Posts filed under ‘Regional Gifted Program’

Got a Test Date. Ugh.

So it looks like the guy at the post office got my application postmarked for the Gifted/Classical test.  (Thank you, whoever you are, for not chastising me for cutting it so close that day. — Wouldn’t that have been funny if he was some fellow CPS-knowedgeable parent and he’d looked at the address on the letter and said “Lady, don’t you think it would have been smarter NOT to wait until the last 2 hours to mail this!?!”)

We got a test date for the Gifted/Classical testing for 1st grade.  Or should I say test dates.   I didn’t realize that the tests are given at separate times and dates.   Going into Kindergarten, each child is tested individually so they can take both tests at once.   For 1st grade and up, the kids are tested in groups so they split up the test times.

So… we got a classical test time for an afternoon and the gifted test for the next morning at 8am.  At IIT.  Which means we need to leave the house at (what for me is) an ungodly hour.   Like before 7am.  Have I mentioned that I can rarely get my child to school 8 minutes from my home (not that I’m counting) by 9am each day?  Having been a happy WAHS (work at home slob) for the past couple years, I’m just not good at getting up before the sun.  Nor is my son who seems genetically programmed to open his eyes at exactly 7am each morning.  So this 8am thing is our fly in the ointment.   I need to decide if it’s worth trekking down to IIT at that early hour mainly to satisfy my curiousity about the test process and the year-to-year score variations (sample size: one.)  Got to mull this one over…….

January 6, 2009 at 12:10 am Leave a comment

Options for Knowledge Deadline – My Trip to the Post Office

Yes, I caved. On a day when nobody should have been outside doing unneccasary errands, I ventured out to try to get my application for gifted/classical testing postmarked.  As a reminer, Dec 19 in Chicago (last day to mail the testing application and lottery entries for magnet schools) was in the aftermath of a big snowstorm that caused every school in the area except CPS to shut down.  I guess the city figures that for the cash they’re spending to salt the city, people should be expected to reach their destinations.  Snow was piled high and parking was risky (easy to get in a space, but getting out was questionable.)

After hemming and hawing, I decided that I couldn’t NOT be a part of the process again.  In my often mundane life that feels a bit like the movie Groundhogs Day during the long dreary winter, I realized I needed something to look forward to in March – the excitement of opening that envelope to see some new information.  Not that I even want to switch schools, I just need to be a part of the fun. 

I also figured that it was safer to have some options available “just in case.”  Not wanting to envision any terrible scenario, I decided that I’d imagine the Worst Case being that our current school principal wins the lottery in January, decides to retire and travel the world, CPS assigns some doofus as an interim principal (yes, I think they can do that) and I feel the need to flee.  Or Arne Duncan’s replacement’s first order of business is disbanning the gifted program at our school and we’re back on the street searching for options (really, we’d likely just switch to our neighborhood school, but that doesn’t feed my drama very well.)  I also justified my decision by using the “knowledge is power” argument.  I figure the more I know about how my son’s intellect is progressing, the better I can help him as he continues in school.  I am also just curious about how test scores can vary year to year.  Yes, even at the risk of seeing that his scores last year were a fluke.

I didn’t have it in me to track down to Hawthorne, probably because I am not 100% certain I’d actually want to send my son there.  Too far to drive and I think I would miss the neighborhoody feel that I really like.  In the back of my mind, I believe that if you apply to Hawthorne every year, are willing to switch any year, and continue to “make yourselves known” to the admin, you can get in.   Not for me right now.

So….in my usual fashion, I left the house cutting it fairly close to school pickup.  I stopped at Post Office #1, climbed a mountain of snow to reach the front door only to find the usual long, slow-moving line.  I had no reading material with me so facing the line was torture, plus I’d parked in a Burger King parking lot across the street and was too nervous about leaving the car.  I figured I needed to wait in line to make sure my letter was post-marked. 

On to Post Office #2.   Same situation (but at least parking was better, although risky due to snow piles.)   The whole world was out mailing Xmas cards and gifts.  I got in line.  I then noticed that each FREAKIN’ transaction with a customer seemed to take 10 minutes and that is no lie.  Honestly, I could write a whole blog complaining about the post office.  HOW,  I ask, HOW can humans move so slowly?  This had to be the worst day of the year to be waiting in line.  Time was ticking towards school pick-up time and my stress level was rising.  I knew it shouldn’t matter since I didn’t care THAT much about getting my application in.  But since I was in the race, I couldn’t help but care about reaching the finish line.

