Kayla Rosenblum sat upright and poised as she breezed through the shapes and numbers, a leopard-patterned finger puppet resting next to her for moral support.
But then came something she had never seen before: a visual analogy showing a picture of a whole cake next to a slice of cake. What picture went with a loaf of bread in the same way?
Kayla, who will be 4 in December, held her tiny pointer finger still as she inspected the four choices. “Too hard,” she peeped.
Test preparation has long been a big business catering to students taking SATs and admissions exams for law, medical and other graduate schools. But the new clientele is quite a bit younger: 3- and 4-year-olds whose parents hope that a little assistance — costing upward of $1,000 for several sessions — will help them win coveted spots in the city’s gifted and talented public kindergarten classes.
Motivated by a recession putting private schools out of reach and concern about the state of regular public education, parents — some wealthy, some not — are signing up at companies like Bright Kids NYC. Bright Kids, which opened this spring in the financial district, has some 200 students receiving tutoring, most of them for the gifted exams, for up to $145 a session and 80 children on a waiting list for a weekend “boot camp” program…
“It’s unethical,” said Dr. Elisabeth Krents, director of admissions at the Dalton School [private] on the Upper East Side. “It completely negates the reason for giving the test, which is to provide a snapshot of their aptitudes, and it doesn’t correlate with their future success in school.”
No similar message, however, has come from the public schools. In fact, the city distributes 16 Olsat practice questions to “level the playing field,” said Anna Commitante, the head of gifted and talented programs for the city’s Department of Education.
As for parents doing more — like hiring a tutor — Ms. Commitante said she finds “anything else a little too stressful for young kids” but that “we can’t dictate what parents choose to do…”
While disgusted by that portion of a society that doles out disposable income to acquire an advantage for their kids – when they really are thinking of it that way – I can’t condemn parents who feel they’re unable to help their kids on their own. Maybe they feel they lack sufficient education to help. Maybe parents – when they’re both available – are working too many hours to have the time.
My own family taught us to read before kindergarten came along. Library time – which was a dedicated portion of Saturday – included getting advice from librarians on self-education, books to take home to guide us in learning well at the sole elementary school we had access to.
I wouldn’t call that unfair.