Test Prep: Pros and Cons

September 25, 2014 at 1:47 pm 145 comments


Interesting discussion started in the elem thread about test prep.

As I see it:


What can it hurt?

Kid gets extra learning time

Helps a child feel more comfortable taking the test as it will feel a bit familiar

Can potentially give your child an edge in testing (my assumption is that this is truer the older the student is, say middle school, high school test prep versus Kindergarten test prep)

Teaches kids that if you want something, you should work hard/prepare for it


Costs money if you pay someone (I feel did some informal “test prep” with my son when he was little, but I could also call it “teaching him stuff he needed to know anyhow.”)

Gives some kids in the system a possible unfair edge over others (typically meaning that higher socio-economic kids get an advantage)


Feel free to continue the discussion here:

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Fall 2014 – Applying to Kindergarten / Elementary School Fall 2014: Applying to Academic Centers and Intl Gifted Programs

145 Comments Add your own

  • 1. jillwohl  |  September 25, 2014 at 1:56 pm


    Children from families without the means to take advantage of test prep and tutoring services may score lower, largely precluding them as a cohort from accessing accelerated learning environments.

  • 2. Pritzker Mom  |  September 25, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    Especially for the RGC test, test prep is very useful at a young age. There’s a fair amount of “thinking like the test” involved and not every kid thinks like the test. Here’s my personal example:

    When shown pictures of a necklace, a bracelet, a pair of earrings and a tie and asked to say which one doesn’t belong, my son said “The earrings. There are two of them” rather than “The tie. It isn’t jewelry.”

    Especially for tier 3 and 4 families where an extraordinarily high scores is needed to get a seat, getting your kid into the mindset of the test can be very important.

  • 3. Pantherettie  |  September 25, 2014 at 2:00 pm


  • 4. Pritzker Mom  |  September 25, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    BTW it look like Testing Mom’s kindle books are only 99 cents.


  • 5. IB Obsessed  |  September 25, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    @2 You gave a great example of why these tests give limited pictures of a student’s potential!

    The earrings example is a perfectly good answer. Now, I wonder if the test proctor was given the flexibility of scoring it as correct? Doubt it. Anyone know?

  • 6. HSObsessed  |  September 25, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    I have no experience with test prep to date but am planning to enroll my kid in group classes for ACT prep. Recently a friend of mine was advising that in addition, I should consider paying for one-on-one tutoring for ACT, because she did that and it resulted in a four-point increase in her kid’s score. I asked her how much she spent on tutoring and she said around thirty thousand dollars. I blanched and expressed surprise but fully believed it. A few minutes later she realized she had misspoken, and it was actually THREE thousand dollars. The fact that I believed the $30K shows how crazy it has all become. Not that I’m judging. We all do what we have to do.

  • 7. Montessori Mom  |  September 25, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    I work in the test prep industry and I assure that on multiple choice tests there is only one answer.

  • 8. peoplebelieveinfantasy  |  September 25, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    I have no intention of being fair about my kids future. I have test prepped and will continue to do so.

  • 9. Rod Estvan  |  September 25, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    Unfortunately test prep is like an arms race, once it begins its hard not to participate in it because it puts your child at a relative disadvantage. My daughter who is now in a PhD program in agricultural economics at the U of Cal Davis and who graduated from Payton and U of I Champaign with her BA and MA went through test prep while in CPS.

    There is no question she was a smart kid but her test prep in 6th grade and 7th really helped her get into Payton, and her prep program done on site at Payton also moved up her ACT scores. But by graduate school she did her own test prep drill and probably did even better on her GREs than she did relatively speaking on any other standardized tests. By then I think she had fully internalized her own test prep strategies which were actually very disciplined.

    But the tragedy of this is of course the relative advantage higher income families have in the test prep arms race in comparison to lower income families. As I recall my daughter’s 8 week ACT test Kaplan prep program done on site at Payton was hugely discounted and it still cost about $500. While this seemed relatively inexpensive to my family its a serious hit to a low income family.

    Rod Estvan

  • 10. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  September 25, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    @2 @5 Indeed, he found a real difference in the set of pictures, just not along the dimension the testmakers thought they were testing. The boy was smarter than the test-makers. I was at an event showing the kinds of math questions that PARCC has put up. One was something like: “Tim’s age is w. Bill is 3 years older than Time. Write an expression in terms of w for Bill’s age.” In these test forms, one writes or types in the answer rather than picking from multiple choices. Someone gave the obvious w+3 and the presenter went to the next question, but I interrupted because that’s not the only answer: >w also expresses Bill’s age in terms of w. There was a second question based on the first that asked again for another child’s age in terms of w, which of course also could be answered correctly as >w. Sloppy item construction is the bane of standardized testing.

  • 11. edgewatermom  |  September 25, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    I am torn about whether or not to do test prep. Part of me feels that if she has to do test prep to be able to get into the school, maybe she is not really ready for the academic rigor of that school. Then again, since so many others are doing test prep, we are putting her at a disadvantage by doing test prep.

    I think that I am also influenced by the fact that I am not convinced that any of the SEHS are the right fit for her and that we all have to stop buying into the idea that they are the only real choices in Chicago.

  • 12. Chicago School GPS  |  September 25, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    @4- the TestingMom ebook is being updated to reflect the 2015-2016 year. TestingMom will be in town on 10/19/14 for our seminar at IIT at 1PM-3PM where we talk about the admissions and testing process & strategies.

    My kids are too old to have had the option to use test prep companies for the elementary programs since the companies are all fairly new, but my personal philosophy is not to prep if the kids are doing well. For little ones, though, familiarity is worthwhile. My high schooler requested test prep several years ago for the high school process since all her friends were doing it, but I discouraged her because I have also heard it can make kids MORE nervous and affect their performance that way. That, and because I knew she was an excellent test taker. Second child is different….

  • 13. chiparent  |  September 25, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Both my kids took test prep for the Selective Enrollment exam and both scored in the 99% and got into their first choice schools. Did the prep course make any difference? I don’t know, but I would do it again.

    My son took ACT prep classes and had a 31. I think the class helped and I am signing my daughter up.

  • 14. Patricia  |  September 25, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    It seems the pressure for test prep is greater for tier 4 families because there is such a thin margin of error for SEHS. The tier 4 students are in the pressure cooker where near perfection is needed for PNWJ. If the tiers are based on income to provide an admissions adjustment due to poverty (and the other factors considered), then there is less pressure for tier 1 families to test prep. Right?

    If memory serves me correctly, doesn’t a tier 1 generally need a 650 to get into a SEHS? I know PNWJ are higher cut off, but still a lot lower than what is required of the tier 4 students. So the “disadvantage” due to income really mostly applies to those who are categorized as tier 4 who can’t afford the $400 or so to test prep. I am sure there are many many families in tier 4 that can’t afford or would struggle to pay the test prep fees.

  • 15. Patricia  |  September 25, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    Also, my feeling on test prep is for elementary, let the kid test without test prep. All 3 of my kids tested in later grades (because I did not know the options, nor did I know abut this great CPSO). We also worked really hard with our neighborhood school to improve curriculum and differentiate learning as my oldest was not challenged. He actually did errands 75% of the day for the AP because he already knew what they were teaching in class. Ughh!

    All 3 of my kids were lucky enough to get into great SEES…….all different schools of course! My philosophy was to let them take the test without prep because I did not want to prop them up to get in because then I feared I would need to continue to prop them up to succeed in the more challenging environments.

    This worked great through my oldest getting into Lane for AC and is now set for HS. However, for SEHS and even now for AC with my next child in line, I feel more inclined to have them take the prep classes for AC and if that doesn’t happen then definitely for SEHS. Tier 4 is just so tight on scores.

    I did not test my kids for K, but I can see how a prep to get a child familiar with the process could be useful. That said, all the SEES schools my kids attend/attended there were kids who got in for K or 1st and really struggled as they got older.

  • 16. cpsobsessed  |  September 25, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    @patricia, I don’t know if that argument is valid. Tier 1 kids are competing against other top tier 1 kids same as the tier 4 kids compete against the top tier 4 kids. In addition, tier 1 kids are competing against everyone for rank spots with potentially an ingoing disadvantage.

    The min scores for tier 1 are;
    Payton 799
    Northside 761
    Jones 752
    Young 760

    If a tier 1 kid wants a spot at one of those schools, I’d say test prep would certainly give them a needed edge.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 17. Chris  |  September 25, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    “could be answered correctly as >w. Sloppy item construction is the bane of standardized testing”

    Yeah, needed to limit the operations available, too. “Using only +, -, x, /, express the relationship” or something. Easily fixed, but one has to pay attention.

  • 18. Patricia  |  September 25, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    @cpso good point and I do agree that test prep would probably help a student in any tier. Do we know the number of applications for each tier? That would help determine how competitive things are within a tier.

