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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City Seeking New Test for Gifted Admissions

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/22/nyregion/22gifted.html?ref=nyregion

The New York Times just published an article about changing the G&T test for public school admissions. It’s about time! Too many “experts” have come out of the woodwork to scam parents with their kindergarten “test prep” booklets. What do we have, about 5 different test prep booklets now? These booklets have copied each other’s mediocrity. When will parents understand the skill set is what they need to prep for, not the test. Do you study for a Spanish exam by taking practice tests or do you study the conjugation and vocabulary that will be on the test? The reporter called a woman who has been in business for less than a year to comment on the changes. I ask, what would she know? She has never dealt with the changing landscape of New York City education. The changes will blow away the business model of companies pretending be a tutoring companies only to sell booklets. We have been helping families for over 8 years now. We work on the child’s skill set, so no matter which test the child takes they have the opportunity to excel. Let’s hope the business woman who was interviewed for the story (which I added the bold text below) was misquoted and the New York Times will issue a correction.

City Seeking New Test for Gifted Admissions

By SHARON OTTERMAN
Published: June 21, 2010
The city will search for a new admissions test for its gifted and talented public school programs, a Department of Education official said on Monday, in part to address concerns that some families were “gaming” the test through extensive preparation.

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Marc Sternberg, the new deputy chancellor for portfolio planning, said the change could occur for the 2012-13 year. The city has one more year in its current testing contract.

Mr. Sternberg announced the move at a City Council hearing on education, after extensive questioning from council members about why the city’s gifted programs were not as racially and economically diverse as the city schools as a whole. David Greenfield, a council member from Brooklyn, asked whether the Department of Education was concerned about how families in richer communities were “expending thousands” of dollars on tutoring and classes before the gifted test, giving their children a better opportunity to get into the programs.

“We are concerned about it,” Mr. Sternberg said. He added that the city would examine “whether we could look for a different kind of test that, to be frank, would be harder to game in the way that so many families do, so as a result be more likely to result in a level playing field.”

The current testing program for the city’s gifted kindergarten and first-grade classes was adopted in 2008 as a way to standardize admissions across the city, to address longstanding complaints that favoritism played a role when districts were allowed to set their own rules, as well as to increase racial and economic diversity in the programs.

But a result has been that while more students now take admissions tests for gifted programs, fewer students now enroll, and they are less racially diverse, council members said.

Under the previous policies, 15 percent of the students admitted to gifted programs were Hispanic and 31 percent were black. In the 2009-10 school year, 12 percent were Hispanic and 15 percent were black. Over all, 39 percent of kindergartners are Hispanic and 27 percent are black.

Six districts in central Brooklyn and the South Bronx will have no gifted kindergartens in the fall because so few students qualified.

Over the next several months, Mr. Sternberg said, the city will explore whether a newer test reflecting up-to-date research could result in a more diverse gifted program.

“We think that the testing technologies have evolved significantly since our last” request for proposals, he said.

“And we are going to push,” he added.

A wide range of issues would be in play, Mr. Sternberg said, including the testing protocols and outreach, as well as the test itself. “And we are every bit as committed as we have been, if not more so, in trying to find a way that there is proper representation among students.”

Currently the city uses a mixture of the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test, or Olsat, a reasoning exam, and the Bracken School Readiness Assessment. Because the Bracken is a knowledge test, it is easy to prepare for, and increasing numbers of nursery schools and private companies offer tutoring. Preparing for the Olsat is more controversial, but some companies have claimed high rates of success in helping students master the exam.

Students who score at the 90th percentile are offered a seat in a gifted class. The number of children scoring over 97th percentile, making them candidates for one of five highly selective “citywide” gifted programs, rose by one-third this year, with the greatest growth in middle-class districts.

The city has repeatedly defended its admissions policies, and even after Mr. Sternberg’s remarks, it continued to do so on Monday. David Cantor, the press secretary, said that while the city would naturally look for the best test available next year, that did not indicate a problem with the current test. After the hearing, Mr. Sternberg spoke with members of the Education Department’s communications staff and then told reporters that his comments did not indicate a change in policy and refused to take further questions.

Whether a different test would end the problem of professional preparation was unclear.

“If they change the tests to another test, it’s not going to make a big difference,” said Bige Doruk, the founder of Bright Kids NYC, a tutoring company. “I think this notion that you can change it and stop people from preparing is quite not correct. There’s too much at stake.”

Mr. Sternberg also said that the city would look at the timing of the test. Currently, families do not find out until June if their child matched to a gifted program, leading to high anxiety among some parents, particularly those whose children are on waiting lists for their overcrowded neighborhood schools or who must decide whether to put down deposits on private schools.

