Trib article on Kindergarten Test prep

February 15, 2011 at 4:35 pm 33 comments

Interesting article today in the Trib about parents who prep their kids for CPS testing for Kindergarten.

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-02-14/news/ct-met-cps-testing-0215-20110214_1_kindergarten-tests-decatur-classical-elementary-private-schools

Some interesting points that may or may not have been covered in previous articles in on the topic:

“It’s just yet another example that the country has gone test crazy,” said Robert Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest, a national nonprofit that advocates for other methods of assessing young children. “This sort of insanity testing produces test coaching for little kids and gaming of the system by parents and others to figure out what’s on the test and get their kid a leg up. We’re not letting kids be kids, and we’re making them into little Einsteins.”

As kindergarten is an entry year for most of those programs, many parents are hiring private tutors, researching tests used in other large urban school systems, finding age-appropriate questions online and doing whatever else it takes to get their kids on the right track early.

The article mentions a mom who hired a former Montessori teacher to help prep her child.  It notes that there are no formal test prep companies for young kids in the city but there are some specific resources mentioned in the article:

-Testingmom.com (been meaning to mention this site lately)

-Tutor Lemi Erinkitola started a tutoring company for kids as young as 3, preparing children, mostly on the South Side

As usual, one of the key questions is whether a school district should be revealing the test that’s used (like NYC does) or whether the shroud of secrecy should continue in Chicago.  And of course, whether it makes sense/is fair to prep kids.

Now interestingly, the Trib has published some sample questions (provided by testingmom.com – I think I’m seeing how this article originated now…)  I assume these are highly useful if you live in NYC but probably can’t hurt for Chicago parents to take a peek to get an idea of what type of questions *might* be on the test.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/education/ct-met-gifted-testing-examples-htmlpage,0,6394351.htmlpage

And finally, a nice article on the difference between Classical and Gifted testing and some nice tips on how parents can work some of the “practice questions” into their kids’ day without blatantly “cramming.”

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/education/ct-met-cps-testing-sidebar-0215-20110214,0,5780878.story

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33 Comments Add your own

  • 1. cpsobsessed  |  February 15, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    I’m looking at the test sample questions. Personally, I love logic questions like this. One sample for 2nd grade (I assume kids testing into second grade) involved the abilit to hold information in your head for a minute or so (downfall of the working mother.)

    It says: “If a cat were a dog and a dog were a cat, which animal would the dog want to chase?” (Mouse, Fly, Cat, Elephant.)

    This is an example of a question that I think could contain some biases. It assumes a univeral understanding that Cats chase Mice. Does every child know that? Does that measure innate intelligence and logic and the ability to hold information? I think it also measure whether the child has been read stories, songs (Farmer in the Dell perhaps?) watched TV etc. Have a cat at home and also mice in the house? Maybe cats chase other animals in other countries.

    I just feel like the questions makes some assumptions about the knowledge of the test-taker and common “knowledge” among society.

    I took my son through the sample questions from the NYC school site and some of the drawings were a little odd (and also had some similar assumptiveness, I felt.)

    Anyhow, just my own little rant.

  • 2. MarketingMom  |  February 15, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    I feel that if a child is truly “gifted”, they do not need to be coached. However, I understand that there are many parents that do not want to send their child to the neighborhood school either.

  • 3. cpsobsessed  |  February 15, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    I’ve been pretty open about my support of test prep, in general. I think it makes sense to help a kid at least know roughly what to expect when they walk into the test.
    But I do think it’s weird that NYC makes the test public knowledge. I kind of like Chicago’s secret method. I think it keeps parents more sane.

  • 4. copy editor  |  February 15, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Well, MarketingMom, some truly gifted kids have bad days. That’s one of the issues about these tests in kids so young: are they testing intelligence or maturity? Hence, I understand why people do the test prep, even though it sickens me that they feel that they have to.

  • 5. Jennifer  |  February 15, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    When we went to testing there were kids cramming in the waiting area, these were 4 and 5 year olds. I thought it was a real shame.

    It also irks me that my child could miss out on a place she could have made good use of to a child who scored better because they were coached, but who is simply not up to the rigor of the actual class. Unfortunately you can’t outlaw coaching, so I think ultimately CPS is going to have to release the information to give everyone the same chance.

    Of course the real tragedy is that this is the level we have to stoop to in order to get our children a decent enough education in this city.

  • 6. mom2  |  February 15, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    @5 “Of course the real tragedy is that this is the level we have to stoop to in order to get our children a decent enough education in this city.”
    You are correct. That is the real tragedy about the urgency people feel about getting their children into both SE elementary and high schools.

