Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Too Young, Too Soon

I don't usually read the syndicated News of the Weird column in the Star Tribune, but something about last Saturday's headline, Start Studying Now for Kindergarten, dragged me in. Here's what the story said:

Commercial test-preparation courses are already popular for applicants to top colleges and graduate schools, and recently also for admission to prestigious private high schools and grade schools. Now, according to a November New York Times report, such courses and private coaching are increasingly important for admission to New York City's high-achiever public kindergartens, even though the applicants are just 3 and 4. Basic coaching, which might cost more than $1,000, includes training a child to listen to an adult's questions and to sit still for testing. Minimum qualification for top-shelf kindergartens are scores at the 90th percentile on the Olsat reasoning test and the Bracken School Readiness knowledge test.
Aside from the obvious stupidity of this new trend, there's an even worse stupidity about testing these children in the first place.

Nurture Shock coverAccording to Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, "intelligence test scores before children start school, on average, had only a 40% correlation with later achievement test results" (page 100).

And "Fully one-third of the brightest incoming third graders would have scored 'below average' prior to kindergarten" (page 101).

One research scientist for the Educational Testing Service is quoted as saying, "Testing younger than [second grade], you're getting kids with good backgrounds, essentially" (page 101).

In New York City's gifted programs, children get in after a single high-stakes test taken before kindergarten, and then are never retested. Late bloomers -- and Nurture Shock makes the argument that many of the brightest kids might tend to be late bloomers because they are the brightest kids -- are locked out.

The idea that parents are training their children, like parrots, to sit still and perform for a test that shouldn't even be given to them at that age is deeply disturbing. And paying a thousand dollars for the privilege, too!

No comments: