pace and her same level. Therefore, the class could move at a much faster pace through the curriculum and through the material that the teacher presented.

Also, one of the bigger benefits that I found was just the experiential component that really allowed her to thrive and to grow intellectually, and also socially as well within a gifted program. A good example of that is when she was in fourth grade. They did a whole study in the classroom over the Constitution, what the Constitution means, all the history behind the Constitution. They studied that for about two or three weeks. Then after that series of studies they all took a field trip down to Philadelphia, which is a little over an hour train ride from New York City to Philadelphia. Actually, I had the honor of attending that as well as a chaperone.

We did a whole tour of Philadelphia, Constitution Hall, Liberty Bell. I think we even saw Betsy Ross’ home. We learned a lot about Benjamin Franklin as well. Those were some of the benefits that I saw, was really taking what was learned in the classroom and actually putting it into a real life experiential experience.

One of the questions I get as far as these gifted programs are “Well, does the child develop, are they going to have social skills?” It’s like, yes. It’s like a regular classroom in that context. They’re just not drilling the kids day after day. It’s a very stimulating environment where all the kids thrive. They do socialization.

I’ve gotten this question too:” “I don’t want to steal my child’s childhood away from him or her.” That is never the case. If your child thrives in an environment and really loves to learn, they’re really going to excel at one of these programs. That’s why I strongly encourage if your child is eligible to test, please, please get them tested. I can tell you, I did not grow up in New York City. I grew up in Oklahoma and there was no gifted program. We went to the school that was down the street in our neighborhood. When I moved to New York City I felt a little strange testing my four year old daughter, but I can tell you that was the best decision that we ever made.

If you’re contemplating that, just make sure that you really keep the long term picture in mind. I can tell you that decision that my wife and I made back in 2009 set my daughter up for he excellent education that she’s currently getting in middle school. Then next year she gets to take the specialized high school exam here in New York City, which is very competitive as well. I can tell you, that decision we made when she was four years old is a direct impact of where she is today. You as a parent, you have to really think long term as you’re really planning your child’s education out. Getting in the program is just the first part.

A father tells all about TAG city wide gifted program
October 20, 2017, 8:34 am
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Moise, a father of a kindergartner, recently spoke to a group of parents about his experienced with the NYC G&T program

His story:

“I was just in your seat last year and I remember having another parent be here and just give the value of just a third party who’s not affiliated, and impartial, give their opinion on the process. My son currently just started kindergarten at TAG Young Scholars, which is a citywide school. Yeah, I just actually came back from curriculum night, I don’t have a pink backpack but he forgot his lunchbox, so the green Ninja Turtle lunchbox, just to overdue what Michael. Yeah, so I guess to talk about my experience, if you’re here, you’re in the right place. I mean, you made the biggest step you could possibly make in terms of helping your son get the best possible education they can get. I just want to reassure you, pat you on the back, you guys are amazing.”

“The next thing is why. My story is when my son was one, my wife, she was working at the time and she decided to go into teaching, she got a job. He had to go to daycare. I was working on Wall Street. I figured, hey, I could just call random day cares and get him in, next week or two weeks. I went on Google and I searched “best daycare in New York City” and called the first one I could find. I was like, “Yeah, I’d like to sign up my kid, I want to take a tour.” It was like, “Oh, you want to sign him up for next year?” I was like, “No, I want to sign him up for next week.” “No, parents who come to our daycare apply for a year in advance.” When I hung up the phone I got like this crushing feeling in my stomach and I remember saying to myself, “I will never, because of my ineptitude, will my son not have an opportunity to have the best.”

“That began my quest in trying to figure out every possible thing about the educational system and I guess I became a mini expert. Through that process I found out that there was a gifted and talented program. The first thing I want to tell you is that you will hear a lot of misinformation about gifted and talented programs but Karen Quinn and her program will provide you the absolute best and correct information out there. Her website is full of, it’s inexhaustible resources. I mean, interviews with professionals and psychologists and she’s always putting stuff out there. This is the best money you could spend in terms of signing up for her website and the one year membership, totally a no-brainer.”

“We also have the game, as well, which is very helpful because at some point your kid might just get tired of doing the questions. The game helps to disarm the environment and help to not focus on the questions. Kids learn best through play, so if you make it fun and you turn it into a game, it really, really helps a lot. A big plug for the game as well.”

“I guess I would say that when one of the parents that were speaking, when I was in your shoes, they mentioned about not just prepping for the tests in terms of knowledge but prepping for the test psychologically as you mentioned. In terms of visiting the school and getting your son familiar with strangers, one of the tips that I heard … Actually, let me tell you this, she gave out a tip sheet on what to do and I just followed everything to the T. Like what Michael said about, “You’re going to a school next week, we’re visiting the school and you’re going to meet someone and they’re just going to ask you questions.”

“I told him he’s going to play brain games, I didn’t tell him about the test. That was actually a tip from Karen Quinn, don’t mention the word test because that could make them have anxiety. When we were at the test, I actually saw kids being dragged in by the instructor, they were screaming and crying and that’s just not the best way to get started on a test. You’re already anxious so I was really grateful to that, I kind of … You could hear the parents, like, “Yo, come on, you better do your best”, like kind of pressuring the kid. I think that what I did is I didn’t even let him know that it was a test and I helped to say, “Oh, this is just like the brain games we do at home.”

“Also you may be overwhelmed. I worked on Wall Street, I was extremely busy. I didn’t really have time to spend hours prepping him but the website is really good because you can print out the questions and you can do them, like, you’re at Trader Joe’s, you start to get familiar with the prep questions and you kind of make up … Like you see your kid get something wrong, like say it’s a math question, you can kind of make up those questions in a different environment to help them answer those questions sort of while you’re about your daily shopping or your daily routine.”