    My son at Lane AC has a wonderfully diverse group of friends, many who live in tier 1. Interestingly, none of them did test prep. Certainly not a statistical sample. Also, my son who got into Lane AC did not do test prep either and we are tier 4. In many ways, it just depends on the kid.

  • 19. Patricia  |  September 25, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    @ Rod and CPSO. Thinking about this a little more. Where is test prep most prevalent? Tier 4? I think Rod brings up a good point about it being like an arms race. If Tier 1 does not use test prep and is competing against other Tier 1 who are not test prepping either, then while doing test prep would certainly help the tier 1 student, it doesn’t really put them at a disadvantage if test prep has not become an arms race in tier 1. If “everyone” test preps in tier 4, then you are comparatively at a bigger disadvantage if you do not test prep and live in tier 4. So, this would support my original point for the tier buckets. Except, the rank spots really could get skewed to those who test prep.

  • 20. our experience with PrepChicago  |  September 25, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    We did test prep for KG testing with PrepChicago. I really loved it for several reasons, most of which had NOTHING to do with getting a SE spot.

    Here is why we chose to do a prep class:

    1. We live in a fantastic neighborhood, with a terrible neighborhood school. We wanted to do CPS, but did want to move. So, I felt we needed to maximize our options.

    2. Our kid is really bright and we thought he had a decent chance for a spot. But, given how competitive tier 4 spots are, we thought a prep class might give us a slight edge. Where one question can make a difference in getting a spot v. not getting a spot, why not give your kid that slight edge? Because tier 4 is so competitive, I did not think our child would be getting a spot that was “over one’s head.”

    3. You can complain about the system all you want. Yes, it seems silly to test 4-year-olds for giftedness (see Freakonomics, e.g.), but does that mean you aren’t going to participate in it. I suppose if we had a great neighborhood school or a private school we loved, or could easily move, we could take that view. But, I did not feel we have that luxury, and I was willing to play the game (because it was not going to change before my kid hit KG).

    So, we did the class. I think it was 1.5 hours on Saturday, and my kid loved it. Called it the Saturday class, and looked forward to going. There was a TON of homework, though. All optional, of course, but the amount recommended was A LOT. And, there were tons of extra activities sent home, too.

    Here is why we loved it:

    1. My kid loved it, and really thrived in it.

    2. There was a lot of homework, but it made me really engaged with my child. I learned a TON about how my child learned, what kind of potential my child really has when exposed to a broader curriculum, and what my child’s strengths and weaknesses were. I was really involved in my child’s education during that time period.

    3. It’s not just a test prep class-it’s an enrichment class. I think my child really benefited from the curriculum. There was a ton of breadth in the curriculum. The class was not just “test prep,” it’s exposure to a basic KG curriculum so kids that “test in” have an easier time adjusting. Exposing your kids to a lot of different concepts is part of the goal–the vocabulary work was amazing, and my child was exposed to lots a new concepts (the differences between different types of foods, vehicles, professions; the solar system; etc.) I realized that I should/could have been exposing my child to all of these concepts on my own. But, we are so caught up in busy life, we don’t make time for it. I was so focused on his reading skills, I really neglected other parts of his education.

    4. It gave me a taste for what an hour of homework is really like, making me wonder whether I really wanted to send my child to a SE school that had that type of homework.

    5. When there was a (too long) teacher’s strike (one that seemed to last many days after the conflict was resolved), I have a bunch of neat activities to do with my child. I recall spending an afternoon drawing chalk outlines of our bodies, labeling the body parts, and then talking about their function. That was great, and I’m glad I had the test prep activities right there.

    6. I really liked the PrepChicago people. They have good, accurate information. They do not try to prey on parent’s fears and anxieties. They are honest about the fact that an SE program is not the end-all, be-all of your child’s schooling (or CPS). They are frank about the crushing amount of homework some of these programs have, and make you question whether you really want to commit to that.

    In the end, my child did NOT get a KG SE spot. (Scored well, but not well enough for a tier 4 spot.) But, I thought the class was good for both of us, and have absolutely no regrets taking it. It was money well spent.

    My child did, however, get a 1st grade gifted spot, which we reluctantly took. We liked our KG school a lot, but for a number of reasons specific to my child, we decided the gifted spot was a better fit. And, so far it has been.

    I also think that what they did was not magic. A motivated parent (with time) can figure out how to do test prep pretty cheap. Buy the Testing for KG book, sign up for testingmom.com, read a TON of books on broad subjects at the library, and work on a lot of vocabulary from those books.

    So, having a parent that is motivated to do some kind of test prep (inexpensive or a pricier class) is a far better advantage on he test, than just signing up for the test prep. It’s not the money–it’s the luxury to have the time and knowledge to do this stuff with your kid.

    If PrepChicago is representative of Test prep programs in general, I think they get a bad rap. I actually look forward to sending my younger child to PrepChicago, and I don’t really care about a SE spot.

  • 21. HS Mom  |  September 25, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    CPSO – Test prep would have very little impact upon tier 4 kids needing mid to high 800’s vs tier 1 needing mid to high 700’s. The education that a child receives K-8 has everything to do with how those numbers play out (along with innate abilities, family support, health, attitude etc).

    Test prep may help those on the boarder inch over – which is why I think most people do it, as insurance in case you’re in a borderline situation. It is not going to add 100 points to your score.

    For us, our kid always tested well. We decided that a prep class might make testing more comfortable and provide greater assurance of a good performance when it was important. It was more about making sure that natural abilities would shine through. No guarantees, no phenomenal scores after successive low ones, no miracle breakthroughs – just a reinforcement of confidence. I often hear about kids not performing at their best even after taking a prep class. The classes we took were not cost prohibitive…..people have to take the initiative to find them, which I know is problematic for some.

    I don’t consider test prep an “arms race”. It’s a test. You need to study for it. There are a number of ways to do that. Calling out the ability to write a check to a prep class as an “advantage of the rich” seems to be overstating this common practice as a social issue.

    And – yes – these are not the only 4 selective schools that people want to go to. Plus all the other non selective programs. So, again, test prep is a tiny blip on the radar – not the end of the world for some and the beginning for others.

  • 22. SoxSideIrish4  |  September 26, 2014 at 1:43 am

    I’ve never used test prep with my kids bc I felt if they needed it, then they didn’t belong at the school. However, I know many who have used it and said if they didn’t have that advantage their kids would have not have been accepted to Jones, WY, WP or NSCP. I think people who live in tier 4 have come to believe that their kids need test prep.

  • 23. edgewatermom  |  September 26, 2014 at 7:09 am

    I was surprised/dissapointed to see that Selective Prep participated in our school curriculum night. The school sends home their fliers and if enough kids participate they will hold the classes at our school It really makes it seem as if they are endorsing them and encouraging kids to take the test prep classes.

    Does this happen in most CPS elementary schools?

  • 24. HSObsessed  |  September 26, 2014 at 8:18 am

    @17 – I also wrote a comment yesterday afternoon on this thread and then it didn’t “take”. I’m sure it’s just a technical glitch.

  • 25. cpsobsessed  |  September 26, 2014 at 8:20 am

    Thanks, I’ll check it out. I set the spam filters higher and now it’s keeping regular posts out but the spam is still getting through !

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 26. HSObsessed  |  September 26, 2014 at 8:23 am

    OK, since my comment posted, I’ll re-type it now: I have no experience with any test prep but am planning it for ACT prep when the time comes. Recently a friend was advising me that I should consider paying for one-on-one tutoring instead of or in addition to group prep, since it had helped her kid raise the score by four points. I asked her how much she had paid, and she said around thirty thousand dollars. I blanched and expressed surprise, but believed it. She said the child’s grandparents had chipped in to help pay. A few minutes later, she realized she had misspoken and had meant to say THREE thousand dollars. The fact that I was surprised but not in total disbelief at the $30,000 number shows where we are in all this craziness.

  • […] Elementary School Test Prep: Pros and Cons CPS Obsessed: Pros: What can it hurt? Kid gets extra learning time. Cons: Gives some kids in the system a possible unfair edge over others (typically meaning that higher socio-economic kids get an advantage) […]

  • 28. HS Mom  |  September 26, 2014 at 8:49 am

    I hope you find my comment because I don’t have time to think it through again. Had some overall thoughts/opinions.

    Regarding ACT prep. The tutoring is around $7,000. – which I’ve seen people pay to go from a 33 to a 34 and from a 32 to a 30. The argument for spending this kind of money is usually more along the lines of scholarships that kick in at around 30 ACT. There are NO guarantees. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than to see someone spend this kind of money and not be able to get above mid 20’s (unless of course money is no object). By all means, study. If money matters, the $25 school provided prep class was all it took for amazing results. Remember, you can take the ACT multiple times. No need to dole out that kind of money before you know where you stand. According to the colleges, 3 tries will tell you where a kid will max out. Regarding the student who prepped to raise a 33 – she still did not get into the Ivy schools she wanted but went to a very good selective school where 33 or 34 made no difference.

