Thursday, September 20, 2012
Testing prep and gifted education
Sometimes I sound like a broken record: gifted education should not be a reward. It should not be the only "good" class in a school or the only "good" school in a district. It should not indicate that a child has achieved something. It should be an educational intervention for children who need it. But of course, that's not the way many educators and parents see it. I was reminded of this by a press release put out by TestingMom.com, a company co-founded by Karen Quinn, author of The Ivy Chronicles. According to the release, the site had been re-launched, "giving parents a whole new set of tools to help their children succeed in the increasingly competitive world of gifted education." If it's increasingly competitive most places, that must be because schools are cutting seats -- partly because gifted education doesn't seem like a priority when it's spun as something for kids who've been prepped extensively for a test. Tests inherently have the reality -- perhaps the problem -- that you can prepare for them. When the stakes are high, people will prepare more (witness the cram schools in a place like South Korea). Certainly by doing logic puzzles, you can prepare for IQ tests, and it's possible you'd do better. When gifted education is perceived as a reward -- or, as in NYC, where it gets you out of paying $40,000 in private school tuition if your kid can score a seat in a good program -- people have every incentive to use test prep products. I'm not sure what to do about that. Perhaps a good screening program could involve all kids doing some amount of test prep. Almost every law school graduate takes a bar prep course; it's kind of built into the system. But I also think it's important to recognize the limits of test prep. Tons of children take SAT prep classes -- and such classes probably raise their scores. But very few children who've taken SAT prep classes or do SAT tutoring actually get perfect scores. The test is not completely coach-able or you'd see people acing it left and right. A high score still shows something. I'm curious if blog readers have seen an assessment program for a school or district that they thought was done really well. In other news: I wrote about the Bedtime Math Problem over at Citibank's Women & Co site.