Several months ago, readers of The New York Times learned, in ”Tips for the Admissions Test … to Kindergarten,” about Big Apple parents of means paying for tutors to prepare their preschoolers for the test that determines admission to the city’s public school kindergarten classes for gifted children. Last week, another Times story — “Equity of Test is Debated as Children Compete for Gifted Kindergarten” – raised questions of fairness. Are smart children whose parents can’t afford test prep unfairly excluded from the classrooms for gifted children? Even more basic is the question of appropriateness. Does research support tracking kindergartners as educationally sound practice?
Sara Mead, senior associate at Bellwether Education Partners, cuts through the myriad questions like these that are raised by the test and tutoring and sees the issue as a straightforward case of supply and demand. There are not enough high-quality kindergarten classrooms to meet the demand.
“The core issue here is NOT the use of test prep providers by middle class parents, the validity of the ‘gifted’ designation for kindergarteners, or the developmental appropriateness of the tests used,” Mead writes in her Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook blog on Education Week’s website. “The real problem is that New York City–and too many other places–use the “gifted” designation as a way to ration access to quality educational opportunities, and that kids who don’t win the “gifted” lottery too often don’t have access to good public schools that enable them to fulfill their potential. The real solution here isn’t changing the way New York identified gifted students–although there may be a case for that–but it’s dramatically increasing the supply of good schools so that all kids–gifted or not–have access to quality public education opportunities.”
Here at Strategies for Children, we advocate for high-quality full-day kindergarten. Not only does full-day kindergarten enjoy strong public support, but research also shows that children in full-day programs receive 40-50% more instructional time than children in half-day programs and make more progress on early reading and math skills.