  • 29. SE Teacher and Mom  |  September 26, 2014 at 9:00 am

    @20…I think ACT test prep is important. Not only are you competing for entrance to schools, but that magic # of 30 is where $$ become available. We did the Princeton small group review which met on Sundays for (I think) 3 hours. My son raised his score over 5 points.

  • 30. cpsobsessed  |  September 26, 2014 at 9:04 am

    My feeling is that paying for the prep is good if one needs discipline (and sometimes materials, as they provide that.) As a highschooler I did some test prep for the SATs. By college, I was able to prep myself for the GMAT by getting a book, practicing, and seeing where I was weak and practicing some more.

    Just like exercising, you know 95% of what you need to do, but it certainly helps to have a class schedule and someone keeping you on pace.

  • 31. IB Obsessed  |  September 26, 2014 at 9:27 am

    Does anyone think there are relevant differences in a college grad doing GMAT prep and an18 year old high school senior doing ACT prep v. a 5 year old being given prep for K entrance exam? Or a 12 year old needing to have test prep (added to the homework and school projects, sports) to raise the odds of acceptance into a HS that suits them?

  • 32. cpsobsessed  |  September 26, 2014 at 9:38 am

    I see it as a spectrum. The 5yo being the least functional in terms of improving outcome, the high schooler/college grad being the most so. Then the 12yo falling somewhere in between. I would bet that a 12yo who worked through a couple practice ISAT books before the test would have a better outcome, by nature of being familiar with the question format and expected answers.

    I don’t know about PARCC yet. I did some sample questions and I still haven’t gotten my brain around it, frankly.

  • 33. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  September 26, 2014 at 9:59 am

    Counterfactual speculation about how well one or one’s child would have done without some kind of test prep is just that, speculation. Unfortunately, we don’t have true experimental studies (random assignment to test prep), but observational studies indicate that the effects are modest to nil.
    This paper:
    Powers, Donald E., and Donald A. Rock. “Effects of coaching on SAT I: Reasoning test scores.” (1999)
    is available at the College Board website and was published as in Journal of Educational Measurement 36.2 (1999): 93-118. Using various models, they studied coaching outside school. The mean rise for verbal scores were mostly unreliable but ranged from 6-12 points; mean math scores were more reliable and ranged from 13-26 points with most around 18. Using the same data but with different models, Ben B. Hansen in “Full Matching in an Observational Study of Coaching for the SAT” Journal of the American Statistical Association 99.467 (2004) DOI 10.1198/016214504000000647 found even weaker use from formal programs

    At least 41% of coached students in the College Board sam- ple had been coached by either Kaplan Educational Centers or the Princeton Review. Consider the hypothesis that Kaplan and the Princeton Review offer varying coaching benefits that aver- age to 120 points, say. To permit a robust test of this hypothesis, let us supplement it with the unlikely assumption that all other companies’ coaching benefits average to 0. Even with models of form (1), which grant each matched set its own treatment effect, the upper 95% confidence bounds for the math and ver- bal effects (of coaching upon the coached) are about 37 and 11 points. Combined, these fall short of the 49-point overall av- erage effect that Kaplan’s and the Princeton Review’s claims would, at a minimum, entail. The hypothesis is rejected.

    Most people do some kind of test prep — reading the free guide and taking the free practice test — but in general the formal programs and extensive drilling at home are not worth the money or the bother.

  • 34. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  September 26, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Counterfactual speculation about how well one or one’s child would have done without some kind of test prep is just that, speculation. Unfortunately, we don’t have true experimental studies (random assignment to test prep), but observational studies indicate that the effects are modest to nil.
    This paper:
    Powers, Donald E., and Donald A. Rock. “Effects of coaching on SAT I: Reasoning test scores.” (1999)
    is available at the College Board website and was published as in Journal of Educational Measurement 36.2 (1999): 93-118. Using various models, they studied coaching outside school. The mean rise for verbal scores were mostly unreliable but ranged from 6-12 points; mean math scores were more reliable and ranged from 13-26 points with most around 18. Using the same data but with different models, Ben B. Hansen in “Full Matching in an Observational Study of Coaching for the SAT” Journal of the American Statistical Association 99.467 (2004) found even weaker use from formal programs

    Most people do some kind of test prep — reading the free guide and taking the free practice test — but in general the formal programs and extensive drilling at home are not worth the money or the bother.

  • 35. RL Julia  |  September 26, 2014 at 10:06 am

    My son did test prep for the SEHS exam. It seemed like a better investment than therapy. At that point, it was mostly for managing our collective anxiety. Also the test prep sort of addressed some other global issues like study strategies and provided review which was helpful overall. Now a junior, my son requested test prep for the SAT. I think it is sort of a relief to have someone else in charge of the process.

  • 36. Pritzker Mom  |  September 26, 2014 at 10:11 am


    I think the answer can be either yes or no, depending on circumstances.

    On the yes side, the tests themselves are very different, so the prep is different. For the GMAT, a lot of the prep is to learn the question types. Having the answer choices memorized for the data sufficency section will let you complete those questions much faster than if you have to continually look up the answers. (example below).

    Fine tuning knowlege is also vastly different from learning new material. Helping your elementary school student raise their MAP score from 97th percentile to 99th percentile (welcome to tier 4) is certainly different than teaching your 4 year old to read and do math for the classical test. Both are different from a junior learning new topics to math that might not have been appropriately covered in the classroom for prep for the SAT.

    On the no side, if the prep is to familiarize the student with the content, format and mindset of the test, I don’t think there’s much of a difference. The stuff we did with my 5 year old to improve his score on the RCG test was pretty much analagous to the stuff I did to prepare for my GMAT. (He got into his first choice 1st grade & I got into my first choice business school 🙂

    The GMAT has a section where they give you two statements and you have to say whether:

    Statement (1) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (2) alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked.

    Statement (2) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (1) alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked.

    BOTH statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are sufficient to answer the question asked, but NEITHER statement ALONE is sufficient to answer the question asked.

    EACH statement ALONE is sufficient to answer the question asked.

    Statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are NOT sufficient to answer the question asked, and additional data specific to the problem are needed.

    Not having to think about which choice corresponds to which bubble, let alone having to re-read them, saves a lot of time and increases the likelihood that you’ll be able to finish the section.

  • 37. Parent of 5th grader @ a CPS charter school.  |  September 26, 2014 at 10:38 am

    ??? How do I find a test prep program for my current 5th grader, I want to get her “prepped” to test for Payton & Whitney Young (7th grade) and I know they (the powers that be) will be looking at this current year (5th grade scores) when we apply next year (during 6th grade) to get into the Academic Center for 7th grade.

  • 38. cpsobsessed  |  September 26, 2014 at 10:40 am


    I have a few places listed on my Resources page.

  • 39. HS Mom  |  September 26, 2014 at 10:41 am

    I’m wondering why my posts don’t go through

  • 40. cpsobsessed  |  September 26, 2014 at 10:43 am

    HSmom, try using a different email address when you post (fake is fine as long as it has the proper format.). I’ll see if I can locate your comments in the meantime.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 41. HS Mom  |  September 26, 2014 at 10:44 am

    I have a previous post plus another about ACT prep…..are they gone?

  • 42. HS Mom  |  September 26, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Thanks! That’s what I just did to get through. Appreciate it.

  • 43. cpsobsessed  |  September 26, 2014 at 10:52 am

    I don’t know what’s up. I found chris’ comments there too but there’s no reason they should be flagged as spam.

    Fyi, around 100,000 comments ARE spam per month – it’s insane the effort behind it.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 44. IB Obsessed  |  September 26, 2014 at 11:15 am

    I don’t get what is the motivation for alot of the spam on here. Alot of it is not selling any product, and is just nonsense sentences. Who does that and why??!!

  • 45. cpsobsessed  |  September 26, 2014 at 11:23 am

    I believe that by getting their links on blogs (or anywhere online), it helps their search engine results – or something like that.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 46. Esmom  |  September 26, 2014 at 11:27 am

    I wish I had data to back this up but my son’s high school principal advised parents not to pay for outside ACT prep, saying that studies have shown that it doesn’t make a difference. Clearly anecdotal evidence here doesn’t support that so I’m not sure what to think.

  • 47. Norwood  |  September 26, 2014 at 11:52 am

    @2, @5, @8 On sloppy test questions. These are not sloppy test questions at all and this is the #1 benefit I have seen from test prep.

    For cognitive abilities tests, there are multiple answers for many questions but only one correct answer. With a group of accessories like a tie, 2 earrings, a necklace and a bracelet, the correct and best answer is a tie because this group of items carries a lot more context than just the number of each.

    For the math question, w + 3 is more mathematically precise and carries more information than > w. Again, one is a better answer than the other.

    During test prep, I was stumped just as often as my 5 year old with incorrect answers on practice tests that seemed perfectly acceptable to me. It took a while, but I figured out the rules of logic and eventually came to understand what the test makers considered the best answer of the ones that were correct.

