April 14th, 2012

High Stakes Testing for Advanced Learning Programs in NYC

The practice of basing entry into advanced learning programs on a single aptitude test — taken by pre-kindergartners — creates very high stakes, and broadens the opportunity gap between parents who can afford expensive tutoring, and those who can’t. Karson Yiu and Edward Lovett report on this phenomenon in “Parents Spend Thousands on Test-Prep to Get Kids into ‘Gifted’ Kindergartens” for ABC Nightline. Here’s an excerpt:

Thousands of 4-year-olds across the country spend an hour every Saturday or Sunday, sometimes both, with a tutor who helps them with analogies, comprehension and pattern-recognition.

Their goal — their parents’ goal — is a school like NEST+m on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City. Neither a posh private school nor a charter school, NEST+m is a public school for the “gifted and talented.” It goes from kindergarten through high school and currently boasts a 100 percent graduation rate. If you get in for kindergarten, you’re in for the rest of the way through high school.

At an age when many children are not reading at all, NEST+m kindergarteners have math in the morning, science before lunch, then mandatory Mandarin Chinese in the afternoon.

In New York City, a single hour-long test, the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT), determines entrance to Gifted and Talented (G&T) programs at kindergarten.

“For those of us who can’t afford private school, we have no choice,” Lee Berman, a parent who prepped his young daughter Elaina Berman for the OLSAT, told “Nightline” anchor Cynthia McFadden.

He added, “how well they do on this will determine how they do for the rest of their educational career into middle school and then high school and beyond.”

The complete article is here.

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