Too Young to Test?

by Toby Glick on September 10, 2009

Toby GlickThe New York Times recently brought attention to the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) policy of testing pre-kindergarteners to see who is eligible for the city’s gifted and talented programs. Nurture Shock, a new book by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, points out that pre-school test results are not a solid predictor of future academic excellence and that children should really be tested in second or third grade to have a more accurate and fair picture of who is “gifted.” This is especially true for disadvantaged and learning disabled youngsters who may be highly capable but don’t yet have the requisite language or motor skills to do well on these tests.

Another consideration is that the NYC DOE recently switched to the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test to evaluate youngsters instead of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale. While the Otis-Lennon is undoubtedly easier and more economical to give, its format is more challenging for youngsters with attentional issues which would also lower their scores.

Even if the NYC School System acknowledges that waiting would produce more accurate results, it would hesitate to make this change for fear of losing those families who, in looking for a quality education, would opt for private school if their children aren’t chosen. However, the impact of having a child labeled or not labeled “gifted” at such a young age should be considered. There is danger that too much or too little will be expected of some children.

It is important for all parents to realize, but especially parents of children who have a learning or developmental delay, that IQ scores of young children (and older ones also) are not written in stone and are not necessarily predictive. It is so important that the professional who is evaluating the youngster underscores this point. I have seen many reports which list the scores without emphasizing that the score represents a moment in time. A low score most likely does not reflect the true potential of the child. Parents can be devastated by the results until they realize that further testing will give a more accurate picture.

This is why it’s so important to have a skilled and sensitive professional do the testing – one who will report not only the scores but also what they really mean.

About the Contributor: Toby Glick is a regular contributor to the NYC Firm Schools Blog in the area of families with special needs.

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