    The CPS SE tests follow this policy. There is only one best answer. It’s a lot safer to figure this out during test prep than during the actual test, and test prep saved us from disaster.

    In addition to understanding the test maker’s logic, there are unknown issues with goofy question types, questions that don’t seem to have an answer, ability to concentrate. paying attention and other risk factors

    My little guy learned not to trust a quick reading of the question and look at it more thoroughly. He learned to check all of the options instead of just picking the first one that he thought might be right. He learned how to focus on the 2 best answers and look for differences.

    When test prep was finally over, and we went back to regular old math and reading, he had quite a toolset that didn’t exist before and is an expert figure-outer. That was the most valuable outcome of test prep.

  • 48. pantherparent  |  September 26, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    This seems like a good time to mention that correlation does not imply causation. Just because many of the kids at Payton or Northside took test prep classes does not mean that test prep is the reason they got accepted.

    When people hear things like 10 kids from the school got into a SEHS and they all had test prep, the natural feeling is they better have their little Johnny do test prep as well or he won’t get in.

    I have two kids at Northside and neither took any type of test prep so maybe I’m biased, but these companies to me seem to prey on the guilt and anxiety of parents and that’s not something I can get behind.

    Test prep companies are happy to supply numbers on how many of their kids got into a SEES or SEHS. I wonder if they’ll supply the numbers on how many kids took their classes and didn’t?

  • 49. our experience with PrepChicago  |  September 26, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    I also posted a long comment last night that has not appeared.

  • 50. cpsobsessed  |  September 26, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Ok, I just found a bunch so there might be duplicates…

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 51. Prep  |  September 26, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Test Prep Chicago – Child did the one day Test Prep Palooza in Lincoln Park for SEHS Test. Basically an opportunity to take a practice test 1 week before the actual test. Teacher then reviewed answers immediately after test. Teacher was very bright and gave very good analysis of answers. Plus shared good tips. My child recalled one of the tips and it helped her get one of the questions right on the SE test. Started by former Selective Prep employees. Overall very satisfied, but only had 1 day of working with them. Worth the fee to practice in a test environment and get last minute tips one week before the exam. Child enjoyed it.

    Selective Prep ISAT Prep – Child did it for ISATs just to be sure for 7th grade (didn’t really need it, just safety thing, but still glad she did it); however the ISAT course appeared to be well taught with good materials. The teacher was excellent (like a U of Chgo/Northwestern graduate grad) and gave immediate written feedback to parent on what needed to be reviewed further. Also augmented with relatively inexpensive math tutoring from a teacher friend.

    Selective Prep for SEHS Test Prep Child hated it, partly because had already done the ISAT prep. Also, materials were not put together with care – lots of errors which led to wasted time and confusion trying to make sense of it all. If teacher does not have good classroom management skills or kids troublesome, can be distracting for others. Teacher was good but not as good as for ISAT. Also augmented with relatively inexpensive math tutoring from a teacher friend who could also not make sense of the materials sometimes (due to them being poorly put together).

    Child had a perfect 900 on Selective Enrollment Test and was admitted into 1st choice school. I think the prep definitely helped – wasn’t willing to take any chances. This is cheaper than private school. Tier 4.

    Overall, I’d do the “ISAT” prep again led by Selective Prep company and then do Test Prep Chicago Test Prep Palooza and augment with math tutoring.

  • 52. otdad  |  September 26, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Test prep works for standardized tests, not so much for pen based problem solving tests. CPS should use harder entrance exam to level the playing field, let the smarts shines.

  • 53. Chris  |  September 26, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    ” I found chris’ comments there too but there’s no reason they should be flagged as spam.”

    Weird part was that I commented in two threads, and it posted in one, but not the other.

    re: Why spam here?–note that they *all* have links in their ‘name’ (may not be visible on all devices) and then they have that address on the web on another site, which helps their search results for some (all?) search engines.

  • 54. Vikingmom  |  September 26, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    We never did test prep at the CPS level but plan to sign my daughter up for ACT prep using “eprep” on the recommendation of my sister, whose son scored a 35. It was his only time taking it so can’t tell how much he would have improved but they both said it really helped.
    The whole test prep bringing it up a notch is kind of like hs to college sports, I think. Don’t even think about the possibility of playing a sport at the college level without taking part in travel teams/clubs—which are very $$$.

  • 55. KGmom  |  September 26, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    tell me about KG prep- who does this? are they any good? brigth kids, who else?

  • 56. HSObsessed  |  September 26, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    I think nowadays it’s much easier to predict where your kid will score on the ACT junior year, given the fact that Explore is given in 8th and 9th grades, and then Plan in 10th. You can look at those scores, look at the percentiles they give you as to where the kid fell in terms of other kids schoolwide, nationwide, etc. and then apply them to the percentiles and scores that the ACT provides. As long as your kid stays on the general curve he/she is on in 8th forward, then the ACT score will be no big surprise.

  • 57. IB Obsessed  |  September 26, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    @53 are you saying there is not much difference in percentile in EXPLORE and ACT for students? Is there an expected average amount ACT points increase in HS? What is an average 8th grade EXPLORE score? CPS doesn’t give EXPLORE in 8th grade any more. Do HSer take it at the beginning of freshman year?

  • 58. pantherparent  |  September 26, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    @51 I like your sports analogy but it follows the some illogical thinking as test prep. These kids play sports in college. They played on travel teams. Therefore if my kid is to play sports in college, he must play on a travel team. Or even worse logic, if he plays on a travel team then he will play in college.

    Kids play on travel teams because they are good at that sport. Kids play in college because they are good at that sport. Correlation between travel teams and college sports is high. Causation is low.

  • 59. Esmom  |  September 26, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    @53, yes, at the meeting where our principal advised against ACT prep, he showed us a spreadsheet with all that info for students froma couple years ago (names redacted), including their ACT scores. Basically it seems like your ACT score is pretty well set early on.

    In any case, I guess this is all somewhat moot for us since the ACT is going away from our school after this year. Although I assume whatever replaces it will still adhere generally to this pattern.

  • 60. Just a thought  |  September 26, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    Our kid took a test prep course for the AC test last year, and came out with a valuable lesson: The test prep books and instructors are not always right.

    On the first day, they whisked the parents into a room to show how things were done. The head instructor did a math problem the wrong way (not following PEMDAS). I sat there dumbfounded – the parents sat there and accepted this like they forgot basic pre-algebra.

    I waited until after all the other parents voiced their issues, and then went up to talk to him. I walked him through the problem, step by step. He shrugged his shoulders and said “math isn’t my strong suit”, smiled, and walked away.

    Over the course of the next six weeks, the game for my kid was to find the errors in the take-home work, and present them to the teacher the next week.

    The diagnostic test at the end of the course diagnosed my kid as a borderline admit, based on tier.

    Four months later, the kid got in as a top test score, with the tier system never coming into play.

    Maybe the test prep helped, maybe it didn’t….but the confidence it gave them in their own abilities, and to trust their own instincts….that was worth the (inadvertent) price of admission.

  • 61. HSObsessed  |  September 26, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    @54 – Of course it depends on the kid, but generally there’s a curve. I now looked at my kid’s past scores and see that she did vary more widely over the years than I remember in her weaker subject, but has been pretty consistent in the other. The Explore and Plan are basically the ACT (same company), but the questions don’t get as hard, and the top score is 25 or 26 instead of 36 for the ACT. If you go on the WBEZ story “The Big Sort” you can play around with the graph that shows which high schools enrolled kids at each Explore score level.

  • 62. (ex) CPS Parent  |  September 26, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    We never did any test prep other than Kaplan ACT in high school.

    The class was held at Payton after school for both kids – about $300 a few years ago. Kids on free and reduced lunch could take the same class for free as I recall (I think that was the deal the school made with Kaplan). Not many of the free and reduced kids took advantage though.

    The class seemed to have moved each kid up a point – 31 to 32 and 34 to 35 but who knows if the cause was Kaplan. I have heard it said that improvement is typically more substantial the lower the starting point is.

  • 63. Kendra  |  September 27, 2014 at 6:45 am

    “As I recall my daughter’s 8 week ACT test Kaplan prep program done on site at Payton was hugely discounted and it still cost about $500. ”

    Payton kids must need the prep because they are not learning the basics in school (they probably needed to figure out a quick and easy way to get the ACT scores up because the education program wasn’t doing it).

    Test prep is useful for achievement tests like the ACT where is it memorization and regurgitation. The ACT is not a test of ability, reasoning or cognitive ability like the SAT. The ability tests are more a test of raw intelligence and prep adds little to no value (primarily baked in your DNA). A 90th+ percentile on the ACT means your kid is good at memorizing. A 90th+ percentile on the SAT (or IQ tests) means your child is very intelligent.

    As far as achievement tests, there are resources online and at the library for free or little cost. The parents just have to take the time to get there kids to study the materials and help answer questions if needed. However, it is easier to say it is a socio-economic issue as opposed to my kid is not that bright. Hey, half the kids have to fall below the 50th percentile. It doesn’t mean they are stupid.

