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.


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


City Seeking New Test for Gifted Admissions

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

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 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.

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!

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

OLSAT ERB and SB5 test prep : We have seen the tests!

I had recently written about the conference I attended but failed to mention that we saw the tests and went over them in the group sessions with fancy whiteboard presentations. Company officials were on hand to go over details of their educational assessments and we were enlightened (and delighted). The evidence shows that children that are enriched will score higher on these tests than children with little or no enrichment.

Manhattan Edge is the only test prep company in New York for the pre-k through 2nd grade children that has this information.  No other company in New York even has experience in this area of test prep. We have refined our methods, tested our games on hundreds of children and gone through endless workbooks to find the right mix to boost the capability of the children entrusted to us for enrichment. Below is information on the various NYC tests. I will be adding more daily.


We have been busy meeting with people today who went to the NYC DOE to see their children’s OLSAT / BSRA tests.  Many brought with them sketches they made of the different questions they saw on the test. I also made the request and went to see my daughter’s OLSAT/BSRA tests. After seeing this year’s test, one point I will have to make is that the material on the KTSS package does not cover what is on this test given in New York City. All of the individuals we met with said the same thing, some had used it instead of hiring us and were disappointed with their results. There was so much more on the NYC OLSAT that the package was lacking.

BSRA hint for the day, make sure your child knows the following terms : similar and alike and can identify a curve and an angle in a group of drawings.

Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT), published by Pearson Education, Inc., is a test of abstract thinking and reasoning ability of children pre-K to 18. The Otis-Lennon is a group-administered (except preschool), multiple choice exam,  which measures verbal, quantitative, and spatial reasoning ability. It is organized into five main sections of verbal comprehension, verbal reasoning, pictorial reasoning, figural reasoning, and quantitative reasoning.The test yields verbal and nonverbal scores, from which a total score is derived, called a School Ability Index (SAI). The SAI is a normalized standard score with a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 16. Scoring is measured against peers in age groups of 3-month bands. For example, children born October 4 through December 4 are compared with each other and children born January 4 through March 4 with each other and so on. With the exception of pre-K, the test is administered in groups.

Bracken School Readiness Assessment (BSRA) is a cognitive test designed for children, pre-K through second grade. It assesses six basic skills:

  • Colors — identify common colors by name
  • Letters — identify upper-case and lower-case letters
  • Numbers | Counting — identify single- and double-digit numerals
  • Sizes — demonstrate knowledge of words used to depict size (e.g., tall, wide, fat, thin, etc.)
  • Comparisons — match or differentiate objects based on a specific characteristic
  • Shapes — identify 2 and 3 dimensional shapes by name.

Raw scores can be converted to percentile rank scores and standard scores. The BSRA can be used with children as young as 2.6 years of age.

ERB / Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI) is an intelligence test designed for children ages 2 years 6 months to 7 years 3 months. The current revision is called the  WPPSI–III. Harcourt claims it provides subtest and composite scores that represent intellectual functioning in verbal and performance cognitive domains, as well as providing a composite score that represents a child’s general intellectual ability (i.e., Full Scale IQ).

Some studies show that intelligence tests such as the WPPSI-III, especially for pre-K level, are unreliable and their results vary wildly with various factors such as retesting, practice (familiarization), test administrator, time and place. There are claims that some commercially available material improve results simply by eliminating negative factors through familiarization which in turn puts children at a comfortable frame of mind.

There are 14 parts

1. Block Design – child uses one- or two-colour blocks to re-create a design within a specified time limit.

2. Matrix Reasoning – child looks at an incomplete matrix and selects the missing portion from 4 or 5 response options.

3. Information (checks enrichment base) – child responds to a question by choosing a picture from four response options or the child answers questions that address a broad range of general knowledge topics.

4. Vocabulary – child names pictures or gives definitions for words that the examiner reads aloud from the stimulus book.

5. Picture Concepts – child is presented with two or three rows of pictures and chooses one picture from each row to form a group with a common characteristic.

