Those New Yorkers will pay for anything (Test Prep for Kiddies)

November 21, 2009 at 9:02 am 19 comments

For the commenter who recently asked whether parents actually try to prep kids for testing before Kindergarten — in NYC the answer is yes.  Check out the following NYTimes story:

I think this sums up the mindset (and that of Chicago parents who are thinking about it.)

“Test preparation has long been a big business catering to students taking SATs and admissions exams for law, medical and other graduate schools. But the new clientele is quite a bit younger: 3- and 4-year-olds whose parents hope that a little assistance — costing upward of $1,000 for several sessions — will help them win coveted spots in the city’s gifted and talented public kindergarten classes.”

I haven’t known of parents in Chicago going to great lengths on test prep, but I think there are local parents who’d like to have their kids do a few practice questions just to make sure the kid has a clue about what to do come test time.  I’ve done some of the workbook-type stuff that I ordered from and in my opinion I could help my son understand how questions are asked (which maybe gives him an edge?  Or not.) but in no way could I push his level of comprehension.  So I guess what I’m saying is that I can hone his test-taking skills but not his actual knowledge.  Actually that was true when he was pre-K level.  There are just certain mental breakthroughs that kids that age either have made or not.  You can’t fake it.  (That was Piaget’s whole theory.)  That’s why I think it can make sense for parents to do some work at home, but paying $1000K for a prep service seems crazy to me.  But everything in the NYC education system is bumped up about 10 notches.

Although it drives me crazy how much of a secret the test is in Chicago, I also think it’s weird that the NYC public school system makes theirs widely knows (its called the OLSAT.)  The article even says that they provide 16 sample questions to level the playing field.  I’ll have to try to track that down.

A company in NYC called BrightKids has an OLSAT boot camp that is now full but parents can order a test-prep book for a mere $90. (I am almost loathe to post the link – I know I’d have been tempted to order this book when we were testing for K, but I have a weird resentment for these companies getting rich off of blatant test prep for 4-year-olds.)  I will point out that we don’t actually know whether the CPS test is OLSAT and in theory if you have your child practice on this workbook you could be throwing them totally of course if a different test is used.

UPDATE: Helen from was nice enough to send me the following information.  This is the best example of actual test-type questions I’ve seen to date .  Keep in mind this is OLSAT which may not be what Chicago uses.

Here’s the link to the NY Gifted handbooks.  The practice tests are at the end.

They’re designed to introduce children to the format of the test.  They’re
not full length and not necessarily the same difficulty level as the actual
test.  This test is intended as practice for NYC parents who have signed up to have their kids tested there.

Entry filed under: Gifted / Classical Testing. Tags: .

Admissions policy community meeting this Thursday evening I’m now a CPS working parent

19 Comments Add your own

  • 1. 2 cents  |  November 21, 2009 at 9:49 am

    We had our son tested on a whim because private schools were not in our budget and our neighborhood school is scary. My friend gave me the list of schools to put on application (because I didn’t have enough time to research it before deadline). Because we applied so late we were offered only one day and time for test, Sunday morning at 7am! Son woke up with 102 fever, vomiting. Drugged and dragged him out the door and made it barely in time in the sleet and snow. No we didn’t prep. No we didn’t tour. The testing gods smiled on us and he got into RGC. No gimmicks needed. Maybe the cold medicine sedated him enough to sit still!!

  • 2. dave4118  |  November 21, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    I went to the Decatur open house last month, and after a series of questions from parents about ‘details’ of the test, the principal made an slightlty sarcastic comment about how none of the parents here would be rigorously prepping their children for this assessment—the roomful of parents let out a collective giggle. I took it to mean that the principal was winking at them, and the parents were winking back. I think serious prepping is going on, and it is the unspoken secret that no one will admit to. I was a little ticked off, we have tried to follow the prescribed guidelines and not subject our child to the kinds of rigorous prepping that I strongly suspect is going on.

  • 3. Y  |  November 21, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    There’s probably more benefit in prepping for the classical exam than the regional gifted center exam since the classical exam tests on what the student knows, esp. math and reading. It seems like that would be easier to prep for than the RGC exam, which is supposed to be more about how the student thinks.

  • 4. cpsobsessed  |  November 21, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    Dave – It does sound like prep goes on but I’ve honestly never met any parent who knew what to actually do other than do things like practice letters, short words, counting, simple math etc. If that is the kind of test prep we do in Chicago that seem respectable to me. And as Y pointed out, it probably does more to prep a kid for the Classical exam.