  • 64. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  September 27, 2014 at 7:44 am

    @45 Sorry but 1) there was not requirement to give the “best” answer, and those answers are correct. If the aim is the find the most precise answer, then the prompt should not have been: “Write an expression in terms of w for Bill’s age.” but instead “Write the most precise expression in terms of w for Bill’s age.” If the item writers don’t understand the difference between definite and indefinite articles, they should not be writing item questions. And so far, the evidence from PARCC sample items and practice tests and other allegedly critical thinking tests, is that they do not understand the difference.

    2) “Best” answer implies some dimension, almost always unstated, along which the response is being evaluated. But in too many cases, there are multiple dimensions involved. This should not be the case: having two objects in one response and only one object in the other three responses is bad item construction. This is very much the case in the PARCC assessments. It is the reason why that even though the PARCC field test was done in March, the analysis is not complete in September because the PARCC team is still trying to figure out what constructs they actually measured since they were frequently using questions that had multiple constructs.

    You are quite right, however, that the main value of test prep is learning that in many cases the test-writers are dolts that don’t even understand their own craft properly. And that subtlety is not a virtue.

    I was quite appalled at the PARCC-style math questions, because the alleged aim of the new exams is to encourage “critical thinking” and a child who displays such thinking — there is more than one valid answer to the question — would be penalized.

    There was a famous gadfly philosophy professor at Columbia, Morgenbesser, who was know for his incisive wit. One eminent invited philosopher, I think J.L. Austin, gave a talk in which he noted that in many languages two negatives mean a positive but there is no language in which two positives mean a negative. From the back of the room Morgnebesser heckled: “Yeah, yeah.” Critical thinking, baby.

  • 65. HereWeGoAgain  |  September 27, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Speaking of SEES test prep, are there any companies out there that cater to 2nd grade and up with high success rates? We didn’t do any formal test prep for K … good scores, but no offers. For 1st, we used a private tutor … again, good scores and no offers. We’d like to try a different route this year.

  • 66. Counterpoint for discussion  |  September 27, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    The person that throws the socioeconomic flag at those that prep for tests would be the same that would throw the socioeconomic flag at parents that pay for travel teams in order to increase exposure of their student athlete’s.

    Suck it up, if the parent goes clubbin’ or the parent has a new pair of Jordan’s the parent has money for a test prep class. Guaranteed.

  • 67. HS Mom  |  September 27, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    Since it looks like my original comment is forever lost, I had the following
    – As others have noted, test prep is not the key to admission success – It’s the K-8 education, innate abilities, family support, attitude, etc. Plenty of people unhappy with scores after taking prep classes.
    – For us, as others have mentioned, it was a matter of confidence and assurance that our otherwise academically prepared and good test taker would likely perform when it counted. There were no phenomenal scores after a string of lower scores, no miracle break-through, no 100 point gains. We could have chosen another way to study, on line or workbooks but thought this was more structured. Overall, I thought the class was an effective way to study but not a critical component of success. Test prep may (or may not??) help a student with a borderline score. Bottom line – don’t kick yourself if you didn’t put your child through a test prep class.
    – Test prep is not an “arms race” and the suggestion that writing a check to have someone else study with your child is a social issue, an advantage and opportunity for the rich is a great exaggeration.
    – As another poster mentions – the free and low cost test prep opportunities have plenty of empty seats.
    – There are 10 soon to be 11 selective enrollment schools and other highly regarded programs – not just 4 SE schools. The 100 point difference between Tier 1 and 4 has little to do with test prep and likely not a factor for academically oriented tier 1 students looking to get into a good school (as suggested above)

  • 68. IBobsessed  |  September 27, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    @61 Right….right….

  • 69. Laura  |  September 27, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    Anyone here considering testing early (in Oct. or Nov.) for SEHS? We were considering doing it for the early results but not sure if we should give it more time to study.

  • 70. Prep  |  September 27, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    66. Laura

    One great advantage of getting early results is that you will know your child’s score. Then if they have 900 points total, you can decide whether you want to bother with going on all the tours. You can save yourself from the really long Lincoln Park IB required meeting in January/February as well as the other IB required meetings – all in the winter on really, really cold and blizzardy days with somewhat tight parking and during rush hour.. Might save you some time touring.the SEHS that require a lot less points as well. If child does poorly, well, at least you know to expand your net to other schools, charters, privates, etc. Charters have very long meetings as well and the most popular ones make you go to a meeting and sign-in and stay for the whole meeting just to get the application. No-online applications for the Noble charters.

    However, if you really don’t know your child’s options at this point and need to explore the schools anyway, testing time doesn’t matter.

    The important thing is to decide so your child can have that part of the process settled. Plus if you don’t decide before others, you will find there will not be any dates left at the school of your choice. Lane Tech filled up quickly, forcing Northsiders to the far Southside for testing. This isn’t so bad. Lindblom had a very relaxed, organized, low key, easy parking testing center. Bad part was going so far south on a snowy wintry day. But able to park on same block as school. Although lots of boarded up buildings around school, felt safe – it was a cold winter morning – too cold for trouble. But your child will get one less hour of sleep having to trek to the southside, which may be a disadvantage (there was no afternoon testing at Lindblom). Overall probably a better testing environment than Lane if your child does not like a lot of commotion or crowds.

    Also, if you change your mind and want to test earlier, you can change the date one time on your own (if you change again, have to go thru CPS).

  • 71. HSObsessed  |  September 27, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    Just want to mention that this past summer, the Noble Street network was ordered by the CPS board to immediately eliminate the requirement that kids/parents attend an information session in person in order to obtain an application. The admissions essay was ordered to be optional as well. Noble had been illegally throwing up all kinds of barriers of entry. Therefore, if anyone out there hears that Noble or any charter is continuing those practices, please report it.

  • 72. Rahm2015!  |  September 28, 2014 at 8:17 am

    I’ve found the best test prep to be a Ritalin-Xanax smoothie the morning of the test.

  • 73. cpsobsessed  |  September 28, 2014 at 8:19 am

    Is that for the kid or parent??

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 74. Requirements?  |  September 28, 2014 at 8:57 am

    For a 2nd grader going into 3rd grade, what are the entrance requirements? Is it just the test?

    For a 3rd grader going into 4th grade, what are the entrance requirements? Is it just the test?

  • 75. cpsobsessed  |  September 28, 2014 at 9:37 am

    The test is the only requirement, but for entering 4th, the child must have scored in the 60th percentile or higher during 3rd grade testing to qualify.

  • 76. cpsobsessed  |  September 28, 2014 at 9:51 am

    See if you guys can view this handy doc that Chicago School GPS made about requiements for each year.


  • 77. Pritzker Mom  |  September 28, 2014 at 9:56 am

    I think the Chicago School GPS doc is out of date with respect to 4th grade admissions. Class size goes from 28 to 33 in 4th & I believe all schools admit 5 new students in addition to replacing any that leave the class.

  • 78. cpsobsessed  |  September 28, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Thanks, I will check with them/CPS.

  • 79. Chicago School GPS  |  September 28, 2014 at 10:11 am

    Class size is something that I was surprised isn’t as strictly uniform for SEES across the board. Some RGCs only go to 31 from 28. Some Classicals start at 30 instead of 28. Basically, schools vary but not all go to 33.

  • 80. cpsobsessed  |  September 28, 2014 at 10:13 am

    That’s what I was thinking. My son’s RGC class has never been above 31.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 81. Laura  |  September 28, 2014 at 10:17 am

    @67. Thank you for your reply about early testing.

    My kid so far has around 565 points going in (one B in 7th grade, 98 reading, 94 math) so we lost around 35 points here and there. We are tier 3. She really wants to make it to Whitney or Jones for HS but I am not so sure if she can score high enough on the test to get a spot because she is a slow test taker and almost barely ever finishes tests on time. We were considering LPIB or Double Honors or Von Steuben but not so sure about those either.

    Can anyone give me some good options for schools in case she doesn’t make any of these or some good options for prepping? I’m still fairly new to this process as this is our first time going through it and getting fairly stressed out about it.

  • 82. karet  |  September 28, 2014 at 11:06 am

    @76,77: My kid’s 3rd grade class at Skinner North has 32 students.

  • 83. edgewatermom  |  September 28, 2014 at 11:49 am

    @78 There are many good options other than the big 4 SEHS. I have heard great things about Von Stueben, Senn IB, and Lakeview. I don’t know much about Disney II but it is probably worth looking into.

    If you are curious, you can plug in her numbers at the calculator at http://selectiveprep.com/8th-grade-program/score-map-test.html and see how she would have to score on the SE entrance exam. Of course, the numbers are based on last year’s results so it is really an esitmate.

  • 84. aytimbra  |  September 28, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Does anyone have any test prep references/options for the SE 7th & 8th grade exam?

