An article in the Chicago Tribune last week outlines the growing practice of preschoolers cramming with tutors for entry into the top public schools in the city.
It’s a practice that cities like New York know well, but it’s new and growing in Chicago and other increasingly competitive school systems in the country.
In Chicago, 3,337 applications have been filed this year for 500 seats in Chicago Public School system’s classical and gifted kindergarten programs for this fall. As the Tribune says:
“..with low-performing neighborhood schools an unattractive option and the cost of some private schools out of reach, many parents see CPS’ selective enrollment programs as the best public education option in the city.”
Is a preschool tutor a good idea?
Here’s what testing includes:
For kindergarten entry, the tests are one-on-one, and ask kids to do things like identify trapezoids and figure out how many cookies they’d have if their mom put two more on their plate.
For gifted programs they would want kids to be able to make predictions about what happens next, infer relationships between objects, and recognize patterns.
Tutors and test-prep programs work with kids as early as three-years-old.
I have a two and a half year old and the idea of him sitting for an exam (or prepping for one) makes me break out in a sweat.
But beyond that, it’s my understanding that these kindergarten tests for skills and intelligence do not really do a good job of predicting anything. As Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman point out in NurtureShock, kindergarten testing leaves a huge number of kids behind. That’s not because some kids just don’t “test well” — it’s because the tests themselves don’t really predict anything valuable to begin with.
Here’s more from my Science of Kids column on what research says about the most important preschool skills.
Has your family been through school testing? Do you think the system works, and would you consider “prepping” your child?