NYC OLSAT Scores predicted to be lower this year!

Just a quick note on OLSAT scores before we close the office for the 2 week Passover and Easter vacations. Please contact your tutor during this time for any schedule changes.

After a short random survey of parents that had inquired but not been selected into our program: We predict OLSAT/BSRA scores to be released next month will be lower than previous years.

WHY DO WE THINK THIS IS THE CASE?

We had over 2000 inquiries from April/May 2010 through January 2011. I met with about 10 % of them, a little over 200 parents for private consultations in September and October of 2010. We patiently fit in our maximum capacity of 100 children but we wondered what parents were choosing to do when we could not fit them in and so the survey was born.

We asked a few simple questions: 1.)If they chose other tutoring groups or did it themselves, 2) who they chose and why, 3) How was the overall experience ….

From the sample, 9 out of 10 parents responded. The group as a whole chose mostly to do the preparation themselves by purchasing prep booklets off the internet. This quite candidly is my reason for the prediction. The booklets I have seen are all inadequate for preparing children for the testing. The parents who chose other tutoring groups felt confident in their choice but 8 out of 10 responded that Manhattan Edge did not have the open time to fit their schedule as the leading reason for their choice. Of those that chose to go it alone, a little over 5 out of 10 responded that the overall experience of choosing to do it themselves was a frustrating and confrontational experience that they would not want to repeat.

Added to this, I have become privy to knowledge that at least 2 children were disqualified from the Stanford-Binet testing for Hunter College Elementary in 2010 because the children knew the test too well! In my experience dating back to 2000, I have never seen this happen. I examined one of the test prep booklets used and can verify that this booklet uses pictures identical to the ones on the Stanford-Binet. Not a wise choice in my opinion, neither for the overrated fees charged to parents to purchase it nor for the company to put their clients in harm’s way by exposing the children to these pictures. I am also opposed to parents purchasing the blocks designed exactly like the ERB blocks for their children to practice with. There are too many ways to practice these skills without copying the exact tests! What are these people thinking? This can result in immediate disqualification on the ERB.

We have never copied the tests and never will. We purposely design our program to focus on the skills for the test and avoid the confusion of using the exact tests.

With so many test prep booklets available now and parents feeling confident in them, it will only help to lower the bar for those that are truly gifted learners or those that had adequate skills practice.

One last comment, I went to a seminar at Kidville hosted by Karin Quinn and that “Mike” guy who blogs about his little G&T program experience … all I can say is that the parents in attendance had a thirst for knowledge about G&T programs but they found nothing to drink from these two. One of them even quoted verbatim an example I was using 3 years ago about a question on one of the tests … could it be that one of their friends or editors were attending my presentations??

Hang in there parents, the path you are on is worth the journey, we learned a few months ago that my eight grader at NEST+m received admission to Stuyvesant High School next year… it does work!

Have a great passover and Easter vacation.

Harley Evans

Founder of Manhattan Edge Educational Programs

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Narrate your child’s life on the Road to the OLSAT

I receive many phone calls and emails from parents of children who are sometimes younger than 18 months asking what they can do to prepare for school and give their child some “EDGE”. They want to know if it is too soon to begin our Play Prep program. In today’s article I want to address some things they can do to start the journey with their child to be “kindergarten ready”, even from day one.

Narrate your child’s life – enrich it with vocabulary!

We learn about 60% of our vocabulary by the time we are 6 years old.

From the first day you bring your newborn home it is important to begin working on vocabulary. This is as simple as describing everything you do.

Imagine yourself trapped in a body you cannot control as we saw in the recent story made into a movie, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” Tell your child what you are going to do then describe it as you do it. Picking her up (“let’s pick you up”), putting on her coat to go outside (“today you are going to wear your pink coat”), walking down the hall ( “isn’t that wall paper horrible, who picked that “greenish” color “) … saying hello to the doorman (“hello Mr. Smith in the gray uniform”), etc…  This does not have to stop when she starts crawling, walking or running – just make it more interactive, ask her what she might see when you walk into your home upon arrival, causing her to think ahead.

Talking and playing with your baby, focusing on what interests your baby, and using those interests to stimulate curiosity lays the foundation that will stimulate your baby’s brain to grow and develop. Educational TV, like Sesame Street or other videos are not necessarily a bad thing as long as they are in addition to, not a substitute for, interaction with the mother and father.

Stimulation filled with emotional content and human interaction is pleasurable and meaningful to your baby, sparking their curiosity and helping them to retain what they are learning. This is why the experts suggest reading with your child, but don’t just read to your child; read with them, turning it into an interactive experience. By changing your voice and tone and pointing out pictures as you read, you will engage their imagination and begin to build their vocabulary. This also means having them point to pictures they like and use them to help identify colors, shapes, and possibly animals. If they play the role of passive recipient (like in TV or video watching), they are going to get far less out of the experience than when they are engaged in the process.


2. Nanny No-No : The sad truth is children in NYC are spending far too much time with nannies with little or non-existent English. They are at a greater disadvantage than those at a preschool or with a stay at home mother.

3. Human thesaurus : Look for new ways to say the same thing. Draw analogies through language (“you were running faster than a car or you can hop like a kangaroo”) – paint the picture you both see with words (“the river looks cold and icy because it is such a dark blue color today”).