  • 85. HSObsessed  |  September 28, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    @78 Laura, are those 98/94 scores from 7th grade NWEA MAP? If so, it looks like it would be hard to beat the cut off for Young or Jones. However, she would only have to score 82% in order to beat last year’s Lane Tech cut off score, so there’s a good shot for her for Lane, which is an excellent school.

    If you’re not inside the LPHS enrollment boundary (which gets a 50-point preference), then it might be hard for her to get into LPIB, but I’m sure she’d very likely be admitted to LPHH (which my kid is in and which has elements of IB for every student anyway). Also, she’ll definitely be admitted to Taft IB, Ogden IB, Senn IB, and Amundsen IB based on last year’s cut off scores.

    I don’t know “cut off” numbers for LakeView or von Steuben since they’re not published, but my hunch is she’d almost certainly get offers from both, even the von Scholars program. Hope that helps.

  • 86. Laura  |  September 29, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    Thank you for that dedicated reply again! Who knew the high school process would be so troublesome? Would there still be a chance of her getting into one of those schools however? (Jones/Whitney) if she scored enough on the entrance exam? Of course we will be looking at realistic options, especially Lane, which is her 3rd choice so far, and perhaps Taft IB and a bunch of others. Apparently “all the craze” are at those top schools and all her friends want to go there, at least thats what I hear anyways. I’m trying to tell her that she would still succeed if she didn’t go to one of those schools and might even do better somewhere else but I’m afraid she has her mind set on it. But now I definitely know we need to cast our choices wider.

  • 87. Pritzker Mom  |  September 29, 2014 at 4:59 pm


    For this year, I think the answer is there is no way to really tell. There is no data from years when the MAP test was used for admission.

    The data published by OAE shows the scores admitted students would have had if their MAP test were used rather than ISATs. There are significant flaws using these scores as a guideline. Notably, students with very high ISATs and less high MAPs bring these numbers down without the balance of adjusting for students with high MAP scores and low ISATs (who would have been admitted using MAPs) to bring the scores back up. In all likelihood, the min scores reported are artificially low. You can find that data here:

    You can find the scoring rubric here:

  • 88. HSObsessed  |  September 29, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    @83 – Yes, there still may be a chance, but the problem is that the cut off varies from year to year. If I’m reading the graphs correctly (hopefully someone will double check and correct me if I’m wrong!) according to last year’s numbers, she would need a 97th percentile on the SEHS exam to beat the minimum for Tier 3 cut off for Jones or Young, but this year that cut off may be higher, it may be lower, depending on who applies where. She has very good scores right now and will have great choices regardless. Good luck and be sure to report back results in March!

  • 89. Chris  |  September 30, 2014 at 10:28 am

    “If I’m reading the graphs correctly (hopefully someone will double check and correct me if I’m wrong!) according to last year’s numbers, she would need a 97th percentile on the SEHS exam to beat the minimum for Tier 3 cut off for Jones or Young”

    That’s how I read it, too.

    But that was the “adjusted” cutoff, presuming that MAP had been used instead of ISAT. So the numbers are even more suspect than previous prior year cutoff numbers.

  • 90. NonCPSx  |  September 30, 2014 at 10:37 am

    83 Laura, if your daughter consistently needs more time for tests, you should talk to her counselor and teachers. That’s what 504 plans are all about.

  • 91. HS mom  |  September 30, 2014 at 11:50 am

    @28 – Yes studying for the ACT is important. For us we spent $25 for the class offered at our school for a 6 point spread. Between an online program and a test prep group course we probably spent around $400 dollars in total over the course of a year. We had a solid base for the first try to get a score in the high 20’s. Literally $25 meant the difference for the second try that took us way over expectations. Was it the class, the practice or the confidence – probably all of the above.

    My point – while in some respects I agree with people who argue that “you get what you pay for” there are ways for those who can’t afford the piece of mind that a $7,000 tutoring session will provide. It’s like the private vs public thing…..some people will always feel that $30,000 tuition gets them something better. That may be the case, but if you can still get a first rate education with a high achieving curriculum that will lead to entry to selective colleges for free……that may be just fine for many folks.

    My advice for those who cannot easily afford the cost of private tutoring, start earlier, give it a year to practice and work away at it. Take advantage of all the specials your school offers and free practice tests.

  • 92. HS mom  |  September 30, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Regarding HS prep – I’m curious and sure that others would want to know how effective prep for MAP test is…….If this test is based upon ability, untimed etc then the traditional prep doesn’t seem to be appropriate. What are the options and costs for this.

    The entrance exam prep – biggest problem I’ve seen is that kids in general don’t want to do all the extra practice workbooks and classes on top of the 8th grade work load. Maybe best to study over the summer and take an early test? The workbook they have in the test prep classes is no different than the ones offered through Amazon. Attending an actual class may be better for some kids to keep them on task. There are low cost online classes too.

    Anyway, these are all questions that are individual and vary with the kid so IMO it’s really difficult to say whether a prep class is necessary or not.

  • 93. edgewatermom  |  September 30, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    @88 HS mom Are there online test-prep courses specifically for the SEHS?

  • 94. HS mom  |  September 30, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    You might have to take ISEE (Supposedly harder test – used for private schools) prep for that. I think there are free options and costly ones for that – online and off.

    Seems like these test prep companies could benefit – is Selective Prep the only thing going? Kaplan offers ACT prep online for a lower price than the class.

  • 95. klm  |  October 1, 2014 at 8:29 am


    You make a good point. It’s easy for people that have real money to feel like whatever education-related expensed they’re paying up the wazoo for ($30+k tuition at private school, $15k/yr. for private tutor, $20k for SAT prep and ‘college whisperer’ to walk through process, etc. [I know people that have done and/or still do all these things]).

    It’s easy to fall into the trap that “mine’s better, because,…well, it’s just plain more expensive. And we all know that in life, “You get what you pay for.” Home cost more in Lakeview than Lawndale for a reason. Clothes cost more at Neiman Marcus than Walmart for a reason. People pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to send their kids to Latin JK-12 for a reason.

    There’s a certain confidence that can be reasurring when it comes to the modern, hypercompetetive world of educating kids with the final goal of college admissions to a Name college. If I spend the money, it’s an “investment.” Even if it makes only a small difference, that small difference may get my kid into Georgetown or Wesleyan, vs. UIUC or Wisconsin, which will open more doors and more likely be their entree into the world of people that come from or are more likely in the future to be be part of this country’s “elite,” financially secure population. I don’t think anybody would come out and say this, but ultimately that’s their motivation –that their kids be financially secure and live among, marry into and raise their kids in a financially secure
    milieu, where they’ll also have this “people like us” advantaged upbringing.

    I’m not judging this way of thinking –who doesn’t want the best for their kids?

    I’m not sure paying crazy amounts of money for all these things is really worth it, but if we were all billionaires, wouldn’t we be at least tempted to just spend the money and “help our kids out,” given how important education is and how insanely competetive college admissions is now? I like to think that I’m a better person than that, but if money were no object, ….why not? It couldn’t hurt and may very well help just enough to make a difference (big or small).

    Then again, every parent has to eventually just throw in the towel and be happy for the kids that they have, instead of being upset that they’re not “living up to ‘their’ [i.e., YOUR ideal] potentia” or beating themselves up over the “If I’d have just pushed him harder, maybe he’d have been a better student and not have to go to Low Prestige College.”

    So, if people want to spend the money and it makes them feel better, go for it –who am I to judge?

    Bottom line: I don’t believe that tutoring will turn a “regular” student into an Ivy Leaguer, but it may well help kids get just enough points to get into a “better” school than they otherwise may have done and maybe a better path in life. If one is able and willing to pay for this, why not?

  • 96. ELT  |  October 2, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    My only experience with test prep was 25 years ago, preparing for the Illinois Bar Exam. The firm I worked for paid for its new (yet to be licensed) attorneys to take the Kaplan course. It was 3 or so hours/day for about a month. It was miserably tedious and boring but the instructors kept saying “Trust us. You will see this on the exam and this is the answer you want to give.” In many cases I could think of better answers — or at least answers that would have been scored better had it been a law school exam rather than the bar exam but thought, OK, they’ve been doing this awhile I guess they know what they’re talking about.

    The prep did nothing to help me feel prepared for taking the Bar. But then on the first day of the two day exam, when I opened up the test book, BOOM! Just like the instructors said!

    I don’t know if the results would have been any different if I hadn’t been spoon fed the potential questions/answers by Kaplan, but I do know I walked out of there confident that I’d passed.

    I tend to agree with critics of testing — especially with regard to MAPs test and other non-achievement type tests. But my worry about tests like SEHS exam is that just as Chris says: ” the test-writers are dolts” and that “the main value of test prep is learning that.”

    It is truly pathetic, I know, but I’m sending my kid to a test prep course to learn to think like a dolt.

  • 97. scarlett329  |  October 2, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    @52 asked for suggestions re: test prep for kg SEES. I didn’t see a response. Is any co. better than any other?

