Test-prepping for 'gifted' kindergarten

To get their children into “gifted” kindergarten classes, affluent New Yorkers are hiring tutors to test-prep three- and four-year-olds, reports the New York Times.  A “gifted” public education is free, while private school may cost $20,000 a year. So the cost of tutoring seems small by comparison

Bright Kids, which opened this spring in the financial district, has some 200 students receiving tutoring, most of them for the gifted exams, for up to $145 a session and 80 children on a waiting list for a weekend “boot camp” program.

New York City uses the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test, or Olsat, a reasoning exam, and the Bracken School Readiness Assessment, a knowledge test, to decide which children qualify for gifted programs. Applications have soared and the number of children scoring above the 90th percentile has increased from 18 percent to 22 percent.

If demand is so high for “gifted” classes, why not expand them? The easy-to-teach kids can learn in a larger class;  the non-gifted classes could get a bit smaller.

Education Week reports on a National Association for Gifted Children study, which says gifted students’ access to programs varies greatly depending on where they live.

Update:  The intelligence tests given to pre-kindergarteners don’t predict future school performance accurately, write Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman in Nurture Shock. A few years down the line, only 27 percent of “gifted” students are high performers. That’s because little kids’ brains are developing.

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  1. What does it mean to be a gifted kindergartener in NYC? Can they read? Can they do math? Can the kids grasp concepts faster?

  2. $20K? Tell me where. Elementary tuition at Manhattan prep schools is about $32-34K. High school is even higher.

  3. If demand is so high for “gifted” classes, why not expand them?

    One of the reasons my DH took a position in a branch office rather than the company’s Manhattan HQ when he graduated business school was because there were something like 1200 applications for a few dozen kindergarten slots at the top public GATE programs (Hunter & Anderson). If there’s that much demand, why can’t they increase capacity?

  4. “… and the number of children scoring above the 90th percentile has increased from 18 percent to 22 percent.”

    And all the children are above average.

  5. Hello forest, I almost missed you due to the trees. We are not talking about “gifted” programs here. We are talking about sifting out an elite based on family resources.

  6. Margo/Mom has it exactly right. Giftedness is even more likely now to become a codeword for wealth. What a shock. Here’s what Ashley Merryman told me about tests to determine what’s gifted: “[I]f we were doing to special ed kids the same sort of one-shot assessment we do for giftedness, it would be a violation of federal law. Because in federal law, special ed requires constant reassessment of progress, development and status.”

    If you join the gifted club with all the help money can buy, you get to stay in….

  7. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    Watch a movie (which recently played on Showtime cable) called “Nursery University”, about the angst the affluent Upper East/West side Manhattanites go through to get their preschool children into the “right” nursery school! It’s hilarious, but also…..scary.

  8. I can really see both sides on this. On the one hand, education really is supposed to be the big equalizer and children who come from homes with few if any resources should have as much of a chance to get into a gifted program as a wealthy child.

    On the other…the things they test for really can’t be taught – not to a huge degree. A child with an average IQ is not going to get into a gifted program no matter how much his parents shell out for tutoring; however, that kid that is hanging out at the 95th percentile which, while gifted, is not quite good enough for most publicly funded programs could get just enough to nudge her over the line.

    While I never paid for tutoring (like we could afford that!), I did do things to give my own son a better shot at getting into the program (and he did). Nothing that wasn’t fun and well received, but certainly, I had an agenda.

    I agree wholeheartedly, we NEED more gifted programs. Bright kids need to be challenged so they can grow up ready to solve all the nasty problems we are leaving them.

  9. I disagree with the assertion that IQ tests cannot be prepped for. While it’s not going to make a huge difference in the final score, it could very well provide a modest boost & push a kid over the top. Having witnessed now 2 of my kids taking the WPPSI, I would be able to prep my 3rd if I so desired. I chose NOT to prep my 2nd because the test was given for diagnostic reasons rather than placement purposes.

  10. OOPs I meant to say that the things they test for CAN be taught. Not sure how I made that mistake!

  11. I have to agree with Margo/Mom being gifted is a title and is becoming a sign of wealth. Many parents want their child to have that title and will do anything to get it. One of the schools in our district started screening all Kindergarteners because every parent wanted their child tested to see if they were gifted; it is also the wealthiest school in our district.

  12. While not all kids are gifted, the percentage of gifted kids in any one school is likely to vary wildly because schools are reflective of their demographics. A school in an affluent area where most parents have graduate degrees is likely to have a large percentage of gifted kids; thanks to both inherited IQ and environment.

  13. mo4–my state requires screening for giftedness (although, thank God, not at the kindergarten level), using a number of scales in a number of areas (language, creativity, etc). While the state neither mandates nor funds any specific programming (and the district response is fairly minimal)–they do mandate that parents be informed. In this urban district, I believe that the rate of giftedness is about 20%. Now apparently, there are a few wealthy suburbans who claim as high as 80%. While I was delighted to hear that so many of our kids are being identified (even if nobody has yet figured out what to do with them), the scores in the suburbs really makes me wonder what it is that we are measuring.

  14. What’s the point in providing accelerated services for gifted kids? As far as I can tell, the reasoning is, firstly that gifted kids can go nuts with boredom otherwise, which is miserable for them (and not good for the rest of the class if they decide to cope by playing up), secondly, people who get to college-level without ever needing to really work at anything can encounter a nasty shock and have a hard time adjusting the attitudes thoroughly learnt during childhood and adolesence, thirdly we can use as many well-and-thoroughly educated people as we get so we shouldn’t be wasting any kids’ time teaching them things they already know or can learn far faster than the teaching.

    The last two of these reasons strike me as reasons to provide accelerated services for gifted kids no matter how their parents got them to that state.

  15. Scoring at the top of a “gifted admission” test does not mean that the child’s gifted, if they’ve been extensively coached. People who have administered the test certainly shouldn’t be coaching children on it. That’s highly unethical. (See Daniel Koretz’s _Measuring Up_ for a discussion of how targeted coaching can upend the validity of such tests.)

    _Nurture Shock_ makes a convincing argument that testing for gifted ness at an early age is invalid. I feel for the parents who would rather stay in the city, and see this as the one way to secure a decent education for their children. Why do these schools exist, though? If everyone pays the same taxes, why should some children enjoy schools which are markedly better than the rest?

    I would rather see an expansion of the system of exam schools in the city. The later a school admits its students, the higher they can set the bar. Super early admission only rewards the affluent parents “in the know.” If there must be some schools which admit students on the basis of scores, set the score cutoff at a reasonable level, so that one has a large selection of students. Then, admit by lottery.

  16. Parent2 – I think that the reason that these schools may be markedly better than the rest in the eyes of the parents is because of the student intake, not because of any extra resources.

    I question the “markedly better than the rest” label when applied to the school. Just because a school gets great marks from a well-performing student base doesn’t mean that the school is particularly good at teaching all sorts of students. A school drawing on a poor area might be far better at teaching students who start school knowing little English (even if it’s the students’ native language), as a result of lots more experience at that job.


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