New clues about the CPS gifted test content (and can I prep my kid?)

October 30, 2008 at 1:04 am 4 comments

The New York Times has an article today about the gifted programs in NYC.  I can barely follow what they’re saying based on how screwy the system is there.   The gist of it is that some changes in how they allocated spots in their gifted program has messed things up in a big way, resulting in some classes being tiny, others big, and still others being disbanded for lack of enrollment (even though 16,000 kids were tested and they have 66 entry-level gifted classes.)  Dang, that is a big-ass city.  All I know is, I’m glad I don’t live there as far as school is concerned.

Anyhow, the big news that I wish I’d read one year ago is the discussion of the test that is used to determine admission to the gifted classes: The Otis-Lennon School Ability Test, or Olsat, a reasoning exam, and the Bracken School Readiness Assessment.   Apparently, this OLSAT is replacing the Stanford Binet Intelligence scale across the land as the means for testing kids for gifted programs.  Obviously NYC has the biggest testing program around, but I gotta figure that other cities are following suit.   It’s possible the Chicago is still using the Stanford Binet, based on what I’ve read about the normative data the S/B has collected.  In speaking with the people at the testing facility here, they talk a lot about the “norms and percentiles.” 

Some lady in this (incredibly painful-to-navigate) blog discusses the differences between the two tests and concludes that the Stanford Binet is more reliable (and sounds like more fun) for kids ages 4-6.

But, you ask…. what’s in it for me?  Well, I haven’t had a chance to look in depth just yet, but out there in Internet Land, there must be some clues as to what kinds of things are on these tests.  In fact my first attempt at Yahoo-ing the OLSAT reveals a preparatory kit that can be purchased to help your child practice.  Quite a coup for the overzealous parents of New York City.

Another site sells workbooks that can help with test prep, even down to the prek level (and you can even find workbooks to help kids prep for the ISATs:)  Maybe I’m a nerd, but some of them actually look kind of fun. I’m going to try out some of the Mind Bender books on my kid.  Another site mentions this Building Thinking Skills line of books as good prep material for the Stanford-Binet.

In retrospect, it’s probably better that I didn’t know about any of this last year.  My son wouldn’t have had the attention span to sit through any kind of practice session and I would have been a nutcase (or to clarifly, MORE of a nutcase.)

UPDATE: I received the 2 Mind Bender books that I ordered.  The Grades K-2 version seems like it’ll be too hard for my kid (sample question: Suppose that all boys have purple hair.  And suppose that all purple-haired people are 3 meters tall.  What else must then be true?) Maybe I’m underestimating my kid – I haven’t actually tried them on him yet.  But this might be a good indication of the Stanford-Binet type questions.  The PreK-K book is all of the same type of question, which involves filling in a little grid of logic using the clues given (for example figuring out which of 3 people lives in the biggest, smallest, or widest house.)  With a little instruction, my son has been able to do these with me reading the clues.  But I’m sure a real test would have a greater range of questions.  So while these are fun little mind-benders and challenge kids’ logic skills, I’m unsure they provide real prepping for a gifted test.  I do think they’ll be fun for taking to restaurants and such to occupy time.

The site has a section about the test called COGAT that is used in some areas.  If you email the company, they’ll send you a sample sheet of 3 questions for this age range which are the type I was imagining is on the CPS version (no real proof though.)  I got the copy, but can’t seem to figure out how to post it here.  Just send an email to with the words CogAT Primary in the subject line and you’ll get the sheet right away.  The site is also nice to explore for info on testing in general.

And finally, assuming that CPS uses the Stanford-Binet test (that is my best guess right now), the following book might help a kid get ready:

You can read about my own experience having my son tested before Kindergarten here:

Entry filed under: Applying to schools, Regional Gifted Program. Tags: , , , , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sandee  |  November 3, 2008 at 9:27 am

    Would recommend to you and parents this website for more information on the OLSAT and other assessments used to measure student ability: and the blog I am working on:

    We provide individualized coaching when requested and support both before and after the parent purchases resources.

    I’d also suggest that you consider my Loyalty/Affiliate program and post a link on your blog.


  • 2. Mason  |  December 3, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    Hi there! Just got your blog link from the NPN post about high schools. I posted the info on the Consortium reports.

    Anyway, this is interesting stuff. I was under the impression that the gifted test is not something that can be prepped for. Also, my understanding was that it is not an IQ test; they really aren’t qualified to administer an IQ test of any kind. True IQ tests can only be administered by a psychologist…at least thats what I have been told in the past. I think that “school ability” is the true result of either CPS test. Honestly, I wouldn’t put it past them. I think they want to make sure that the kids can keep up with the program. By that I mean that they want kids who know how to “work”, as opposed to kids with high IQ’s that may not have the focus.

    In all honesty, my oldest son is in CPS gifted (2nd grade now) and it just seems accelerated to me (like Decatur). I don’t see any accommodation for giftedness, which has always been explained to me as having a different though/understanding process.

    Also, I have had my son’s IQ tested and it is a lot higher than what his CPS scores reflected.

    CPS is strange indeed…its like a black box: we all see what info goes in, but nobody has any idea what the process is inside of the box.

  • 3. cpsobsessed  |  December 4, 2008 at 12:46 am

    Interesting about the IQ score. When I got the raw score from the gifted testing, it did look suspicously like an IQ score. I have been told that the early gifted testing finds kids with “potential” whereas for kids in the mid-grades and up (say 3rd grade+) it is measuring actual intelligence or performance. Hard to know since the test contest is such a secret!
    I am curious to see how my son’s school progresses with the gifted program. I too am seeing signs of it being mainly accelerated but am hopeful that it will actually take a different approach to learning, which is what GEAP claims is the goal of the gifted programs.

  • 4. Katie  |  June 9, 2013 at 9:31 pm

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