Gifted testing at the right age

The U.S. is the only country in the free world that refuses to differentiate among students.  But even supporters of differentiation here can’t agree on when to identify those who are gifted (“New York City Seeks to Extend Gifted Testing,” The Wall Street Journal, June 18).

New York City, home of the nation’s largest school system, is a case in point.  Some 29,000 children took the test for a seat in a gifted elementary program, with about 3,600 finally getting offers.  The controversy is not over the relatively few who got in but over when the test was administered.  Kindergarten is way too soon. For example, Singapore, which is known for the quality of its schools, uses its Primary School Leaving Exam to do so.

When children are in kindergarten, they are far too young to begin tracking.  Yet the process continues in New York City because parental demand is high.  I wonder how many more children would qualify if the test were given later.

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2 Replies to “Gifted testing at the right age”

  1. My guess is that NYC, apparently doing “gifted” testing in kindergarten, is trying to do an end-run around the counter-productive “no-tracking” rules that have dominated public schools for decades.

    Back in the 1960s/1970s, school systems (sometimes prompted by court decisions) decided that tracking was racially discriminatory and pretty much stopped tracking. Not surprisingly, many parents who wanted their kids to be in classes with other kids who were reasonably well-behaved/academically-oriented were upset to find that, as the result of the no-tracking rule, their kids were in classes with kids who were poorly-behaved/anti-academic-achievement oriented. This was a particular problem in the inner-cities, where there were a significant number of the latter group of kids.

    School system officials and govt elected officials responded to this situation by creating vehicles that gave the concerned/functional parents most of the advantages of tracking without actually calling it tracking — charter schools, magnet schools, test-based-admission schools, and vouchers.

    The NYC “gifted” testing in kindergarten is just one variation on this theme.

    As I’ve frequently argued, just reinstate tracking in the neighborhood public schools. Forget all these alternatives.

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  2. Labor Lawyer: Unlike its competitors abroad that are more realistic, the U.S. is obsessed with democratization at any cost. Differentiation at any age is seen as elitist. Little wonder that our public schools are mediocre. Charles Murray calls our view “educational romanticism.” He’s right, but it’s not politically correct.

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