4. Made-up Story Game : Start telling a story, get him to name the characters and describe what they are wearing, someone else takes over for a while then he tells how it all ends that fateful night!

Importance of Vocabulary

  • If your vocabulary is weak, you will understand less and struggle in most subjects.
  • Your ability to express yourself is limited by your vocabulary –  if your vocabulary is weak, you will be understood less.
  • Vocabulary words are on standardized tests for a reason – people with better vocabularies perform better in high school, college and later in life.
  • If you make it a habit of using simplistic words, such as “cool” or “great,” people will be unimpressed.
  • Even if you are a rocket scientist, other rocket scientists with better means of verbal expression will be hired and promoted ahead of you.If you improve your child’s vocabulary, your child will:

    1. Earn better grades and increase his / her base of knowledge
    2. Improve all test scores (including eventually the SAT)
    3. Get  into the best schools
    4. Perform better in anything he / she does in life

The Path to Genius – Does Stanford-Binet Lead the Way?

This is a very good article from the NY Times written by David Brooks. It reaches to the depths of what we believe at Manhattan Edge – true genius is achieved through hard work and the love of learning…

Op-Ed Columnist/ NY Times

Genius: The Modern View

By DAVID BROOKS Published: April 30, 2009

“Some people live in romantic ages. They tend to believe that genius is the product of a divine spark. They believe that there have been, throughout the ages, certain paragons of greatness — Dante, Mozart, Einstein — whose talents far exceeded normal comprehension, who had an other-worldly access to transcendent truth, and who are best approached with reverential awe.

We, of course, live in a scientific age, and modern research pierces hocus-pocus. In the view that is now dominant, even Mozart’s early abilities were not the product of some innate spiritual gift. His early compositions were nothing special. They were pastiches of other people’s work. Mozart was a good musician at an early age, but he would not stand out among today’s top child-performers.

What Mozart had, we now believe, was the same thing Tiger Woods had — the ability to focus for long periods of time and a father intent on improving his skills. Mozart played a lot of piano at a very young age, so he got his 10,000 hours of practice in early and then he built from there.

The latest research suggests a more prosaic, democratic, even puritanical view of the world. The key factor separating geniuses from the merely accomplished is not a divine spark. It’s not I.Q., a generally bad predictor of success, even in realms like chess. Instead, it’s deliberate practice. Top performers spend more hours (many more hours) rigorously practicing their craft. The recent research has been conducted by people like K. Anders Ericsson, the late Benjamin Bloom and others. It’s been summarized in two enjoyable new books: “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle; and “Talent Is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin.

If you wanted to picture how a typical genius might develop, you’d take a girl who possessed a slightly above average verbal ability. It wouldn’t have to be a big talent, just enough so that she might gain some sense of distinction. Then you would want her to meet, say, a novelist, who coincidentally shared some similar biographical traits. Maybe the writer was from the same town, had the same ethnic background, or, shared the same birthday — anything to create a sense of affinity.

This contact would give the girl a vision of her future self. It would, Coyle emphasizes, give her a glimpse of an enchanted circle she might someday join. It would also help if one of her parents died when she was 12, infusing her with a profound sense of insecurity and fueling a desperate need for success.

Armed with this ambition, she would read novels and literary biographies without end. This would give her a core knowledge of her field. She’d be able to chunk Victorian novelists into one group, Magical Realists in another group and Renaissance poets into another. This ability to place information into patterns, or chunks, vastly improves memory skills. She’d be able to see new writing in deeper ways and quickly perceive its inner workings. Then she would practice writing. Her practice would be slow, painstaking and error-focused. According to Colvin, Ben Franklin would take essays from The Spectator magazine and translate them into verse. Then he’d translate his verse back into prose and examine, sentence by sentence, where his essay was inferior to The Spectator’s original.

Coyle describes a tennis academy in Russia where they enact rallies without a ball. The aim is to focus meticulously on technique. (Try to slow down your golf swing so it takes 90 seconds to finish. See how many errors you detect.) By practicing in this way, performers delay the automatizing process. The mind wants to turn deliberate, newly learned skills into unconscious, automatically performed skills. But the mind is sloppy and will settle for good enough. By practicing slowly, by breaking skills down into tiny parts and repeating, the strenuous student forces the brain to internalize a better pattern of performance.

Then our young writer would find a mentor who would provide a constant stream of feedback, viewing her performance from the outside, correcting the smallest errors, pushing her to take on tougher challenges. By now she is redoing problems — how do I get characters into a room — dozens and dozens of times. She is ingraining habits of thought she can call upon in order to understand or solve future problems. The primary trait she possesses is not some mysterious genius. It’s the ability to develop a deliberate, strenuous and boring practice routine.

Coyle and Colvin describe dozens of experiments fleshing out this process. This research takes some of the magic out of great achievement. But it underlines a fact that is often neglected. Public discussion is smitten by genetics and what we’re “hard-wired” to do. And it’s true that genes place a leash on our capacities. But the brain is also phenomenally plastic. We construct ourselves through behavior. As Coyle observes, it’s not who you are, it’s what you do.”

Well written and well said… in developing cognitive thinking skills we attempt to tackle the skills assessed on the OLSAT, ERB and Stanford-Binet, breaking them into segments. By breaking these skills into “tiny parts and repeating” we are forcing the brain into a pattern of improved performance.

Harley Evans