Wednesday, April 18, 2012

For New York City Kindergartners, Each One is Above Average

Andrea Mohin/The New York Times
Suzanne Rheault’s tutoring company
 helps children with kindergarten 
admissions tests.

Cramming a Test to Win Admission to the Gifted Pre-School Schools

The wonderful joke in statistics (okay maybe the only joke associated with statistics) is when Garrison Keillor talks about Lake Woebegon and how all the children are above average.  Apparently this is no joke in New York city, where pre-school testing for kindergarten positions in programs for talented and gifted children shows everyone is above average.

First of all is the question of how one even goes about testing children 5 years old and younger for characteristics of genius.  Well it turns out there are tests, really there are.

In January, the city awarded Pearson a three-year contract for roughly $5.5 million to replace the Bracken exam with the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test, which city education officials contend will better measure ability. The contract places restrictions on Pearson’s ability to sell its test materials to anyone outside the Education Department, to make it harder for test-preparation companies to get their hands on them.

And yes this does fill the mind with pre-K children sitting in a room for hours taking standardized tests.  Not exactly the childhood we all want for our kids. 

But the good news is everyone does real well on the tests.

In Districts 2 and 3, which encompass most of Manhattan below 110th Street, more students scored at or above the 90th percentile on the entrance exam, the cutoff point, than scored below it.

Well that’s just great, but one would think that even non-gifted kindergartners would know that the 90th percentile means only 10% scored above that level.  Maybe the people that do the testing didn’t quality for kindergarten for talented and gifted children.

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