More clock-ticking, more glaring at the slow workers, more angst.  Finally, I had no choice but the following:  I asked the man in front of me if he would mind getting my letter postmarked when he reached the front of the line (he looked like he was in for the long haul.)  I instructed him that if they could not postmark it, to just put it in the mailbox.

So, as it stands… I have no idea if that letter got postmarked by Dec 19 or not.   I guess I’ll find out if we get a test date next month.

And if not, then I just hope our principal doesn’t buy any lottery tickets.

December 27, 2008 at 12:35 pm 1 comment

How can I tell if my child is gifted?

I heard this question asked a couple times when I was helping at the NPN Fair.  Mainly from parents who mentioned that people commented that their child should be tested for giftedness (and I think they meant people other than the grandparents.)

I just happened upon this interesting article that talks about the 5 levels of Giftedness.  Level 1 (which probably describes many of the kids in the CPS gifted programs) are the “bright” kids.  Level 5 is astounding.  You’ve heard stories about them and I assume there are some at schools like Edison.  Or maybe they’re in extra-special gifted programs that people like me don’t know about or are taking college classes or something.   But this article lists specific behaviors that you can use to eyeball your own child.

Level 1 kids know most letters, colors and can count by age 3.

Level 3 kids know many sight words by age 3 – 3.5

Level 5 kids read chapter books by age 3.5 – 4.5.  And sadly, question the reality of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy by age 2-3. (I STILL cannot fathom how my son buys into this – clearly he’s not Level 5.)

The problem is that many Level 1’s won’t make it into a CPS Gifted Program, just because there aren’t enough spaces.  That’s where the luck of a good mood/good test day comes into play.  The good news is that there are a lot of Level 1’s in the neighborhood schools, who’s parents should be making sure the school is challenging them adequately.

December 22, 2008 at 12:00 am 3 comments

Last day for Options for Knowledge. Will I or Won’t I?

Well, today is the last day to submit an application to a school for their lottery or to submit a request for testing for Gifted/Classical Schools.

About a month ago, when I was working at the NPN fair and some parents innocently asked “when do we have to apply for the gifted test? In the Spring?” and I went all bug-eyed… “uh, like NOW people, NOW!  Soon!”  That night it occured to me that I hadn’t given any thought at all to submitting an application anywhere or having my son tested again.  That was a good sign, I thought.  Real confidence in our current school and lack of interest in going elsewhere.  I always assumed that I’d just keep getting him tested for a few years for the gifted programs, just to keep options open and of course see if his “giftedness” was slipping.  But when it came down to it, I couldn’t really think of another school I’d be that keen on moving to if he did test in somewhere.  I love the neighborhood people at our school and the gifted program seems to be off to a good start.  Can’t beat that for free, eh?

I also was hesitant to test again based on a conversation with one of the dads from our class who speculated that the gifted/classical testing can probably vary by a good 10% for any kid from day to day, based on things like mood, hunger, or some random interesting object in the testing room.  I agree with that.  And I figured I would just rather stay in ignorant bliss, knowing my son did a decent job that one year.  Mama doesn’t want to see a 10% drop this year.  Then I’d just start to worry that he was going to start lagging behind, etc etc.    

I will admit to having had a few lingering doubts.  There was a recent article about the top Elementary schools in the state and Hawthorne was the only CPS school in the top 50 that doesn’t require testing in.  Something impressive goes on there, and I briefly wondered about just applying every year, hoping to hit the jackpot.

I also figured it might make sense to apply/test just in case some thing unexpectedly annoying or weird happens at our school by the end of the year and I want to get out.  Hard to see that happening, but with CPS you never know.

Plus, hey, I have this blog.  What am I going to write about if I’m not immersed in the application process?

But I came to peace.  I would stay at our school with our nice neighborhood school as our backup.  Peace, indeed.

Until today.  Now I can drive an application to a school (nah) or get to the post office to get my testing application postmarked by today.  I’m having second thoughts.  I’ve realized today that I am a testing junkie.  I took the SATs 3 times.  I enjoy doing GMAT practice questions for fun.  Something is wrong with me, I swear it.  I just may try to make it to the post office today….

December 19, 2008 at 12:26 pm 1 comment

So should you try to prep a kid for the gifted test?

OK, so even if you can prep a kid for the gifted test, the next question is whether you should or not?

Question #1: Does prepping help?  Just in my own opinion, I think that any type of test prep can help you (or your child) feel more comfortable on the test day and give you the best advantage possible.  I definitely benefitted from test prep for the SATs and GMATs back in the day when I could actually concentrate on stuff like that.  However since the version of the CPS test is still unknown, you may throw your kid off by having them practice on stuff that won’t actually be on the test.   However practing doing little test-type exercises will probably help them feel more comfortable.  Which brings up another question — what do you tell your kid about the test?  Or do you even say that its a test?  A friend of mine told her child it was an “interview” where they would help decide which school was best for her.  I told my son that it was a test to see what he’d been learning in school.

Question #2: Can you actually improve the score by prepping your child?  From what I’ve seen in my own kid, there are points at which knowledge “gels” in their brains.  And before that happens, you just ain’t gonna force it in.  When he took the test he could (with coaxing) read some 3 letter words.  I am pretty sure that no level of practice could have gotten him beyond that point.  I recently was reading some of the basic points of Piaget, who did some of the most famous research on child development.  He had a couple tests that can be done to see if kids have reached certain mental milestones.  One of them is to show 2 sets of objects with the same number of items, but one is spead out wider than the other.  The child is asked which set has more items.  Kids about 6 and under will say that the wider set has more items since the group appears visually bigger.   I conducted this test on my son with 2 pack of Smarties.  I counted out 15 in each pack, right before his eyes.  Yet when I asked him which has more he would insist the wide-spread group had more.  Honestly it was shocking to see.  Like HOW could he not be getting it?!?  Finally I counted out the Smarties again for him in both groups.  His comment, “WHOAAA!  Weird!”  Like it was even freaking him out!  Ah, the young mind.  I guess that’s why they believe that Santa can deliver all the presents on Xmas eve using flying reindeer.   So, case in point… I just don’t know if you can teach them more than the are developmentally ready to handle.  And if there are certain types of logic questions on the test, ideally they could become more familiar with the questions, but I doubt that they can learn a level of logic that they don’t already possess.

Question #3: Is it good to “prep” your kid into gifted placement?  Well, the biggest fear is that if prepping actually helps a kid beyond that their real abilities are, they could end up being in a class where they can’t keep up, which could just make things difficult in the end.   I suspect that in the K and 1st grade level classes most kids are given leeway enough that just about any child can learn at their own level.  But in the older elementary grades, I think things are really bumped up a notch.  Some of that higher-level math could even put an adult to shame.  On my tour of Bell, the principal mentioned a girl who moved into the regular 7th grade class so as not to be penalized grade-wise during that year (when grades help determine which high school you get into.)  He said it turned out for the best because she got the grades needed for one of the top selective high schools and was now doing very well there.  So…. one point in favor of attending a school with both gifted and neighborhood classes.

In the end, I think a lot of parents joke around about prepping for the gifted and classical testing, but I haven’t met any that have truly pursued any type of real prepping.  I think most pre-school programs do a decent job of teaching kids the basics (some probably better than others.)  If you have had faith in your preschool or what you’ve been teaching at home, you should be feeling like your child is as well prepared as they can be.  And finally – not all types of intelligence are tested on these things.  Some kids are smart in other ways… in fact one my son’s friends who really stood out to me as being a real smarty did not score high on the CPS gifted test for reasons I cannot fathom, while my son who thinks the word “buttocks” is the funniest thing on the planet did.  Maybe “buttocks” was somehow incorporated into the test?

UPDATED: Here is an interesting post on another blog with input from a person who does gifted testing in NYC:

November 10, 2008 at 12:07 pm 2 comments

New clues about the CPS gifted test content (and can I prep my kid?)

The New York Times has an article today about the gifted programs in NYC.  I can barely follow what they’re saying based on how screwy the system is there.   The gist of it is that some changes in how they allocated spots in their gifted program has messed things up in a big way, resulting in some classes being tiny, others big, and still others being disbanded for lack of enrollment (even though 16,000 kids were tested and they have 66 entry-level gifted classes.)  Dang, that is a big-ass city.  All I know is, I’m glad I don’t live there as far as school is concerned.

Anyhow, the big news that I wish I’d read one year ago is the discussion of the test that is used to determine admission to the gifted classes: The Otis-Lennon School Ability Test, or Olsat, a reasoning exam, and the Bracken School Readiness Assessment.   Apparently, this OLSAT is replacing the Stanford Binet Intelligence scale across the land as the means for testing kids for gifted programs.  Obviously NYC has the biggest testing program around, but I gotta figure that other cities are following suit.   It’s possible the Chicago is still using the Stanford Binet, based on what I’ve read about the normative data the S/B has collected.  In speaking with the people at the testing facility here, they talk a lot about the “norms and percentiles.” 