“A little bit every day is much better than a lot in one sitting. You guys have ample time to sort of do like five minutes a day and then I increased his sort of ability to do more by doing 10 minutes a day and then I tried to go crazy and do 20 minutes a day and we had one of those tantrums we talked about. I felt like giving up and I was like, “Oh my goodness, this is not going to work.” Then I emailed Karen and she came back to me, like, almost right away which is unheard of, like, customer service in terms of trying to give me the right information to get to ready to go.”

“She said I had five minutes but I didn’t check the time I started. I just want to let you guys know that this program is awesome and Karen Quinn is phenomenal and I will endorse her till death do we part. Because if it wasn’t for her, I’m pretty sure my kid … I mean, it’s 99. It only takes one question or he could’ve been one question away from getting a 97 which wouldn’t qualify him for a citywide school.”

“It’s to the point where like, we’re doing a test question and one of the questions was, “Which one’s fewer?” Now, he knows which one’s less, but typically in our home we don’t use the word fewer, so just because he knows the answer doesn’t mean he’s going to get it right because he doesn’t understand the vocabulary fewer. He can’t ask the teacher what does fewer mean, you have to sort of kind of tell, you have to sort of practice with the question. The questions that they give you help you to prepare your kid with the vocabulary. That whole week, I was always talking about, I used fewer like crazy because . He’s going to get that one right.”

“This is a great program, like I said many times, and I think I’m going to stop now. If you guys have any questions, I’ll be here at the end and I’ll be glad to help you answer it. There is a really big difference between these schools and the general schools, it’s night and day, it’s a totally different environment. Kids learn so much from each other. My wife is also a teacher so I can also attest to the fact that there’s a lot of pressure on teachers to sort of meet certain numbers and so on and so forth, so they really, really focus on the lower half of those kids.”

“When you’re in a gifted and talented school like mine, I just came back from curriculum night at the school and everything’s differentiated. They take your kid at whatever level they’re at and they tailor the educational process for them. If your kid comes in not reading versus your kid comes in reading, then your kid may be at a level D and at the end of the year they’ll be at level E, F or G, versus a kid who’s not reading might be at a level D at the end of the year. In another school, your kid might totally be ignored because they’re so gifted and they’re so smart, and the teacher’s only focused on getting those kids who are not, to the next level. Good luck on your tests and have a good night.”



Tips and tricks for the NNAT-2 test
October 11, 2017, 4:31 pm
Filed under: nnat test, NYC Gifted and Talented Program | Tags: ,

Is your child taking the NNAT-2 test for the New York City Gifted and Talented?

If your child is going to be taking the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability test, or NNAT any time soon, you’re probably a little worried. What is this test like? How will my child do? What if my child isn’t good at spatial reasoning, or puzzles?

The NNAT is a visual spatial reasoning test that is used as one of the two tests to screen kids for the NYC Gifted and Talented Program. The test takes about half an hour. It’s multiple choice and no reading is required. For each section of the test, children start out with easier questions and they keep going until they miss four, or five in a row.

A pattern completion question that we would expect a second, or third grader to be able to answer. Here, the child has to figure out which square belongs in the empty box to complete the puzzle. The answer is D.

Can you imagine asking a young child to handle a question like this for the very first time on a test where the results are so important? Practice really helps.

For older children, the NNAT-2 questions are much harder, because kids need to figure out what a design on the bottom will look like when folded and then rotated like the design on top. The answer is C.

If your young child is taking the NNAT test and you’d like to learn more about the kinds of questions that will be asked visit for free practice questions.

Teaching risk taking part of school success at NEST
October 4, 2017, 5:49 pm
Filed under: NYC Gifted and Talented Program | Tags: ,

The principal at NEST encourages students to take risks of failure

The trend continues throughout the city and the rest of the US to encourage kids not only to take risks but also encourage kids in the experience of failure. It seems the pendulum has swung swiftly into the other direction from everyone gets a trophy for just showing up to encouragement of risk taking which in turn leads to failure. NEST is the latest example of incorporating this type of teaching throughout the school to it’s 1,700+ student population. Here are a few of things that have been introduced at NEST+M to create a culture of perseverance of fail and try again and students seem to be responding.

  • The library is equipped with 3-D printers and laptops to transform the way students work and interact within a library setting.
  •  Students have their own publication using a popular software product called InDesign. The students select all the writing passages and the artwork that are within the magazine.
  • Instead of traditional methods of teaching to younger grades, the school utilizes student’s talents to give talks and presentation on a variety of topics.
  • In the middle school program the students are taught robotics and this teaches both computer programming and math skills with this specific program.

Most schools today are still slow to adapt to these additional skills that are impertative for all students to learn. Many parents are familiar with teaching a child “grit” which helps a child with perseverance and passion for the long-term and not short-term satisfaction. These are the types of things that seem to be finally entering our schools and helping kids to feel less entitled than their previous not-so-grateful millennials.  Here are a few tips that parents can help their child at home to develop grit:

  • Instead of praising your child that he or she is “smart”, rather focus on the child’s hard work or effort to finish or complete a task (i.e. homework, reading a book, working on a challenging project, etc.)
  • Most parents don’t want their child to experience any frustration. Believe it or not, frustration your child experiences leads to a sense of achievement that a child needs to successfully accomplish a task. None of like to wait but having your child experience frustration is a pathway to long term success.
  • When your child fails congratulate him or her! Ask him or her how they feel about the failure and what might they change next time to make sure they aren’t going to fail again. It’s a good lesson for parents to teach although it’s difficult for some parents to have this conversation with their child.