  • 98. IB Obsessed  |  October 2, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    I think it’s downright funny that our school puts flyers from test prep companies in report card folders and includes them on the agenda at curriculum night.

    Does anyone else see absurdity in a school system mandating a test to see if a student is prepared for the rigors of a selective program, so that only the truly qualified are admitted, and then turning around and encouraging a crash cram prep course so that students can outsmart the test and cram as much last minute math info and vocab. words in their heads (that they will surely not retain)?

    Hello? Aren’t the qualified ones they want prepared without a cram course?

  • 99. ELT  |  October 2, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    @ 83 Laura and @ 84 HSObsessed, I think you did read the numbers wrong. The Tier 3 mean for Jones and Young are 832 and 835. That means Laura’s daughter would need 267 or 270 points to reach those means. That translates as 88 and 89% on SEHS. Quite obtainable! And the minimum even more obtainable. @84 you were using the minimum from the ISAT scores, not the normed MAP scores.

  • 100. HS Mom  |  October 2, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    93 – I know what you’re talking about and I experienced the same thing a number of years ago with the CPA exam. They taught these little acronyms and how to answer certain types of questions…..etc. Many of these things are done now within the school test prep – that everyone knows and loves so well. This prep for high school and college is different. The bar and the CPA are pass/fail vs. trying to get the highest possible score for the individual student.

    I think the best way to explain how these prep classes work is that it;s mainly a lot of test practice, taking actual practice exams. They tend to be a combination of a topical review with homework practice problems in a workbook. While they will cover all the “test tips” like the fine art of guessing and the importance of a hearty breakfast – most kids are already well versed in this stuff from school. As posters mention, some of the teachers are not the best or you may find other obstacles such as the kid not cooperating or being overwhelmed. Kaplan certainly doesn’t know what kind of homework load a kid has as they race through these sessions.

    I do know that the Selective Prep class gets material by speaking to the student immediately after the test by phone. They ask them general questions plus they ask if they remember any specific problems. So, if they talk to say 100 kids and each one remembers the hardest question they struggled with….that kind of info could be useful. I have no experience with the personal tutoring for ACT/SAT but I have heard that one advantage of individualized small session tutoring is the ability to customize learning to the level of the student. This would be particularly helpful to stronger students who may be at a higher level than the class…. again, at the cost of this and at least a couple sessions, where do you want to go with this.

    I wholeheartedly agree with KLM and others – if you can afford it, it does no harm.

    @95 IBO – I always felt that the elementary school encouragement of test prep was all about keeping the school rank and touting the schools that kids get into. Nothing to do with making your specific child successful or “guilting” parents into it. Maybe I’m cynical. Our elem school offered a free math test prep – provided by the math teacher early in the AM. As mentioned, there was the $25 ACT prep offered by teachers outside of school. I found that to be a real testament of support. Interesting thing – many of the kids who this was designed to help did not go and at the opposite end of the spectrum were those who thought that a free or near free program was not good enough for them. Huh….there’s no pleasing everyone.

  • 101. sandyoct  |  October 3, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    My son took WPPSI iq test today and he scored 150+ . May I know if he still needs to take the cps test or does cps accept wppsi test scores? Please help.

  • 102. cpsobsessed  |  October 3, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    He would still need to take the cps test for entry into a gifted or classical program.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 103. W.  |  October 3, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Is taking Selective Prep’s HS entrance exam course worth it? Still debating whether to sign my kid up for the last set of classes or not. Does anyone know if I can just request and pay for the study guide/book they give and not the full price for the tutoring (not go to the tutoring). We just want to get familiar with the test format and the overview of the content but still not sure if we want to pay that amount.

  • 104. cpsobsessed  |  October 3, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    How much does it cost?

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 105. W.  |  October 3, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    I believe it is $425, which is not really too big of a deal but we just recently bought a new house so it’s still a bit of a stretch. My kid can study on his own just fine, but we would just like some material to work with so if we could just pay for the book it would be better for us as we don’t exactly need the tutoring service. I looked online for things but couldn’t find any.

  • 106. klm  |  October 4, 2014 at 10:27 am


    Everybody needs to take to same test at the same place, in the same way, to be “objective.” Otherwise, many people would just keep taking different ones and use the highest score from whichever test, whenever taken, etc. I think that’s why CPS is kinda’ strict about it –especially given that there are some private educational psychologists that are notable for handing out the “right” results (e.g., for an IEP designation, to get extra/unlimited time on the ACT or SATs, etc.) by lightly “leading” the questionee to the best answer, etc.

    To be honest, I think there’d be an almost mini-revolt among the kinds of people that are applying to SEESs, if CPS started letting middle/upper-middle class people do this (‘buy’ their test results, 100% legit or not), when all the low and working-class families have to ‘schlep to IIT at a given time, etc.

    Often, the difference b/t getting in or not comes down to just a point or two. Given this, I’d also be leary of allowing people to submit a score obtained in a manner other than how everybody else got theirs, to be honest.

  • 107. Molly  |  October 6, 2014 at 6:18 am

    “You might have to take ISEE (Supposedly harder test – used for private schools) prep for that.”

    You’re defintely right. But the ISEE is not supposedly harder, it is definitely harder, along with the SSAT. Mainly because both are not just achievement tests, but ability tests as well. Kids who score in the 60-70 percentiles on the ISEE or SSAT usually score in the 90+ percentiles on standard achievement tests (e.g. ISAT, MAP, SEHS).

  • 108. sandyoct  |  October 6, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Oh.. Sorry, I just saw the report and my son took Stanford binet and he scored 150+. I called cps and they said they may consider stanford binet. I stay in minneapolise but am likely to move to chicago. Cps was asking me as to which schools I would like to apply and I donot know much about the schools here in Chicago. Can anyone provide me with the top schools in Chicago. I feel with a stanford binet score of 150 + my son is already proved he is highly gifted.
    One of my friends said edison is good. Please help!

  • 109. edgewatermom  |  October 6, 2014 at 8:48 am

    @sandyoct What grade is your son in?

  • 110. sandyoct  |  October 6, 2014 at 9:06 am

    My son is bilingual. He is home schooled because he is a very sick child and I am bringing him up very carefully. He goes to daycare for a day and falls sick for a month(sinus… And all sorts of sickness) so I decided to homeschool him. We stay in mn and the schools here recommend a home schooled child to be tested privately and that is how I landed up testing him and it is after the test we came to know we were moving to chicago. I genuinely feel he is not ready for school yet. It is hard when he gets sick. It is hard to raise a sick child.
    Coming to the test, I too was stumped at such high scores when asked, the psychologist said he is one in 10, 000 and he highly recommended him to skip kindergarten. I am nervous now since he is 4 and will look odd and stupid among 6 year olds. Now How did he score so high? I think he reads well and is good in math– thanks to Kumon and looks like he gained all that verbal knowledge from curious George, Caillou and magic school bus. He reads 3 hours every day as Kumon insists that much of reading and math at his level. This might be the result of his high scores. I don’t know if he is gifted, but if the scores call him that, let him be! We in India have kids smarter than him anyway!! I don’t think his psychologist was easy on him and “lead” him to right answer.

  • 111. sandyoct  |  October 6, 2014 at 9:09 am

    @edgewatermom, my son is 4 year a old born in the month of dec, 2009 which is why we administered him the test for early kindergarten though I feel he is not ready for the school yet( mommy’s heart). He is homeschooled.

  • 112. LSmom  |  October 6, 2014 at 9:15 am

    Typically Edison and Coonley have the highest cutoff scores for gifted schools and Decatur, Skinner North, and Skinner West for classical schools. You could also look at the private gifted schools (Avery Coonley and Science & Arts Academy), the classes would be smaller and probably a more nurturing environment.

  • 113. sandyoct  |  October 6, 2014 at 9:36 am

    Thank you, Lsmom! I am making a list. Thank you.

  • 114. IB Obsessed  |  October 6, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Everyone wishes the best for this mom in finding the right placement for her child, I’m sure. However, it is quite a revelation that CPS OAE is telling people that they will accept IQ scores from private testing sources.

  • 115. sandyoct  |  October 6, 2014 at 11:05 am

    @ IBobsessed, they asked to register and wait for pin as I am in mn right now and in the mean while they said they will find out if stanford binet is acceptable. She told me they might accept it but not sure but I have to be prepared either way.

  • 116. LSmom  |  October 6, 2014 at 11:06 am

    I’m guessing it was a miscommunication or someone at CPS who wasn’t from OAE. I don’t think they could use a different test for placement, especially because they say that the gifted placement test is not an IQ test.

  • 117. sandyoct  |  October 6, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    @Ls mom
    May be, I am just waiting for the pin and let’s see what they say!! I am making list of schools right now. Each state has their set of rules. Do we have to pay for this cps test? I paid 200 bucks for the stanford binet already.