Some lady in this (incredibly painful-to-navigate) blog discusses the differences between the two tests and concludes that the Stanford Binet is more reliable (and sounds like more fun) for kids ages 4-6.

But, you ask…. what’s in it for me?  Well, I haven’t had a chance to look in depth just yet, but out there in Internet Land, there must be some clues as to what kinds of things are on these tests.  In fact my first attempt at Yahoo-ing the OLSAT reveals a preparatory kit that can be purchased to help your child practice.  Quite a coup for the overzealous parents of New York City.

Another site sells workbooks that can help with test prep, even down to the prek level (and you can even find workbooks to help kids prep for the ISATs:)  Maybe I’m a nerd, but some of them actually look kind of fun. I’m going to try out some of the Mind Bender books on my kid.  Another site mentions this Building Thinking Skills line of books as good prep material for the Stanford-Binet.

In retrospect, it’s probably better that I didn’t know about any of this last year.  My son wouldn’t have had the attention span to sit through any kind of practice session and I would have been a nutcase (or to clarifly, MORE of a nutcase.)

UPDATE: I received the 2 Mind Bender books that I ordered.  The Grades K-2 version seems like it’ll be too hard for my kid (sample question: Suppose that all boys have purple hair.  And suppose that all purple-haired people are 3 meters tall.  What else must then be true?) Maybe I’m underestimating my kid – I haven’t actually tried them on him yet.  But this might be a good indication of the Stanford-Binet type questions.  The PreK-K book is all of the same type of question, which involves filling in a little grid of logic using the clues given (for example figuring out which of 3 people lives in the biggest, smallest, or widest house.)  With a little instruction, my son has been able to do these with me reading the clues.  But I’m sure a real test would have a greater range of questions.  So while these are fun little mind-benders and challenge kids’ logic skills, I’m unsure they provide real prepping for a gifted test.  I do think they’ll be fun for taking to restaurants and such to occupy time.

The site has a section about the test called COGAT that is used in some areas.  If you email the company, they’ll send you a sample sheet of 3 questions for this age range which are the type I was imagining is on the CPS version (no real proof though.)  I got the copy, but can’t seem to figure out how to post it here.  Just send an email to with the words CogAT Primary in the subject line and you’ll get the sheet right away.  The site is also nice to explore for info on testing in general.

And finally, assuming that CPS uses the Stanford-Binet test (that is my best guess right now), the following book might help a kid get ready:

You can read about my own experience having my son tested before Kindergarten here:

October 30, 2008 at 1:04 am 4 comments

Yeahhhh, so the homework thing…

One of my concerns about my son entering a CPS Gifted Program was the homework.  Edison and Bell are known to give copious amounts.   The principal at our new school assured us that the CPS guideline is 15 minutes a night and she supported that.  Well, that sounds like just a blip of time every evening.

So now, in fact, he does have homework virtually every night.  Mercifully, it is given out in a weekly packet so parents can decide if they want to start good nightly habits or raise yet another generation of procrastinators who are trying to crank through the whole packet on Sunday nights.

Each assignment includes a few cute and appealing little worksheets that look as though they would take minutes to fill in.  The challenge, of course, is keeping a Kindergartener focused enough to complete it.  The challenge, of course, that makes me wonder how a teacher ever gets 27 5-year-olds to sit and do anything for more than 3 minutes.  Clearly magic or witchcraft is involved.

Much of the homework involves writing, and perhaps the girls are more efficient, but getting a 5yo boy to write a whole page of letters is just slightly easier than convincing my dog to bring me breakfast in bed.  The pauses, the wrong letters that spontaneously pop out of his pencil, the random drawing of a butt that needs to be made (“would my teacher think I was a jerk if I left that there?”)  BTW, the universal butt symbol is a circle with a line going vertically down the center.  It can easily be turned into an apple to disguise it.  The gist is that these 2-4 little pages can end up taking freakin’ FOREVER to complete what with the goading, coercing, cajoling, slow writing, refocusing, doodling, etc.

Due to this, I actually had a homework nightmare this past week.  I suspect it will replace the long-standing college stress dreams that I’ve had for 20 years.  In the dream I had to turn in a kiddie homework assignment (yes, me) but somehow I couldn’t figure out the directions or what the teacher wanted.  If this is starting in week 3 of Kindergarten, I’m looking at a lot of restless nights ahead.

September 23, 2008 at 12:45 am 4 comments

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