  • 5. Coonley Mom  |  November 21, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    We did not prep our son, who is now in 1st grade RGC. We really went into the testing thinking whatever happens was meant to be, and we did not want him to be in a program that was too stressful or advanced for him. Now our younger son will be testing in the next few months. Although we would love for them to be in the same program, we will not prep him for the test. I would not want to set my son up for a stressful education. If he is not ready for 2-3 year advanced learning, I would feel horrible placing him in such a setting. I also never told my 1st grader he was taking a test, just that a teacher wanted to meet him, talk with him, ask him questions. We never discussed the results with our son. I am pretty sure he has no idea that he is in a “gifted” program. Good luck to all those parents that will be sorting through this confusing CPS process!

  • 6. dave4118  |  November 21, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    i know there is a fine line between reading to one’s child, or spending time on the Leap Frog refrigerator magnets…and drilling poor little Jimmy.

  • 7. cpsobsessed  |  November 21, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    OK, I’m happy to report that my son got 10/10 on the practice test for kids entering Kindergarten (2 years younger than he is.) So if he wants to be held back 2 years he could be gifted. 🙂

  • 8. InTheSystem  |  November 22, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Perhaps the point is that there shouldn’t be prepping for the tests. Can aptitude tests really be prepped for? Perhaps the point NYC is trying to make in putting the name out there is that one’s ability is one’s ability. Even if prepped, one can only perform to the best of one’s ability. Perhaps even without spending 1000s on test prep the kids would do well on the tests and get into those schools anyway.

    As an educator from a Progressive background, it seems that the focus on tests and prepping ensures that children miss play, exploration, discovery, questioning and learning that can be taking place, arming them for the world and its mysteries much more adequately than learning to test well.

  • 9. yet another mom  |  November 23, 2009 at 10:26 am

    My experiences and opinions are very similar to those of Coonley mom’s. My daughter took the test last year around this time and I also didn’t say much about why we were there. In the waiting room, I heard kids my daughter’s age speaking French and reading aloud, while she colored and talked to me about Blue’s Clues. I didn’t think she had a chance, but when all was said and done she got into Edison. On our way out of the test my daughter asked me if they were trying to figure out how smart she was, so I guess her analytical skills and powers of deductive reasoning were pretty stong for a 4 year old after all. I still wonder where the kid speaking French ended up.

  • 10. this is crazy  |  November 23, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    My son never would have tested into a program in kindergarten. In 3rd grade, the first time he was tested, he scored somewhere in the 70% in reading math etc. In 5th grade, he went up to the 98%. In 7th grade, he tested at 99% with an asterik. Kids are all over the place until about third grade–especially boys.

  • 11. LR  |  November 24, 2009 at 10:47 am

    I don’t know how much test prep helps. In my opinion, getting in is a combination of being smart and lucky. I have commented before that my daughter got 97th percentile (no prep involved) and did not get in last year – and she wasn’t the only one. Is the test even sensitive enough to differentiate between 97th, 98th and 99th percentile? Could she have taken it on a different day and gotten 1-2 percentiles higher? Probably. Could she have gotten slightly different questions and gotten a different score? Probably. I plan to do a bit of test prep this year, but really, in her case, I don’t know that it’s going to make a huge difference. I just hope this year we get lucky.

  • 12. chicago parent  |  November 25, 2009 at 8:49 am

    As ugly as prepping a pre-kindergardner is, doing so is understandable. With the continued focus on helping the bottom of the class, students that can achieve more are ignored in most typical classrooms. This has been my personal experience & that of my friends with kids in neighborhood programs or non gifted programs even in the better schools. Over the past 10 years the slender amount of funding for gifed kids (a term with elitist connotations) has been slashed. There is no mandate to provide challenging work for motivated kids. I sense that many parents who are prepping their kids know this and just want to get their kids into a more challenging environment. I think that it’s a shame that the talents of the most motivated & often most talented students continue to be ignored.

  • 13. KevinG.  |  November 25, 2009 at 9:51 am

    I think CPS officials and other educational experts would all (if really pressed) agree that testing 4-years-olds and taking the top scorers who happened to do well on THAT DAY of testing is imperfect…..BUT does anybody have a better and more fair way to create classes for the RGCs and Classical programs among HUNDREDS (maybe even thousands) of applicants? I have my problems with the admissions process (testing 4-yeard-olds for an enriched educational program that will help determine where they go until 6th or 7th grade seems crazy, especially since experts believe cognitive skill levels aren’t really apparent until around 7-8 yrs –some kids peak early, other not until later), but does anybody else HONESTLY have a better idea that is actually legal and practical AND won’t prompt parental complaints/possible lawsuits? I don’t. Also, for kids that “ripen” intellectualy later there still is the option of transferring at a later time, the pre-IB program, etc.

  • 14. It's a game  |  November 25, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    I dont know about prepping four year olds–seems ridiculous and even harmful. But I do believe test prep later on makes a difference. In third grade (my kids went to catholic school), my daughter was identified as eligible for Title I reading because her diagnostic reading score was low. It didn’t sound right to me. So, I sat her down with the test and showed her how to take it. She’s been scoring in the 90’s ever since. (She stayed in the Title I after school program for a year because it was fun).

  • 15. CPSinterested  |  April 23, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Can you let me know what your kid’s test score was and what the score (ratio) was if he/she took the NY test? My daughter just turned 4 and I had her take the NY test, but I don’t know where she stands with the result, so just want to collect some info to see if there is a correlation between the NY test and CPS gifted test. Thanks.

  • 16. edgeforlife  |  June 23, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    I operate one of these NYC test prep companies.

    Contrary to the many comments online about how stressful this must be for the typical 4 year old, it is actually fun for them – these are after all some very intelligent children and they enjoy the challenge. Our program at Manhattan Edge is called “Play Prep” just for that reason, because we strive to make it fun with games and activities they enjoy. Parents are the only ones who appear to be stressed and for good reason – once your child goes into the room with the test administrator (a stranger) it is totally out of anyone’s control.

    In our program, we do two things –
    1. we work on developing their cognitive thinking skills, which will stay with them through out their educational life, and
    2. we expose them to the type of questions on the tests, teaching them how to look at the question, eliminate wrong choices and take their time to come up with the best answer. Many children, even bright ones answer a little too quickly.For OLSAT test prep, we work with games that develop listening skills because this test specifically gauges the child’s ability to listen and follow directions in the classroom. In tandem, it raises the comfort level of the child taking the test and of the parent that will not be there to help. I have to add, no matter what test your K child takes, all of these tests assess the same skills. Most importantly though it is crucial that your child learn the skills to do well. Taking a dozen practice tests, which all of these companies are selling, does not teach the child anything. You do not take Spanish practice tests to ace a Spanish exam, you study conjugation and vocabulary.

    The system or the testing may not be perfect but when there are thousands of students to filter into the right programs you have to start somewhere. These tests are not judging the intelligence or future potential of the child, mostly the amount of enrichment they have been exposed to by the test date and how well they will listen from day one. We provide this enrichment to many homes where both parents are working – and not always wealthy homes. They want to give their children an opportunity they did not have or maybe they just want their child to follow in their footsteps – hopefully to an easier life in a world they see as more competitive than the one they grew up in.

    Harley Evans
    Founder and President
    Manhattan Edge Educational Programs

  • 17. tmilton  |  February 11, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    These comments, as well as the article have been extremely helpful.
    Our children are taking the classical &RGC tests this weekend and next weekend and we are finding it very odd that these tests are such a secret. I don’t think it’s “prepping” your kids necessarily as much as its giving them a sense of what to expect so that there is no anxiety and that they can feel prepared. And if that is “prepping” is that really such a bad thing?
    By making some form of the tests accessible (i.e a sample test booklets you can download or include it with the test notification letters) it can level the playing field somewhat by giving ALL FAMILIES the ability to get a sense of what to expect.
    We came here and found that our only options were our neighborhood school, which was unfortunately on Academic Probation. What do you think those students chances are going to be on a test like the Selective Enrollment tests VS a student in a school that is already very well performing?
    My children were in the NYC public schools, my children took the OLSAT and passed-yes we left gifted schools in NYC to come to CPS and until now I wasn’t worried that we could find comparable schools.
    I have called the offices at CPS and though very helpful, when asked what can I do to prepare my child I was told “nothing”. As a parent I don’t think that is possible.
    If anyone has taken these tests recently PLEASE give feedback-I don’t mean answers(LOL) just what was it like, are there 100 kids in an auditorium? do most children use the full 1.5-2 hours?

  • […] Those New Yorkers will pay for anything (Test Prep for Kiddies) CPS Obsessed For the commenter who recently asked whether parents actually try to prep kids for testing before Kindergarten — in NYC the answer is yes. […]

  • 19. The Importance of Keeping a Secret « ChicagoSchoolChat  |  October 18, 2012 at 9:54 am

    […] According to CSP Obsessed, the gifted testing program in Chicago and Illinois,  maintains a much higher premium placed on keeping aptitude tests secret than in Florida.  It is essential to ensure that money and opportunity do not become the primary variable in determining a child’s chances of entry into an advanced program.  The identification of gifted children is an important program that allows these children to be placed in environments that will more fully develop their potential.  It is crucial, however, that the right kids are placed in these programs and that intellectual potential is the criteria for selection – not the parents’ financial resources. […]

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