So should you try to prep a kid for the gifted test?
OK, so even if you can prep a kid for the gifted test, the next question is whether you should or not?
Question #1: Does prepping help? Just in my own opinion, I think that any type of test prep can help you (or your child) feel more comfortable on the test day and give you the best advantage possible. I definitely benefitted from test prep for the SATs and GMATs back in the day when I could actually concentrate on stuff like that. However since the version of the CPS test is still unknown, you may throw your kid off by having them practice on stuff that won’t actually be on the test. However practing doing little test-type exercises will probably help them feel more comfortable. Which brings up another question — what do you tell your kid about the test? Or do you even say that its a test? A friend of mine told her child it was an “interview” where they would help decide which school was best for her. I told my son that it was a test to see what he’d been learning in school.
Question #2: Can you actually improve the score by prepping your child? From what I’ve seen in my own kid, there are points at which knowledge “gels” in their brains. And before that happens, you just ain’t gonna force it in. When he took the test he could (with coaxing) read some 3 letter words. I am pretty sure that no level of practice could have gotten him beyond that point. I recently was reading some of the basic points of Piaget, who did some of the most famous research on child development. He had a couple tests that can be done to see if kids have reached certain mental milestones. One of them is to show 2 sets of objects with the same number of items, but one is spead out wider than the other. The child is asked which set has more items. Kids about 6 and under will say that the wider set has more items since the group appears visually bigger. I conducted this test on my son with 2 pack of Smarties. I counted out 15 in each pack, right before his eyes. Yet when I asked him which has more he would insist the wide-spread group had more. Honestly it was shocking to see. Like HOW could he not be getting it?!? Finally I counted out the Smarties again for him in both groups. His comment, “WHOAAA! Weird!” Like it was even freaking him out! Ah, the young mind. I guess that’s why they believe that Santa can deliver all the presents on Xmas eve using flying reindeer. So, case in point… I just don’t know if you can teach them more than the are developmentally ready to handle. And if there are certain types of logic questions on the test, ideally they could become more familiar with the questions, but I doubt that they can learn a level of logic that they don’t already possess.
Question #3: Is it good to “prep” your kid into gifted placement? Well, the biggest fear is that if prepping actually helps a kid beyond that their real abilities are, they could end up being in a class where they can’t keep up, which could just make things difficult in the end. I suspect that in the K and 1st grade level classes most kids are given leeway enough that just about any child can learn at their own level. But in the older elementary grades, I think things are really bumped up a notch. Some of that higher-level math could even put an adult to shame. On my tour of Bell, the principal mentioned a girl who moved into the regular 7th grade class so as not to be penalized grade-wise during that year (when grades help determine which high school you get into.) He said it turned out for the best because she got the grades needed for one of the top selective high schools and was now doing very well there. So…. one point in favor of attending a school with both gifted and neighborhood classes.
In the end, I think a lot of parents joke around about prepping for the gifted and classical testing, but I haven’t met any that have truly pursued any type of real prepping. I think most pre-school programs do a decent job of teaching kids the basics (some probably better than others.) If you have had faith in your preschool or what you’ve been teaching at home, you should be feeling like your child is as well prepared as they can be. And finally – not all types of intelligence are tested on these things. Some kids are smart in other ways… in fact one my son’s friends who really stood out to me as being a real smarty did not score high on the CPS gifted test for reasons I cannot fathom, while my son who thinks the word “buttocks” is the funniest thing on the planet did. Maybe “buttocks” was somehow incorporated into the test?
UPDATED: Here is an interesting post on another blog with input from a person who does gifted testing in NYC: http://edgeforlife.wordpress.com/2008/06/01/interview-with-an-olsat-tester-in-nyc/