Saturday, January 18, 2014

Post Traumatic Test Disorder

The problem with this darn selective enrollment test is that it's a lottery at the end of the score range that counts.  Almost anything can happen with a bright, engaged kid.   I've seen kids make up really clever rules to solve test questions that I think are logically valid and that are completely wrong.  All kinds of things can go wrong and do.

The second problem is that the test is not culturally neutral.  When taking the practice tests, I came across much material that I would have know as a boy since I grew up on a farm near a lake.   Huck Finn might have done well despite his average intelligence.   My son, however, who has spent his life in one of the densest neighborhoods in the country, has not mastered the vocabulary of farming and fishing.  I thought this was a defect in the test prep material and a deviation from the test.  I was wrong.

My son knows quite a bit about fruit and vegetables, since that was his entire diet at age 3.  He was like a poop machine, not that you needed to know that.   I tried my best to explain to him all of the different types of meat terms that come from cows and pigs, but he wouldn't eat or learn them.  From current research about the other half of the city, those kids have never seen a fruit or a vegetable, and wouldn't recognize them, but have a large vocabulary about barbecue.  That sounds awful, but it's true.

The third problem is that any of the kids in the 90% to 95% range would do just fine in the GAT program if they and their parents were willing to do 1 to 2 hours of reading and homework each night, plus projects.  That is what GAT is all about - education will get the majority of attention.  A kid who wants to be on the hockey travelling team will pay the price in grades.  A dummy who cheats his way in - I'm not naming names - can get straight A's unless he tries to make humorous responses on his reading test because his father was trying to make homework more interesting that week - again, not naming names.

And here's where my beef comes in.  When my son listed the vocabulary on the Kindergarten test that he missed (he's as obsessed about tests as me), it is clear that a kid growing up on a farm near a lake would know all of these terms.   A kid in the city would not.   Of course, the question is probably designed for the kid to eliminate 3 ridiculous answers to arrive at the correct one, but there's a test proctor watching over his shoulder and my son wanted to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible.

The end result was that this question shut him out of a Kindergarten GAT program.  Granted, we weren't going to send him there for Kindergarten, but don't think I'm not pissed.

I think this whole thing is a scam.  This GAT program is the education that all kids should get.  They get this level of instruction in every other country except for this one.   Making kids test into it on a high variability outcome exam is absurd.


  1. I came across your blog yesterday while I was trying to get some help for my daughter. She will be taking GATE this March for her first grade. I am so happy and relieved to see this blog I feel I have some guidance to help her. I'm going through all the archives and there are quite a few :) I cannot thank you enough for putting all these out here :)

  2. Thank you for your comment. My son took the first grade test this week. There are only 14 slots available at the school that we qualify for, 1 or 2 slots available at a few other schools, and over 4,000 people applying. Once results are released, I can start reviewing in depth all of the available material and sharing the material I devised myself.