Big Change in Gifted and Talented Testing
By SOPHIA HOLLANDER
A new test for admission into New York City's gifted and talented program will account for the bulk of a student's score, upending a testing regime that a growing number of children had appeared to master.
In a broader overhaul than previously announced, the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test, also known as the NNAT, will count for two-thirds of a student's score, said city officials, who signed a three-year, $5.5 million contract with the testing company Pearson earlier this year.
Man, there's money to be made in the test racket! Nothing new is being invented, but there's constant lucrative churn from one testing company to another as institutions thrash about blindly trying to buy their way to racial equality of results.
The Otis-Lennon School Ability Test, or OLSAT, which increasing numbers of children had prepared for intensely, will drop to a third of the total from 75%.
City officials hailed the new test as a vast improvement. It relies on abstract spatial thinking and largely eliminates language, even from the instructions, an approach that officials said better captures intelligence, is more appropriate for the city's multilingual population and is less vulnerable to test preparation.
Oh, great, this new test will work out swell for African-Americans.
As everybody seems to know lately, African-Americans aren't very good with language (the Word Gap), but they're aces with "abstract spatial thinking." Hart and Risley proved it! Plus, African-Americans don't speak English, so how can they compete with people from China on a test in English?
As a result, they expressed the hope that it would "improve the diversity of students that are recognized as gifted and talented," said Adina Lopatin, the deputy chief academic officer for the city's Department of Education. City officials said they were currently compiling data on the program's racial breakdown but students who qualified tended to be concentrated in wealthier districts. Areas such as the South Bronx produced few candidates.
Some experts have raised doubts about the NNAT's ability to create a racially balanced class. Several studies show the test produces significant scoring gaps between wealthier white and Asian children and their poor, minority counterparts.
Really? You think?
... The shift marks the latest attempt by city officials to address a seemingly intractable problem: How to create equity in the admissions process for its gifted and talented program, which begins in kindergarten and goes through third grade. ....
The abstract nature of the exam actually makes it more susceptible to test preparation, some argue. On the NNAT, often students "don't understand what they're supposed to do," said David Lohman, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Iowa and the co-author of a rival test, called the CogAT.
Well, give Lohman $5 million, too. That should fix the problem.
The NNAT is significantly harder than the tests city has previously used, with some questions confusing even for adults, tutoring companies reported. "We've known for some time that, on these sorts of tests, understanding what to do is half the battle," Mr. Lohman said. "You solve one problem and create another." Mr. Naglieri dismissed the idea that preparation could unduly reward students on his test.
"You're not going to be able to solve a really hard question on my test because you know how it works," he said. "You have to intellectually manage the demands of the task."
Yup, that's been the problem with previous tests: not enough intellectually managing the demands of the task for poor black kids to shine.
Tutoring companies across the city have reported a frenzy since the NNAT was announced, with families signing children up for private tutoring sessions, enrolling them in multiweek boot camp classes, and buying test preparation booklets in droves—even though the test won't be administered until January.
... Bige Doruk, the founder of Bright Kids NYC, another tutoring company, said she had no trouble selling NNAT Boot Camp packages—eight to 10 sessions, plus preparation materials—which start at more than $1,000.
Some educators said that as long as standardized tests remained the sole criteria for admissions, little would change.
I think Who You Know, not What You Know, should be the criteria.
"They can keep switching tests from now until doomsday and it's not going to make a difference," said James Borland, a professor at Teachers College at Columbia University. "The rationale behind the process is fatally flawed." Others said that even if they maintained testing, the city could still address other barriers for disadvantaged children. Currently, parents must sign up their children to take the test, screening out those whose families are less engaged or savvy. ... Others said the city isn't doing enough to promote diversity in the gifted program. "You have to believe that what they're doing is a failure or you have to believe that African-American and Latino kids are less gifted," Mr. Borland said. "One of those has to be true."