Gifted and Talented or Just Better-Prepared Children?

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times has an article exposing the problems of testing children for gifted and talented programs in New York City schools.  It focuses essentially on the issue that parents of many children as young as four-years old, are paying huge fees for test preparation tutoring services to improve scores.   The article comments:

“Assessing students has always been a fraught process….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.”

Last year, the Education Department said it would change one of the tests used for admission to public school gifted kindergarten and first-grade classes in order to focus more on cognitive ability and less on school readiness, which favors children who have more access to preschool and tutoring.

Scores had been soaring. For the 2012-13 school year, nearly 5,000 children qualified for gifted and talented kindergarten seats in New York City public schools. That was more than double the number five years ago. “We were concerned enough about our definition of giftedness being affected by test prep — as we were prior school experience, primary spoken language, socioeconomic background and culture — that we changed the assessment,” Adina Lopatin, a deputy chief academic officer in the Education Department, said.

And yet test prep companies leapt to action, printing new books tailored to the new test and organizing classes.”

Why have we allowed testing in this country to rule everything we do in education.  Increasingly, it has devolved into a corrupted sorting process that favors those with access to resources than a tool for teaching and learning.




  1. Dear Dawn,

    Thank you for responding to this blog posting. The way you and your husband are pursuing your son’s reading is typical of many parents who are concerned about their children’s success in school. All parents want the best for their children. The article takes the issue one step further in the cases of parents who can afford private tutoring services for their children and whether they are at an advantage over parents who cannot afford them.

    Thanks Again!


  2. Very interesting article….my son is 8 and we live in Washington State. His entire second grade class just took the test last week for the “gifted program” as a base line. My husband and I have taken a proactive role in his reading skills and his “testing scores” had increased by 30 points in 2 months. I wonder if we continue to be proactive, would he be gifted…I would agree with the article that No, he would not be gifted, he would be more prepared.
    His best friends put their children in private preschool and Kindergarten and are now in the third grade, though there seems to be nothing separating them than the early learning…again, very interesting.