When my son was 4, he was given an extensive IQ test as part of a free developmental screening through the public school system. I spent the appointment chewing on my nails and slurping on an iced latte while stressing out about my child's future. Being a quirky, test-loving kid, he enjoyed the entire hours-long process. But I can't imagine that most kids would like it or even sit still for it.
In NYC, parents spend upwards of $568 to have their children screened using a similar test. Why? So they can get their kids into super elite private schools. I can't imagine putting a child through that kind of testing for the purpose of kindergarten admissions, though I can understand wanting the very best for kids — even little kids — when it comes to academics.
A new test that looks more like an iPad game than a tedious IQ exam will save parents tons of money at just $65, but it's also ludicrously difficult. I'm embarrassed to say that I took it and promptly failed admissions standards to fancy private kindergarten. I have a son entering kindergarten in the fall. He tested above average on basic evaluations given as part of his preschool curriculum, but he's no baby genius. If we lived in NYC, there's no way we'd be gearing up for elite private school. (Let's pretend cost isn't a factor, since one of the schools using this new testing system costs $43,600 a year -- for kindergarten.)
Parents in NYC are forking out hundreds of dollars to prep little kids for the new electronic test, called the Admission Assessment for Beginning Learners (AABL). Unlike old screenings, it won't use comments from the test administrator and it won't leave wiggle room for the way kids respond verbally to questions. This is a lot of pressure to put on a small child. A 4-year-old might not understand the consequences of "failing" the admission test, but a kid that age is definitely going to pick up on Mom and Dad's stress and emphasis on practicing.
In the grand scheme of things, this change in admissions testing only affects a tiny portion of the population of kids entering kindergarten, but I still think it's a step in the wrong direction. Kids — and their potential — can't be measured in a series of touch-screen tests. There's so much more to what we are as humans. Or at least I hope so, given my track record with the AABL. Take the sample test and let us know how you scored in the comments below.
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