Elizabeth Sciabarra, who heads the city’s student enrollment office, said the main constraint the city had faced in notifying parents earlier was that the current test was valid only for children 4 years old or older, so the city had to wait until January of the year before kindergarten to administer it. But, she said, that too might be looked at in searching for a better test, adding that children could be tested even earlier.

“The only way we can change the timing,” she said, “is to do as Marc suggests, is to look at perhaps another vehicle for testing that could get us to a place where we might be able to test earlier.”

Jennifer Medina contributed reporting.

OLSAT Results Are IN

We have been very busy this year. It’s almost too exhausting to keep up. I apologize to many that have been calling for details but you have to understand that I am one person and cannot possibly make hundreds of calls a day to answer every question. It is always best to email us at admin@tutorsnewyork.com with your questions.

The results are in and we had an outstanding group of teachers this year. I applaud them all and wish to thank them as many parents have called and written emails to thank them too! Over 98% of our clients scored above 90 and about 94% scored 98 or higher.  The teachers engaged the children and made it fun with our games; we refined the curriculum and made it second to none – the curriculum is the main point I want to emphasize because you can have the best teacher in the world and she/he can have administered 100’s of OLSAT tests but without the right curriculum and the experience in explaining it to the child in the correct manner, then it does not matter how many hours you spend practicing it or practice tests.

CURRICULUM: I contacted a few providers of materials this last year, like the woman who makes KTSS and another group, Junior Test Prep (started by a woman, Ms. Lata Sasson, that used to be an ad sales person for the jewelry market) to see about a collaboration on their materials. I offered to improve the materials to make them more like the test – adding my own BSRA test prep booklet – and then to promote them. You see, Darwin once said the species that learns to collaborate is usually the most successful. Both groups responded positively at first but then KTSS did not want to make the improved materials exclusive to Manhattan Edge clients, but wanted to allow other tutoring companies to use them. I am not in the habit of giving away years of knowledge to unknown entities.  The “Junior Test” group dropped out when I said I would actually have to look their materials over to be able to determine how we might improve them. I eventually saw the materials from a few parents that asked our teachers to use them for practice. I can now understand their hesitance to let me take a peek.  I make reference to this because so many groups have put materials on the market for K test prep, parents must understand they all cannot be entirely accurate . Some of them are very inventive, but are not like the tests. If their website cannot even mention the names (who they are) or why they “think” they have any knowledge about the testing, then why would anyone buy from them? Some advertise they have a board of advisors that are educational experts and teachers but none of them wants to put his name to it. I also have to say that I am appalled by their audacity. Charging $299 to $500 for ERB test prep materials looks like price gouging to me. Sure, parents with means will think nothing of it but if you are on a budget you are paying 5 – 10 times the true value for what you are getting. I will be honest, I am looking into publishing my own materials and the only reason I haven’t already is because these and other groups are sure to copy me.

The others have average results at best.

Which brings me to the Otterman article in the New York Times on April 30, 2010 (see link below ) … and the average results published there by one group … clearly having 200 clients, if that is even true, works against you. We do not carry more than 70 – 100. Experience has taught us it does not work if you cannot control the quality. Every November we get over 200 requests and we have to apologize to over half of them for not being able to meet their request. This business is not scalable to make a profit on large numbers. It cannot be done, its impossible – you have to do it because you enjoy working with children, not to make money. Anyone getting involved because they think the numbers can add up are sorely wrong! I even wonder sometimes how long I can last.

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/30/10-more-qualify-for-kindergarten-gifted-programs/?apage=3#comments

Be sure to read the comments of that link, especially # 57 … I wish I had the money to blow on a publicist, it clearly gets your name in the newspaper and maybe on CNN too. But clearly all the money spent on a publicist does not make you even better than average.

INTERNET : You cannot believe everything you read on Urban Baby. I would wholeheartedly welcome the requirement of adding your name to every posting. We cannot believe some of the comments attributed to our organization as SPAM or even the occasional parent claiming to have used us and bashing us. I know every parent complaint and deal with them personally.  When you have 100 clients, one or two problems are bound to emerge and it usually involves scheduling conflicts. I am reminded of a friend who moved last year with local movers that charged three times the estimate, damaged almost everything and held their flat screen TV on the truck ransom until they paid the jacked-up fees. The fees by the way were by the hour and the movers deliberately took their time, including a 2 hour dinner break when they disappeared entirely. The reason I bring them up as an example is when I asked my friend how they found this mover I was told, “through the internet.” I was told they looked this company up on the internet and there were a hundred positive comments about them, in fact almost one comment every day. I had to laugh, customers do not go out of their way to write positive things about movers or any other company. Who has time when you are busy unpacking or doing whatever? My friend made it a point to go back to the same internet and put his experience online – the only negative comment out of 101.

I have more to share on the New York Times articles about OLSAT testing from November but will leave it to some other time.

Stay Motivated and I hope you and your family enjoy the Summer Weather!