Opinion: Accelerated Education, Taken to the nth Degree

Marion Herbert's picture
Friday, April 20, 2012

The big news out of New York City is that the admissions test for the city’s gifted kindergarten programs is about to get tougher.

News organizations report that a portion of the current test, which assesses which 4-year-olds have an exceptional grasp of shapes, colors and numbers, will be replaced with a way to better gauge logic and reasoning skills.

It’s about time, is all I can say. The last thing we need in this country is a bunch of overrated preschoolers coasting into gifted kindergarten.

Wait a second ... gifted kindergarten?

You have got to be kidding.

Add this to the list of plusses to living out here in flyover country: We do not have gifted kindergarten. (The state of Kansas hasn’t even gotten around to paying for full-day kindergarten for all students, but that’s another story.)

Because we do not have gifted kindergarten, parents do not have to dip into their savings accounts to pay for test prep for the gifted-kindergarten admissions exam.

Preparing for the baby boards is big business in New York and Chicago, and perhaps some other places. Parents have admitted paying thousands of dollars for “kindercramming.”

According to news reports, more than 14,000 New York City tykes took the gifted-kindergarten entrance exam this winter, and almost 5,000 made the cut. In some neighborhoods, nearly all the children scored above average, making entire blocks look like the metropolitan version of Lake Wobegon.

But that’s only the first step. New York City’s five most selective public elementary schools — supposedly the fast tracks to the Ivy League — have only 400 kindergarten seats. Neighborhood schools don’t have enough slots to meet the demand, either. So many of the qualifying students will have to take their chances in a lottery.

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