Thank you to everyone who attended our P.A.L. workshop in October. Many parents submitted questions about G&T programs in NYC and the testing process. Here are some of their many excellent questions answered by Karen Quinn, co-founder of http://www.testingmom.com
1. I heard rumors that the DOE will change the test or evaluation system for the 2012-2013 school year. Is this true? If we have a child who will be tested in 2013 for kindergarten, how should we prepare for the change?
At this point, nobody knows what will happen next year or the year after that. The DOE has not made any formal announcements. If you look at all the different tests given to 4 and 5 years to assess them for G&T, there is much overlap. They tend to have questions around analogies, patterning, math, language, thinking skills, and basic information like letters, colors, and numbers. If you are doing any kind of early preparation, just keep doing what you have been doing. Chances are, even if the test changes, the work you are doing now on skills, concepts and knowledge will be just as relevant if the test changes.
2. We speak Korean at home, but our son goes to an English speaking nursery school. Can he be tested in Korean instead of English? How should we decide what language to have him tested in?
Your son can take the OLSAT and Bracken tests in Korean, but not the WPPSI-III or the Stanford-Binet for Hunter College Elementary. In NYC, the DOE allows children to be tested in 13 languages for the gifted and talented tests. They are English, Arabic, Bengali, French, Cantonese, Mandarin, Haitian-Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Urdu.
If his language skills are significantly better in Korean, you’ll want to have him tested in that language. If his English is good and his learning at school is taking place in English, you might want to have him tested in English. If you do decide to have him tested in English, be sure to do your practice questions in English. Also, use more English at home than you ordinarily would in the months before the test. Read to him in English as well. You want his English to be as strong as possible when he is evaluated. After the test, you can go back to a comfortable mix between speaking Korean and speaking English at home.
Something to keep in mind is that your child will not have to speak any answers. Younger children only have to listen to the question and point to the answer. So it is more important that your child be able to understand English well than to speak it well during the test.
3. Is being bilingual an advantage or disadvantage for G&T testing?
It is not an advantage. If your child is taking the WPPSI-III, tell the tester he is bilingual. That will go in his report. Private schools will take into consideration that he might not do as well on the verbal portion of the test because he is bilingual. Even though it may be a disadvantage on the Hunter or G&T tests, it will not be taken into consideration.
4. My son’s birthday is September 8. He is eligible for public school but too young to apply for private school. We aren’t sure if we want public school or private school. Our current nursery school director thinks he is ready for kindergarten. What should we do?
You are actually in a good situation. If your nursery school director thinks your son is ready for kindergarten, go ahead and go through the public school gifted and talented admissions process. Perhaps you’ll get him into a great G&T program that you really like. If you live in a good zoned school district, you might enroll him in public kindergarten where he will learn more than he might otherwise learn if you leave him in preschool. If you like the program he is in, you won’t have to apply to private school. If you aren’t sure if you like it, go ahead and apply out next September. You’ll have to reapply for kindergarten. Ask your current nursery school director if she will help you with ex-missions if you do apply out next year. Most will. By the time you find out which private school your son got into, you’ll know if you want to stay with the public school where you are or move on.
5. What TV shows are very efficient for Pre-K and 2nd graders to get them ready for testing?
You can certainly expose your little one to Sesame Street and Dora The Explorer and other educational shows on a limited basis, but don’t expect the shows to get a child ready for testing.
6. Will a tester ensure that my child is focused before each question is asked?
If your child will be assessed by a psychologist for the Stanford-Binet or the WPPSI-III, the psychologist will do his best to keep the child on track during the test. A psychologist can re-direct a child who isn’t being attentive and encourage her. However, the psychologist cannot repeat questions that are assessing receptive language skills. When your child takes the OLSAT, many of the questions can only be asked once. The proctor will not redirect your child. That is why it is important to teach your child to listen carefully to the question that is asked, to hold it in his memory, and then answer appropriately. This comes with practice. At TestingMom.com, we have some additional exercises under our OLSAT practice questions that are designed to strengthen a child’s listening, focusing, and memory skills.
7. Are there testing accommodations for kids with learning challenges like ADHD (e.g. can they be excused from sitting through the OLSAT for entry to public G&T programs)?
Every child who enters the G&T program must sit through the entire OLSAT and Bracken tests. If they need to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water, the proctor will take them for that. If your child does better with a break, tell him he can ask to go to the bathroom or to get a drink of water.
8. Do gifted programs give more homework?
Yes, there is plenty of homework for children in gifted classrooms. When you are applying to gifted schools for your child, make sure you are prepared to help your child with the additional work it takes to be successful in an accelerated program.
9. It seems like every parent is preparing their child for testing these days. This worries me. If I prepare my child for testing, am I risking that he will be disqualified because he’s been exposed to the material ahead of time?
It depends HOW you prepare your child for testing. You never want to expose your child to the actual test materials ahead of time. Last year, we were contacted by a mother who sent her child to a tutoring center in Chinatown. After her son was tested, the DOE sent her a letter saying his results were disqualified because they felt he had been exposed to the actual test. I asked her to fax over the material he had been working with. To my surprise, he had been doing “worksheets” that were from the actual test. The mother had no idea!
10. How long before the test should we begin preparation?
Much of what is on this test you have been teaching your child since she was a baby! The sooner you start working on these skills, the better! They are skills that are not only important for testing, but for school! If you start early, you will see what your child is good at and what she needs to work on. You’ll want to work on areas of need outside of doing practice questions. For example, if she struggles with math, you’ll want to count and do addition and subtraction in your daily life besides doing the practice test questions. If you find your child will be tested soon and you haven’t done any preparation, it’s still good to do practice questions ahead of time so that your child isn’t blindsided when she goes in for the test. For example, you want her to at least understand what a matrix or analogy question is when she sees one so that she knows how to think it through during the test.
This Q&A was provided courtesy of TestingMom.com co-founder Karen Quinn.