Interesting Article about Gifted Testing

February 18, 2010 at 2:33 pm 7 comments

A couple people sent me this great article about gifted testing in NYC.  It may feel a bit long to read online, but try to slog through it.  There’s some good points covered about the pros/absurdities of testing kids at age 4 for a program that lasts for years.  I’ll include some of my favorite quotes below.

http://nymag.com/news/features/63427/index1.html

“Early good testers don’t make better students,” he tells me, “any more than early walkers make better runners.”
OK, true.  But I never thought that having my kid test into a gifted program meant he was going to be an intellilectual “runner” per se.  I don’t know or care if he’s going to kick ass in high school and college (in fact I’m guessing not,  but if he DOES test ahead at age 4, I feel like that DOES mean he can/should work ahead at ages say 5-7.  As should plenty of other kids in CPS who score high but don’t get a spot in a gifted/classical school.

About the different tests used by different schools (public vs private:)
As W. Steven Barnett, co-director of Rutgers’ National Institute for Early Education Research, notes: “Odds are they’re all going to have kids do something with triangles.”
Triangles, eh?!  Duly noted.
Oh, and can you imagine having to pay $275 to take some dumb test to get your kid into a private school (where I’m sure the odds are really slim of getting in.)

In 2006, David Lohman, a psychologist at the University of Iowa, co-authored a paper called “Gifted Today but Not Tomorrow?” in the Journal for the Education of the Gifted, demonstrating just how labile “giftedness” is. It notes that only 45 percent of the kids who scored 130 or above on the Stanford-Binet would do so on another, similar IQ test at the same point in time. Combine this with the instability of 4-year-old IQs, and it becomes pretty clear that judgments about giftedness should be an ongoing affair, rather than a fateful determination made at one arbitrary moment in time. I wrote to Lohman and asked what percentage of 4-year-olds who scored 130 or above would do so again as 17-year-olds. He answered with a careful regression analysis: about 25 percent.
OK, well that’s depressing.  But at least takes some of the pressure off that comes when we get those gifted scores. So there’re plenty of kids now who don’t test at gifted levels who will down the road.

They follow with this interesting point…

To have some mechanism that can find, during childhood, a quarter of the adults who’ll test so well is, if you think about it, impressive. “The problem,” wrote Lohman, “is assigning kids to schools for the gifted on the basis of a test score at age 4 or 5 and assuming that their rank order among age mates will be constant over time.”

Appelbaum, McCall’s co-author, puts an even finer point on the stakes. “No university I know,” he says, “would think of using a 4-year-old’s data to decide who to admit.”
Ok, true again.  But no colleges ARE doing it that way.  Are they?!

Rather than promoting a meritocracy, in other words, these tests instead retard one. They reflect the world as it’s already stratified—and then perpetuate that same stratification.

About testing and the Nature/Nurture factor:
“Instead of giving IQ tests, you could just as easily look at Zip Codes and the education levels of the parents to determine who gets the better schooling—you get a very high correlation between IQ and socioeconomic status in the first seven or eight years of life,” says Samuel J. Meisels, assessment expert and president of Chicago’s Erikson Institute, the renowned graduate school in childhood development. “Giftedness is a real thing, no question. But giftedness can be extinguished, and it can be nurtured.”
And that, my friends, explains why race and or socio-economics are used by CPS to assign the spots.  And why some kids will be getting an edge this year since 40% (?) of spots will be given out on test scores alone.

The article points out that unfortunately, there isn’t an obviously better way to do the selection (especially in schools with slim budgets.)  It involves observation and teacher input which just isn’t feasible in CPS.

And finally, the author concludes with this great blurb:

But my money’s on the marshmallow test. It’s quite compelling and, apparently, quite famous—Shenk talks about it with great relish in The Genius in All of Us. In the sixties, a Stanford psychologist named Walter Mischel rounded up 653 young children and gave them a choice: They could eat one marshmallow at that very moment, or they could wait for an unspecified period of time and eat two. Most chose two, but in the end, only one third of the sample had the self-discipline to wait the fifteen or so minutes for them. Mischel then had the inspired idea to follow up on his young subjects, checking in with them as they were finishing high school. He discovered that the children who’d waited for that second marshmallow had scored, on average, 210 points higher on the SAT.
God, really?  Assuming it were Smarties (picky eater hates marshmallows) there is NO WAY he’d be able to resist them.  Please conduct this test at home and report back on your child!

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Radio show tonight… talk to Ron! Good question….

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. twocents  |  February 18, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    But here is the REAL problem – some of us who test our kids for the gifted programs do so simply because the local school or private schools are not an option. Yes, my son scored and got entry, but it is not near perfect. He is truly bombarded by homework and projects in KDG. This is not what most of us are hoping for. I really just wanted him to have a good education.

  • 2. cpsobsessed  |  February 18, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    I agree – it’s like measuring the gifted quality of the program by quantity and not quality… which makes sense by CPS standards come to think about it. There’s got to be a way to make these programs more suited to what works for kids/families…

  • 3. chicago parent  |  February 19, 2010 at 10:31 am

    It would be nice if there were a re-testing process which measures aptitude at different ages. In a sense, the ability to get re-tested & transfer in allows this. But in reality since the number of slots is so small for transfers in effect the vast majority of slots are filled at the K or 1st grade level which may not be a pretty flawed measurement given the age and greater variablity in maturity levels at this age.

    What this type of selection does not account for is differences in levels of effort. In my opinion, the socio-economic criteria is not a very effective way to do this since it does not measure effort in any way. In my opinion, the people who get shorted by this selection process are 1st & 2nd generation immigrant types who have a strong work ethic & still think that education is very important.

    By the way, I’m glad that the marshmellow test was not used in the selection process since my son would have not been able to resist temptation.

  • 4. RL Julia  |  February 19, 2010 at 11:33 am

    The bottom line is that it is a little disappointing that CPS all but admits that a decent education is not guaranteed at all CPS schools. I am currently in a position where I feel I’ll be sending my son to a school with lots of resources and talented teachers where he will eventually burn out and lose any love of learning that he had due to the extreme workload or to our assigned middle school which is currently on the list for the top 15 gang-infested schools in the system. That school isn’t known for being well managed, I hear there are some good teachers but they are particularly supported and compared to school A, really no resources seem to go to the place.
    Isn’t there a middle ground here?

  • 5. mom  |  February 19, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    My 8th grader consistently scores in the 99th percentile. He scored in the 100% in reading on theEXPLORE test. He didn’t learn to read until second grade and his scores in third grade were pretty average.

    This early testing is a crock, in my view.

  • 6. Testing veteran  |  February 19, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Great article ! ! Here is another one about Head Start that says the gains children get from that program disappear by the end of first grade. While not the same as gifted testing there are some parallels.

    http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2010/01/14/18headstart.h29.html

  • 7. Christine  |  February 20, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Last night I offered my son 1 lollipop now or 2 later. He chose 1 now. When he woke up this morning he said, now can I have the 2 lollipops.

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