Saturday, July 7, 2012

Nurture Shock on Kintergarden Testing

I'm not thrilled with Po Bronsons conclusions in the chapter on testing pre-schoolers for a slot in a GAT kintergarden program.  Sure, there's some randomness, and the tests aren't perfect, and the testing process is not a very net thorough for gifted kids.  Sounds pretty bad if this is what was actually happening.

What is happening is that Chicago and New York desperately need to retain kids on the upper end of the performance spectrum in their public schools, or they will loose not only these kids, but more kids as their overall stats decline and their are less options for parents for this group.

Once a child or a family is established in a school, it's hard on both kids and parents to make a switch.   So, they get one shot, in competition with private schools, for academia's performers.

The best predictor of academic ability - not giftedness, not current reading or math level, but ability - is current academic ability.   Vocabulary is also a great predictor.   This is about the best a test can do, to measure current ability.  And it will fill a room up with our best guess as to who the brightest kids are, in terms of academic performance.

I'm also disappointed with Bronson's ability to lie with statistics.   By thrid grade, 73% of the children who tested as gifted in kintergarden will not be tested as gifted in 3rd grade.   Let me rephrase this so it is not lying with statistics.   Because of the "regression to the mean" phenomenon that affects all tests of this nature, 73% of children scoring 98% or above would score 97% or below on the next test.  Big deal.  As Bronson points out in chapter eight, "children who were above average in IQ and excutive functioning (concentration and self control) were 300% more likely to do well in math class than children who just had a high IQ alone."   In other words, by 3rd grade, or high school, IQ takes a back seat to other traits, like motivation, creativity, and work ethic.  How do we determine if these children have this trait at age 4 or 5?  Watch them concetrate on an abilities test.

For the school, this is critical.  If they loose this group, they risk spiraling downward.

For a parent, it has a few implications.  The biggest problem with these tests is the variability from one day to the next in a single child's performance on a test.   It can be a 24 month range in intelligence.   (Your 5 year old could have such a bad day he performs like a 3 year old).  You've got to take that out of the equation.  I should write about that some day.

The other implication, for those who read this far, is more cynical.  If you understand this program as putting kids in a single classroom who can pass a test, then it takes on a whole new meaning.

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