Schools Ask: Gifted or Just Well-Prepared?
Natalie Viderman, 4, was tutored at Bright Kids NYC for an assessment test.
Published: February 17, 2013
When the New York City Education Department announced that it was changing part of its admissions exam for its gifted and talented programs last year, in part to combat the influence of test preparation companies, one of those companies posted the news with links to guides and practice tests for the new assessment.
Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times
Natalie Viderman, 4, and her mother, Victoria Preys. Natalie spent months preparing for gifted programs’ admissions tests.
The day that Pearson, a company that designs assessments, announced that it was changing an exam used by many New York City private schools, another test prep company attempted to decipher the coming changes on its blog: word reasoning and picture comprehension were out, bug search and animal coding were in.
If you did not know what to make of it — and who would? — why not stop by?
Assessing students has always been a fraught process, especially 4-year-olds, a mercurial and unpredictable lot by nature, who are vying for increasingly precious seats in kindergarten gifted programs.
In New York, it has now become an endless contest in which administrators seeking authentic measures of intelligence are barely able to keep ahead of companies whose aim is to bring out the genius in every young child.
The city’s leading private schools are even considering doing away with the test they have used for decades, popularly known as the E.R.B., after the Educational Records Bureau, the organization that administers the exam, which is written by Pearson.
“It’s something the schools know has been corrupted,” said Dr. Samuel J. Meisels, an early-childhood education expert who gave a presentation in the fall to private school officials, encouraging them to abandon the test. Excessive test preparation, he said, “invalidates inferences that can be drawn” about children’s “learning potential and intellect and achievement.”
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