Private Schools Are Expected to Drop a Dreaded Entrance Test
By JAVIER C. HERNÁNDEZ
For generations, families have dreaded and despised the exam used to determine the fate of 4- and 5-year-olds seeking entry into the elite world of New York City private schools.
But next year, the test, commonly known as the E.R.B., is likely to be dropped as an entry requirement by most of the schools. A group representing the schools announced this week that, because of concerns that the popularity of test-preparation programs and coaching had rendered its results meaningless, it would no longer recommend that its members use the test.
It's time for an independent commission to examine other high stakes tests, like the SAT and ACT, to understand the impact of test-prepping. My suggestion a few years ago was that colleges should start giving major weight in the admissions process to Advanced Placement tests, because if you spend hundreds of hours of test prepping American History or Physics, you'll probably at least learn something, just by accident.
“It creates a lot of anxiety in families and kids that is unnecessary,” said Patricia Hayot, the head of Chapin School, who leads the group, the Independent School Admissions Association of Greater New York. “We’re being brave. We’re trying to explore a new way.”
The decision quickly upended the frenzied arena of private school admissions.
The association represents 130 private and independent schools, including some of the city’s most respected institutions: The Dalton School, Riverdale Country School and Packer Collegiate Institute, among others.
While the schools are free to continue using the exam, Dr. Hayot said she expected the vast majority to scrap it after the association’s contract with the exam’s administrator ends next spring. (At least one school, Horace Mann, said on Thursday that it would stick with the test.)
For years, public and private schools across the country have grappled with questions about the value of standardized admissions exams. The city’s Education Department, responding to concerns that too many children were being coached for the test to enter gifted and talented programs, modified its own exam this year, which backfired when even more students qualified for the programs.
You almost might get the impression that not very many people actually understand testing and can make reasonable forecasts about what changes in testing portend. And most of the ones who do are in the test creation business, so they like it when an old test gets dumped and then they get paid a lot of money to whip up a new one pronto that probably will get dumped down the road, too. Ignorance and hysteria regarding testing means jobs for the boys.
The rise of the test-preparation industry, with guidebooks, tutoring sessions and sample questions aplenty, has raised questions about whether standardized tests accurately measure a child’s abilities. But a viable alternative has proved to be elusive, given the desire for a way to measure students against a single yardstick. ...
But Dr. Hayot said that a task force assembled by the schools association had found the results to be “tainted” by test preparation and recommended that the exam no longer be used in admissions for kindergarten and first grade, the common entry points for private elementary school. Last year, 3,173 students took the test for those grades, according to the bureau.
You know, 3,173 tots isn't a big number, considering how many articles I've read on the ERB/Wechsler over the years. But, they are 3,173 important four-year-olds.
The E.R.B. test is derived from an exam known as the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence, which measures, among things, vocabulary and the ability to identify geometric shapes. At many admissions offices, test scores are considered alongside interviews with prospective families and students, recommendations from preschools and observations of students in group settings.
The association is working with experts to develop a new assessment by February. Dr. Hayot said it was too early to say what the assessments would look like, but she said the group was considering ways of measuring noncognitive skills, like resilience and attention span. She also said the group might consider providing written evaluations of students, rather than a score.
They've been working on their new test for three or four years, right? And have done lots of field testing already to make sure they know what they're doing, right? This isn't going to be a fiasco like how the L.A. public schools were told to do throw out their old end of year tests for new Common Core tests and do them next spring on iPads that haven't yet arrived. And then somebody noticed that the Common Core tests wanted typed answers and they hadn't budgeted for keyboards for the iPads. Or for typing lessons for the students.
The Wechsler brand IQ tests go back to the 1930s, but evidently it can't take more than a few months to come up with something totally different and better
Probably what the schools would most like to do is just Google the parents' names to see how important they are. Probably the parents whose kids get in would prefer that. I've gotten to know quite a few people much classier than myself through our kids being in the same school or on the same sports team together. Of course, my kids wouldn't have gotten in on my merits, so forget that.
... Finding an adequate substitute could prove challenging. For all the criticism of the test, it provided a valuable tool for schools having to wade through hundreds or thousands of applicants, and having a single test used by virtually every school, SAT-style, kept young students from enduring a battery of them.
The test-preparation industry, which has blossomed in New York, greeted the decision tepidly, predicting that parents would soon be searching for ways to train their children for the new exams, however different they might be.
“Any uncertainty that you place in the process creates an absolute boom in test prep,” said Suzanne Rheault, chief executive of Aristotle Circle, one of the city’s more popular coaching programs. “People prep. They try to get information. They don’t want their kids to be guinea pigs.” ...
Perhaps no group will be more relieved than parents, who must now pay more than $500 just to take the exam, even before shelling out money for practice books and tutors.
It's extremely expensive because it's an oral exam given by a psychologists, since 4-year-olds can't be expected to read. I'm sure whatever they come up with will cost less.
Anne Yoakam Ellsworth, 43, a resident of the Upper East Side who writes a blog about parenting and politics, recalled trying to get her daughter, Rosemary, now 9, into a private school that prohibited practice courses or exams. She said the situation was frustrating. Many parents wanted to follow the rules, but they worried about leaving their children at a disadvantage.
How long have Ellsworths been in America? 380 years? 393? From a very old NYT obituary:
CAPT. JOSEPH ELLSWORTH DEAD; Commanded the [America's] Cup Defenders Puritan and Mayflower in 1885 and 1886.
And how long have Yoakams been in America? 250 years? Yoakam sounds likes the name of one of the Hill People whom Kenneth on 30 Rock refers to. Kentucky-born country singer Dwight Yoakam is the most famous.
I've got to figure there are people in Fujian Province right now reading Ms. Yoakam Ellsworth saying, "Many parents wanted to follow the rules ..." and chortling, "Silly American, wanting to follow the rules so you can pay $40,000! Stuyvesant is free."