New York Schools Try to Separate Gifted Students from the Best-Prepped

February 18, 2013  |  

Even non-New Yorkers know how tough the preschool and kindergarten scramble can be for parents and kids in New York City. But a new article in the New York Times shows things are going to get tougher for parents trying to get their kids into gifted kindergarten programs—and for the schools who have to evaluate them for the programs.

As the tests change, test prep programs like Pearson and Bright Kids NYC rework their test prep programs immediately to meet the needs of parents who want to give their kids an extra edge. With the amount of prep available, and the disproportionate way resources are distributed (parents with money get their kids with tutoring, parents who can’t afford it don’t), the question becomes, are schools accepting the most gifted students or the ones who have studied more?

As the article points out, “Assessing students has always been a fraught process, especially 4-year-olds, a mercurial and unpredictable lot by nature, who are vying for increasingly precious seats in kindergarten gifted programs.” When parents give their kids endless prep for a specific test, the test becomes less about identifying gifted students and more about students learning for a specific test. Besides, some of these tests, including the popular ERB, or Educational Resource Bureau, test, were originally developed to identify low IQ and cognitive delay. This test, experts have argued, isn’t a useful rubric for discerning whether a child is gifted. And the goal of gifted programs is to find the students who can do well on the test, but more importantly, are able to continue learning and developing.

New York school officials have evidence that prep skews test results. For example, some students have been disqualified from the process because they answer questions before the testers have even finished asking them. Or younger sibs of students already enrolled in gifted school programs consistently score lower because parents don’t prepare them as much for tests. They know having one child at the school gives their second child an extra edge and don’t put them through the tutoring and additional homework.

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