  • 118. cpsobsessed  |  October 6, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    the cps test is free.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 119. sandyoct  |  October 6, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    @cpsobsessed, I am glad to hear this test is free. I don’t think I am worried now if they would accept stanford binet or not as long as I don’t have to pay.

  • 120. Chris  |  October 6, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    “I am glad to hear this test is free. I don’t think I am worried now if they would accept stanford binet or not as long as I don’t have to pay.”

    You have to get your kid to Chicago for the test, tho.

    ONLY testing location is at IIT.

  • 121. sandyoct  |  October 6, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    @Chris, we are moving to chicago in 20 days. I will be renting in Chicago city may be near edison regional gifted center. We can change the address once we relocate at cps, I guess! Let’s see how things are going to work out here in Chicago. So far people are not friendly!!

  • 122. edgewatermom  |  October 6, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    @117 sandoct I am not quite sure why you think that people are not friendly. So far you have gotten information about several schools and the required test. CPS is a complicated school system – if it weren’t, there would be no need to have a blog dedicated entirely to helping parents navigate it!

    Best of luck finding the best school for your son. If he does not get into one of the gifted schools, there are many fabulous neighborhood schools in Chicago.

  • 123. sandyoct  |  October 7, 2014 at 8:41 am

    No offense! Sorry about that! You are right so far I am able to successfully get the info I was seeking for. I am also making a list of magnet schools. May I know the options for homeschooling in Chicago? I might end up doing that if I don’t get into the school I aim for.
    Thank you guys for all the patience you have exhibited so far! Appreciate your efforts in placing me in the right path!

  • 124. HS mom  |  October 7, 2014 at 11:51 am

    Some homeschoolers work through a virtual school where kids can work beyond grade level online


  • 125. sandyoct  |  October 7, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    @HS mom, wonderful! This was what I was looking for! Thank you!

  • 126. LSmom  |  October 8, 2014 at 8:07 am

    @sandyoct, there’s some active meetup groups for homeschooling families in Chicago. The museums and some kid activity places (like Kid Science Labs) also have special programs for home schoolers.

  • 127. sandyoct  |  October 8, 2014 at 8:33 am

    @lsmom, thank you! I will explore them too. Thanks!

  • 128. RFR  |  October 10, 2014 at 12:14 am

    Those that have kids that have taken the Academic center tests- so far CPS has only posted dates through mid November. DD is signed up for Selective Prep which literally starts the day of the last posted test date. Selective Prep swears that more dates will be posted by CPS. Can anyone here confirm this occurred in past years? TIA!

  • 129. JenFG  |  October 10, 2014 at 8:13 am

    RFR: For acceptance into the 2013-2014 school year, my daughter had a late January 2013 AC test date.

  • 130. Neighborhood and Tier 4  |  October 10, 2014 at 9:00 am

    @sandyoct “I will be renting in Chicago city may be near edison regional gifted center.”

    A couple of things to keep in mind. If you think there is a risk your child will not test into a selective enrollment school, you might consider looking for a place that has a good neighborhood school. I think the neighborhood elementary school if you live around Edison Regional Gifted Center (ERGC) is not that great. (I think you understand this but you have to test into ERGC and the other selective enrollment elementaries.)

    Now, if you are counting on getting into and want to go to ERGC, there is a tier 4 section just across Kedzie from ERGC. You may want to read up on the tier system a bit. The tiers are intended to be reflect socioeconomic tiers. Tier 1 is highest socioecon, tier 4 is lowest. And except for the highest scorers (though your child may be among them), admission is done by tier. Generally tier 4 will have the lowest cutoff score needed for the north side schools. Some tier 4 areas will be in neighborhoods you really won’t want to live in if you have a choice. The tier 4 northeast of the corner of Lawrence/Kedzie is not so bad. Doesn’t seem dangerous. A lot of apartment buildings and non-native English speakers (which I don’t mean as a negative but is probably part of why it’s tier 4). But don’t know your budget or preferences.

  • 131. Correction  |  October 10, 2014 at 9:57 am

    @ 126
    “Tier 1 is highest socioecon, tier 4 is lowest. ”

    Actually it’s the exact opposite. Tier 1 is considered the lowest socioecon and Tier 4 is the highest.

  • 132. sandyoct  |  October 10, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    This site is definitely pouring out Lots of useful information that is necessary for me at this point of time. I m glad I found u. Thank you!

  • 133. Curious  |  October 16, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    Anyone here knows how SelectivePrep works? Like after you pay for the session, do they email you information about the classes and stuff like that? Is it really that helpful? Debating on sending my kid there.

  • 134. cps mom  |  October 20, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    Honestly, if you don’t prep you have to be foolish – if you have the means to prep and if you really want your kid to get in.

  • 135. edgewatermom  |  October 20, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    I am debating whether to do test prep for MAP & SEHS or just for SEHS. She scores very well on the Reading portion of the MAP but needs to improve on the math score. I am hoping that doing extra math work throughout 7th grade will be enough to bring up her MAP score, but am not sure if we should also consider test prep. Since she is obviously very familiar with the MAP test itself (been taking it for years at her CPS school), I am not sure how much test prep would help for that. For those who have done test prep for the MAP, which courses did you do and were they helpful?

    Is it possible to do test prep for SEHS over the summer (even online courses)? Or, is it better to just take the class much closer to the actual test.

  • 136. MITStudent  |  November 17, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    I am a senior at MIT studying Mechanical Engineering and I have had a chance to reflect on how valuable a great college education is and the countless opportunities it creates.

    I am part of an SAT and ACT Math tutoring program that connects high school students to MIT undergraduates for targeted, personalized math preparation. We are offering a free hour of tutoring to every new student who signs up to spread awareness of the program called Book a Genius. You can view available tutors and get started today at bookagenius.com!

    We’d love to hear what you think!

  • 137. ShaRhonda  |  January 6, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    Test prep courses create an unfair advantage. Standardized test do NOT test knowledge, it tests access to resources. There has to be a way to test a child’s ABILITY to learn. If your child does test prep and does well, that DOESN’T make your child smart! It is just another way to make entitled kids(and their parents) feel more entitled to things they didn’t earn fairly. If I were in charge, I would deduct points for children, and adults(who take the LSAT, GRE) that have test prep. How do you justify a child who has taken expensive test prep courses and/or had private tutors against someone who hasn’t had any of those things? It what deluded world is that fair or equitable? It is ridiculously unfair to low-income families!

  • 138. otdad  |  January 6, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    “Test prep courses create an unfair advantage. Standardized test do NOT test knowledge, it tests access to resources.”

    Test prep only makes a kid to be more prepared, ultimately it’s the child’s ability that determines the results.

    I would say for the cream of the crop, formal test prep or not, the difference is little to none. It makes the most impact for the middle of the pack, but only to a certain degree. For the bottom barrel, 0.

    “It is ridiculously unfair to low-income families!”
    The NYC selective enrollment school already shows us that performance has little to do with family income. If a student is willing to work hard, the sky is the limit. Test prep is not an issue at all.

  • 139. walker  |  January 6, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    @133 Sorry, but a person who says ” Standardized test do NOT test knowledge” has no idea what standardized tests are all about. It’s always easier to find excuses than opportunities. Please read about NYC SEHS and you will learn how (extremely) low-income Asian kids ace challenging “ridiculously unfair” tests or learn about poor MBA applicants from India (for whom even $25 is too much) getting almost perfect GMAT scores…. A couple of cheap used books multiplied by hard work can be as effective as $$$ test prep…but it looks like you need an excuse and test-prep seems to be perfect choice for you.

  • 140. cpsobsessed  |  January 6, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    I think I’d agree that standardized tests can measure knowledge (I mean you have to know math to get high math scores) BUT I would agree that they do not measure intelligence.

    Many very smart kids who haven’t had exposure to strong education, vocabulary, etc don’t have the chance to test well. But a test of intelligence, logic, etc can better measure inate smarts.

  • 141. HS Mom  |  January 6, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    @137 I agree. I would say that certain tests can measure knowledge and not necessarily but usually do measure intelligence too.

    To use the math example. A person with a higher level of intelligence may have the ability to answer math questions without having been exposed to the material because they understand the concepts and have a keen sense of numbers. Their knowledge is more expansive because they can think intuitively. That, to me, is intelligence.

  • 142. Norwood  |  January 19, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    @137 It is true that with the proper skill set, a child can answer math questions for material they’ve never seen before, provided they understand the syntax and know any theorems needed to answer the question, like the area of a circle.

    The problem is that using vague terms like intelligence or intuition is not helpful. What is helpful is the math skills taught be people like Jo Boaler or listed in ‘How To Solve It’ by George Poyla. Equivalently, think about how smart kids go about solving math problems and teach these methods to your child. These are very similar to the skills used in cognitive skills tests like the SE tests CPS uses.

    In this regard, test prep is no lose if it focuses on the skills needed to pass abilities tests. When done well, test prep helps with school, with standardized tests, and with high school Calculus proofs.

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