"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

NY City Schools Reserving "Gifted" Kindergartens for Those Who Can Buy the Gifts

There are three levels of insanity at work here.  One is derived from the loony concept of a "gifted kindergarten."  The second radiates from the craziness of using standardized tests on 4 year olds with any expectation of validity.  The third emanates from the first two, and it is a form of social neurosis grounded by class and race.

In the bad old days, NYC teachers and staff interviewed children, observed them, and made selections for kindergartens that assured some modicum of diversity in the City's best kindergartens.  In the Klein new days, Bloomberg's edu-clowns now depend upon a single standardized test that guarantees that all seats in the handful of kindergartens where children are treated as children go to the privileged.  These days those schools are for the smart kids of the affluent who can afford the expensive cram tutors for their 4 year olds.  The rest, smart or not, who can't afford the tutoring must begin a life of institutional remediation for which we know there can be no institutional remedy outside of changing socioeconomic status.  

Again, score one for the kind of objectivity guarantees the advantage to those who already have it and treats everyone else as objects.

From the NYTimes:

. . . .Back then, under a decentralized selection process, teacher assessment, classroom observation and interviews all played a role.
That approach was criticized as vulnerable to political manipulation and racial favoritism, since districts could take into account increasing diversity in making selections.
“The process was fractured and inconsistent, and programs were too often gifted in name only,” the city education chancellor, Joel I. Klein, said in an e-mail message.
In 2008, Mr. Klein made the score on a citywide standardized test the sole criteria for admission. Mr. Klein is a leading testing proponent for everything from grading schools to rating teachers, and he predicted that a citywide test would be a more equitable solution.
Since then, there have been two major developments, neither looking much more equitable than the old system. Blacks and Hispanics in gifted kindergarten programs dropped to 27 percent this year under the test-only system, from 46 percent under the old system (66 percent of city kindergartners are black or Hispanic).
And a test-prep industry for 4-year-olds has burgeoned. Bige Doruk opened Bright Kids NYC in 2009, and there is so much demand that she says she’s opening a second site this month. She runs a two-month “boot camp” for the gifted test in the fall that includes eight one-on-one 45-minute sessions and two test-prep books for $1,075.
It’s already half-booked, Ms. Doruk said, “and I haven’t even publicly announced it.” . . .

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