  • 7. Maureen  |  February 16, 2011 at 12:54 am

    In January, my daughter took the test for entry into 2nd grade. I was looking at the test sample questions and she happened to come over and ask what I was looking at. She picked out a few of the questions as “similar” in type asked on the test, but a lot of them she said didn’t ring a bell.

    I didn’t have her study per se…but I did review what would happen on test day (she’d have to go to the test room with the proctor and other kids) and we briefly reviewed the types of questions I thought they might ask. She loves riddles and puzzles and logic games so I didn’t figure there was much I could do to make her better at them…and I didn’t want to stress her out.

    We’ll see how the scores turned out….

  • 8. Kelly  |  February 16, 2011 at 8:11 am

    I know there are conflicting philosophies on this, but prepping kids for these test seems like such a bad idea. I didn’t want my kids to get into an SE school because I prepped them — I wanted them to get in only if it was a good fit for them.

    If they make the test public knowledge, we’ll suddenly have a booming test-prep industry for pre-Ks, and if you want a shot at getting in, you’ll be forced to do test prep just to compete. Honestly, that sounds terrible.

  • 9. ChicagoGawker  |  February 16, 2011 at 10:02 am

    The only thing a high score on those tests shows with certainty is that a kid is ‘not dumb’. Gifted? Hah.

  • 10. Catherine  |  February 16, 2011 at 10:10 am

    I suppose this may come across as churlish, but my main question is why they ran the articles NOW (at the very end of the testing period), when most of the children (like my daughter) have already been tested?

    Although we did not prep my daughter, I am slightly annoyed that the last few children being tested now seem to have a slight advantage (in seeing these ‘sample’ questions) over those who took the test months ago.

    I’m not against test prep per se, but my issue is that I think the Tribune should have just waited a couple of weeks until the testing period was over, or ran this in the early Fall, to ensure overall fairness to all the kids taking the test. They could have at least ran the piece on Classical versus Gifted a while back.

  • 11. Catherine  |  February 16, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Oh, a postscript, around my neighborhood, the trend seems to be to use those Brain Quest cards with kids being tested for SE schools. Just wanted to share.

  • 12. Christine  |  February 16, 2011 at 10:27 am

    One thing to keep in mind is that people who hire tutors, buy test prep material, etc. are far, far in the minority. Articles like this give you the idea that everyone else is doing it but I don’t think that’s really the case.

    And keep in mind that the assessment that CPS does is not an IQ test. It is not even really a good assessment of giftedness. It is a test for academic preparedness and fit for Chicago’s gifted and classical schools. If your child doesn’t perform well, that doesn’t mean they aren’t smart. And if they do perform well, that doesn’t mean they are truly gifted.

    It’s an imperfect system but unfortunately there are so few spots available for kids who can perform at this level that she stakes seem very high.

    I have always said we would never, never move to the suburbs. But I have one child in a classical program and one child with a hearing impairment. I am dreading the day when she graduates from Early Intervention. In some ways the suburban educational offerings are looking better and better.

  • 13. cpsobsessed  |  February 16, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Has anyone gone through the practice questions? I found several of them to be pretty ambiguous (or maybe I’m not gifted…) I wonder if it is a function of the actual test (I believe this is practice material for the NYC test) or a function of the test prep materials. Someone has to come up with loads of test-prep questions so these companies can continue to sell them to parents. Maybe the test prep company isn’t good at devising questions? Anyhow, I’d be curious in someone else’s opinion.

  • 14. cpsobsessed  |  February 16, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Very well put Christine. I also don’t think that hiring a Montessori teacher is necessarily the same as drilling kids on flash cards. what can it possibly hurt to have a teacher spend some time with your kids? those articles do imply that lots of parents are prepping, when many of the most “obsessed” parents who read this blog haven’t even done anything substantial.

    I think there are limitations to how much you can prep a 4 year old anyhow. There are key developmental milestones that can’t really be rushed. If a kid can’t read a 3 letter word, you can’t “prep” them to do it. If a kid doesn’t get the basic pattern questions, you can’t make them practice them. I think the best you can do is give them some extra practice with what they can do so they feel familiar with the test and are at their best advantage that day. Which could still be worthless if their socks are lumpy or they don’t like the test-giver.

  • […] the popular blog CPS Obsessed pertaining to the Chicago Public Schools wrote a nice piece regarding the […]

  • 16. cpsobsessed  |  February 16, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Thanks to a reader who pointed out that the testingmom.com site mentions me. Yay!
    Anyhow, her blurbs says that she doesn’t know for sure which test is used in Chicago, but she has a hunch (not that many to choose from.)
    She does point out that the subject matter doesn’t vary widely from test to test, so learning aids for one will likely help for any test.

    http://www.testingmom.com/uncategorized/karen-quinn-the-testing-mom-featured-in-chicago-tribune-on-chicago-public-schools-gifted-and-talented-testing/

  • 17. magnet parent  |  February 16, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    I’m a liilte confused about why one might feel that it takes the edge off if you hire a person who was a “Montessori ” teacher? One on one Montessori??? Kind of silly. It’s just plain having someone prep your kid with a private tutor. I wish the accelerated programs were integrated into the magnet and neighborhood schools. I just don’t think you can test giftedness until at least second grade. It’s mostly a test of how much education the parents have. That said I totally understand parents trying whatever it takes to get their children in a great place to learn.

  • 18. cpsobsessed  |  February 16, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    I guess because Montessori is more child-directed. It’s not worksheets or flash cards. The skills that a child would learn using Montessori materials would be helpful to any child in their development of reading and math skills. (As a disclaimer, my son attended a Montessori preK. Although HE wasn’t a fan of the work, I was.) Not that the article actually said that the teacher used actual Montessori methods…. just that she was an ex-Montessori teacher.
    Then again, perhaps worksheets and flashcards also help kids learn. Hope so since these are a hallmark of a CPS education. (sorry, couldn’t resist.)

  • 19. HSObsessed  |  February 16, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    I think it’s funny that some people feel the need to hire others to tutor their 4 or 5 year old children. Don’t most adults have the general knowledge base required to go through materials that would be covered in a test of academic skills for kindergarten to maybe second grade? Plus, I’m as cheap as they come, so that would factor in to the equation for me as well.

  • 20. bagg  |  February 16, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    HSObsessed, I agree with you. Save the test prep money for getting into HS. We have many friends that have enrolled their kids for the ISEE, Catholic schools and SE test prep classes. IMO, waste of money. Test prep books and online have the same info.

  • 21. dad  |  February 17, 2011 at 2:43 am

    ” I just don’t think you can test giftedness until at least second grade. It’s mostly a test of how much education the parents have.”

    Sorry, but I disagree. You can test for giftedness before second grade. For example, when a child begins teaching themselves to read at 2 1/2 and understands how to work with negative integers at 3, I’d guess that you can test them fairly accurately as “gifted”. Let’s not kid ourselves. SEES are really accelerated programs, not gifted programs. There would never be 28 kids to a class in a gifted program. Actually, there shouldn’t be that many kids in any class. For some kids even this Options program is not a challenge. When there are so few decent choices available to all, everyone scrambles for a spot by any means necessary. And I completely understand their motivation. The funny thing about prepping is, that gifted or not, you can’t predict what a 4 year will do. My child could read but when asked to do so during his test he pretended that he couldn’t because he didn’t like the way the woman smelled and he wanted to get out of there!

  • 22. mom2  |  February 17, 2011 at 9:48 am

    @21 dad – you made me laugh. Great story and so true about 4-year-olds.

  • 23. bagg  |  February 17, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Anyone else received HS notification letters? I heard Parker and Latin legacy acceptance mailed last week, St. Ignatius earlier this week.

  • 24. momof4  |  February 17, 2011 at 10:48 am

    I just called OAE. The nice lady on the other end of the phone reports that SEHS letters will without a doubt be mailed tomorrow. But with our sporadic mail delivery and the President’s Day holiday on Monday, I don’t think we’ll see a letter at our home until next Tuesday – maybe.
    Good luck everyone. Stay calm and positive and be there to celebrate or reassure your child when the letter comes. I know for a fact these letters bring a lot of happiness for some, but real tears for others.

  • 25. bagg  |  February 17, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    momof4, thank you for calling OAE. I called Lincoln Park and verified that their IB notification letters will be mailed from the HS, not OAE.

    Yes. Daughter’s friends have shed tears (and parents are angry) about rejection from Iggy. It appears that there were many more applications at Iggy this year, and thus more rejections. Increase in applications probably due to the perception of no acceptance at SEHS.

  • 26. anonymous  |  February 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Dad — I have to disagree with you, too. Certainly, there are gifted children. However, to say that all can be identified at 5 years old is what is wrong. We are wasting valuable resources, time, stress, and more with trying to determine who MIGHT be gifted at kindergarten.

    What’s wrong with this entire SE system at the kindergarten entry point is that one test at such a young age in CPS determines your entire career. Why should students who later turn out to be gifted (whereas I’m positive many who tested into SE program end up NOT being truly gifted) be locked out from the eduction THEY truly need?

    Read NurtureShock for some real research on the subject.

    It is a sham to make kindergarten the entry point for SE. It is a sham based on the city’s fear that they will lose all motivated parents for the suburbs if they don’t do this.

  • 27. dad  |  February 17, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    @26. I never said that all gifted kids can all be identified at 4 or 5. But it is also wrong to state flat out that giftedness can’t be determined at that age at all. That was my point. Besides, CPS tests for “accelerated school readiness” because, while better than most options, most of the SEES schools aren’t really gifted programs. Also, if your child’s giftedness shows up in second grade they can test then. And you’re right – kids who get into SEES’s might not be gifted but that’s because CPS weights the scores with other factors. If acceptance into SEES was completely based on the score alone they would probably have more “gifted” kids in there. Most experts agree that it’s possible for gifted kids to test poorly, but rare that a high score is achieved without the ability.

  • 28. cps Mom  |  February 18, 2011 at 8:51 am

    @26 – I do think that the city would lose these kids to the suburbs if they don’t start testing right at entry level.

  • 29. mom2  |  February 18, 2011 at 9:47 am

    @28 – I also agree with you, but if anyone looks deeper into that fact, they will see that the real reason people want to have their kids tested at entry level is to try to get their child into a school with other students similar to their child. What that means is that they want their child at a school with other students that care about education, that have been read to since they were babies, that have parents with a good solid education, with family support for the school and the community, with similar values, etc. Right now, most people feel that the only way to somewhat guarantee that is for their child to at least appear “gifted” so they can go to certain schools. I bet most children of parents that participate in this forum would be considered “gifted” in comparison to the majority of current CPS students, but maybe not really “gifted” in the true sense of the word. (Some actually are gifted if they are reading when they are two years old, etc.)

  • 30. anonymous  |  February 18, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    DAD — and others after — I actually agree with a lot of those points — which is why I made mine.I think we are saying similar things. I agreed that some kids definitely can be identified as gifted early. However, there are too many who cannot.

    The issue for me is that you CAN test at 1st, 2nd, third, etc. However, at that point the spots are already taken in the “best” schools. That is the problem. There are so few spots in SE schools and magnets beyond kindergarten that it’s one shot for a good eduction. (My children actually attend a neighborhood school, so I don’t really believe that — but I know I’m in the minority.)

    I think the whole idea of school CHOICE is really school CHANCE.

    But because I DO believe that a lot of parents would move out of the city if they could not have these chances, it’s not like I have a solution. I just have an issue that I wish CPS would address. Does that make sense? I don’t think access to a good education in Chicago should be a lottery or a test. However, I don’t have the solution or I’d be an educator myself.

    I do appreciate the discussion, though, so thank you all. It’s a really interesting dilemma.

  • 31. TAS Mom  |  December 7, 2011 at 12:29 am

    As I await my testing date for my twin sons entering kindergarten in fall 2012, I’ve decided to let go of all of the stress. I agree with pretty much all of the varying opinions above. One thing is left out however. Every single child born has gifts. God has put them there. He said so in his word (the Bible). Not all children’s gifts will be realized or nurtured because of so many reasons (abuse, neglect, environment, poor educational systems, etc.,), but EVERY child is “gifted.” Hence, I can’t stand the term, “gifted” schools. It gives those let “in” a false sense of reality, and those left “out” a false sense of how bright and capable they are. Also, there should DEFINITELY be a system in place to keep multiples who score similarly together (it exists in magnet, but not SE). The test doesn’t care how multiples score. But if if twin A scores a 95, and twin B scores a 98, why on earth would you not allow them into the same school? Finally, To label schools, “gifted,” no, “accelerated learning,” or some other name, fine. That’s my two cents.

  • 32. Mike Olson  |  December 4, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Testingmom.com does not provide good service and their billing practices are shady. Beware of extra charges they will they will tag on and just unbelievable amount of over selling all over their site.

  • 33. brianaanestad@gmail.com  |  December 31, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    TESTING MOM IS A FRAUD! THEY TAKE YOUR CC NUMBER AND CHARGE-CHARGE-CHARGE FOR MONTHS…EVEN WHEN YOU SIGN UP FOR A ONE-TIME PAYMENT. THEY DO NOT ANSWER THEIR PHONES AND DO NOT CALL BACK WHEN YOU LEAVE MESSAGES.

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