6. Symbol Search – child scans a search group and indicates whether a target symbol matches any of the symbols in the search group.

7. Word Reasoning – child identifies the common concept being described in a series of increasingly specific clues.

8. Coding – child copies symbols paired with simple geometric shapes. Using a key, the child draws each symbol in its corresponding shape.

9. Comprehension (checks enrichment base) – child answers questions based on his or her understanding of general principles and social situations.

10. Picture Completion – child views a picture and then points to or names the missing part.

11. Similarities – child is read an incomplete sentence containing two concepts that share a common characteristic. The child is asked to complete the sentence by providing a response that reflects the shared characteristic.

12. Receptive Vocabulary – child looks at a group of pictures and points to the one the examiner names aloud.

13. Object Assembly – child is presented with the pieces of a puzzle in a standard arrangement and fits the pieces together to form a meaningful whole within 90 seconds.

14. Picture Naming – child names pictures from the stimulus book.

Stanford-Binet 5

Since the inception of the Stanford-Binet, it has been revised several times. Currently, the test is in its fifth edition, which is called the Stanford-Binet 5. Low variation on individuals tested more than once indicates the test has high reliability, although its validity is debated. The test has been revised to analyze an individual’s responses in four content areas: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, abstract/visual reasoning, and short term memory. A general composite score is obtained. The test is scored by comparing how the test taker performs compared with other people of the same age. The five factors assessed in the test are: Fluid Reasoning, Knowledge, Quantitative Reasoning, Visual-Spatial Processing, and Working Memory. Each factor is assessed in two separate domains, verbal and nonverbal, in order to accurately assess individuals with deafness, limited English, or communication disorders. Examples of test items include verbal analogies to test Verbal Fluid Reasoning and picture absurdities (last year’s included a picture of a man sawing a limb that he is sitting on off a tree) to test Nonverbal Knowledge. The test makers state that the Stanford-Binet 5 accurately assesses low-functioning, normal intelligence, and high-functioning individuals.

Be back with more info very soon.

Harley Evans

Interview with an OLSAT Tester in NYC

I recently had dinner with a person that gives the OLSAT tests to 4 year olds for the New York City public school system. This person must remain anonymous. It will enlighten many NYC parents though to hear this person’s thoughts as many internet chat rooms and message boards have been buzzing about the injustice of the way they see the test administered. See for yourself…

edgeforlife : Can you tell me from your point of view, the hardest part of giving the test?

tester: Yes, I would say it is not being able to add to the child’s score when I know the child knows the answer. I cannot repeat the question once I have asked it.

edgeforlife : Are there times when you know the child is exceptionally bright but it does not come through in the results?

tester: All the time. There are 40 questions on the OLSAT and the child might breeze through the first 20 with a perfect score, then it’s like they hit a wall with their attention span. They may ask where their mother is or say they want to go home now. I have 20 more questions that we have to go through and 5 kids waiting for me down the hall. What can I do? The rules clearly do not allow me any room here. The child will start missing a few that are clearly easier than some of the others. They just want to get it over and leave. I know they are smarter than what is coming across but my hands are tied. I have to record the answers.

edgeforlife: Parents are worried that if they do something to prepare their child for the test that their child will be penalized. Can you comment on this?

tester: Of course, I can understand why they might be worried. There is no way we can be sure if a child has been prepped but to be honest, it might help speed the process along. A child who can answer the questions smoothly and help me get them through it is going to be a joy not a big red flag. The most important part of getting the child help would be in the form of getting them to listen to questions from a stranger. That is basically what we are judging here, will the child listen to directions and pay attention in class. If they can learn this in a prep class then they will be prepared for the rest of their life.

edgeforlife: Thank you. This has been a very informative interview for our readers and clients. It would appear we are on the right track with our prep programs. Do you have anything to add?

tester: Just that, helping your child to understand how to take the test will help them immensely. Would you send them to take the SAT without understanding how to take it?

edgeforlife : Thanks again for your time.