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.

Improving Memory to Increase IQ Scores – Will this Help Your Child with the ERB, OLSAT or Stanford-Binet?

There is an excellent article I came across on the NY Times Blog that I wanted to share with everyone. It describes  studies that show the world’s IQ scores have been improving and attempts to answer why with an analysis of working memory.

We have been working on memory skills with children for years in our belief that improving those skills will gain significantly higher standardized test scores as well as IQ scores for those in our Play Prep program for 3 to 6 year old children. Link below…

Working memory is “defined as the ability to hold information in mind while manipulating it to achieve a cognitive goal. Examples include remembering a clause while figuring out how it relates the rest of a sentence, or keeping track of the solutions you’ve already tried while solving a puzzle.”

The key contributor in these studies is James Flynn. ” Flynn has pointed out that modern times have increasingly rewarded complex and abstract reasoning. Differences in working memory capacity account for 50 to 70 percent of individual differences in fluid intelligence (abstract reasoning ability) in various meta-analyses, suggesting that it is one of the major building blocks of I.Q. (Ackerman et al; Kane et al; Süss et al.) This idea is intriguing because working memory can be improved by training.”

Did you get that?  …. “working memory can be improved by training.”

Many of the games we play through our Play Prep program focus on improving working memory in our children. We know that this work helps on the various tests … ERB, Stanford-Binet and OLSAT – that is why we do it.

What is Success?

To laugh often and much;to win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have a great weekend!

Harley Evans

OLSAT, ERB, SB5 : Private and Public School Information Workshop for Parents

For Immediate Release : Parent Information Workshop

We are holding two workshops for June and July due to the calls and emails we have received from parents that missed our workshop in May. They will be held on June 24th, 2009 at 6 – 7:30 PM in Lower Manhattan at One Rector Park and on July 15th, 2009 at The Barclay Street School, 6 Barclay St.  We do not want to turn anyone away due to lack of space as we had to last month.

Speaker : Harley Evans, President of Manhattan Edge Educational Programs and author of  ” Birth to SAT : Parent’s Guide to Giving Your Child Edge in Education and Life” (being released Spring 2010)

Agenda :

1.  Why is this happening in New York City? … Just the Facts

2. 2009 – 2010 School Application and Testing Calendar

3. ERB = Private

4. Stanford – Binet 5 = Hunter

5. OLSAT / BSRA = Public Gifted and Talented

6. Sample Questions from the Tests

7. How to Prepare

8. 52 Part Survey for Honest Evaluation of Your Child’s Kindergarten Readiness

9. How to Improve Your Child’s Skill Set for the Long Road to the SAT (After All this is What it is Really About)

10. Questions, Anyone?

The cost per family is $70. You can apply the cost to any service we offer for 90 days.  There will be a lot of information to digest and will be well worth your time and effort to attend. We are handing over to you 8 years of the latest research, our experience and the experience of our teachers (from Gifted and Talented Programs).

See you there!

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

ERB and OLSAT Testing : Back in the Saddle

I just got back from a conference on testing for Kindergarten admissions and heard the criteria (also arguments for and against) for the various tests including our formidable NYC OLSAT, the local ERB’s WPPSI and the Stanford-Binet 5.  I felt very proud of our achievements in the past two years in finding the right mix of materials to help children gain an understanding of these skills and prepare them to tackle the challenge they face to get into the best programs.

Imitation, the Sincerest Form of Flattery?

I hesitate to put too much information on my blog about this because a parent who was a client (Jan. 2009) opened a company a month ago to compete with me trying to copy every last detail of my business. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? I viewed her as a distraction until she decided to send out emails to parents (potential clients) slandering my business and me personally by saying the teacher sent to her home disappeared, among other dishonest statements. She is billing herself as the “only comprehensive” service for this type of prep, like it’s a carnival or something. Do people really fall for that? The fact is, she never complained to us or the teacher about anything because she received top rate service – she even tried to hire the teacher for her own company. Maybe they didn’t teach her this in her MBA program, but the courts take a dim view of her type of “marketing” and I have no doubt that this will very soon come back to haunt her.

What I learned at the conference:

Much of what we already knew. Many of the skills being measured are the same on these tests but presented/assessed in a different manner. They attempt to identify the cognitive level of understanding or development of the child and they assess the child through the concrete operational stages (i.e. seriation, classification, decentering, reversability, etc.). Most of the information the mind processes comes from memory. When faced with a new problem, the brain goes through its memory banks to find a solution in the same manner it solved a problem in the past. In short, preparing for these tests or any other tests helps the child’s brain to learn ways to solve the problems they will have to answer, if not in the test then in the classroom later in their educational life. The brain becomes wired with the new memory of the games and problems we solve in Play Prep and will use this memory. Never having this foundation in the memory puts one at a disadvantage.

Examples of Skills Assessed

Seriation : child must be able to sort objects according to size, shape or other characteristic.

Classification : child must name and identify sets of objects according to appearance, size or other characteristic. This will also include the idea that one set can include another (a mathematical concept that Singapore Math introduces).

Decentering : Child takes into account multiple aspects of a problem to solve it; wide cup vs. tall cup can hold the same amount of liquid.

Reversability : Child understands that numbers and objects can be changed then returned to original state ; If 4+4=8 then 8-4=4.

Conservation : Size, length or number of items are unrelated to the arrangement or appearance ; six large items are the same quantity as 6 small items or six checkers spread out over a large area are the same quantity as six checkers grouped together.

Elimination of Egocentrism : Child being able to view the world through another person’s perspective.

We have been working on these skills with our children and others for the last eight years through game play and workbooks. We have worked with an artist on newly designed matrices and sequencing. These are proprietary and we will not be selling them online. We are in this business because it is our passion – to prepare children for their journey into the world of education. The most important part of this process is to make their introduction a fun one, to develop a life long love of learning.

The NYC pre-K testing information meeting we held May 15th was a success, we had over 2 dozen families in attendance.  We plan to hold another meeting in June on the evening of the 26th. The cost is $70, which you can apply to the Play Prep program, which would essentially make it free. We cover all of the information (timelines, etc.) you need to know to prepare for the ERB, Stanford-Binet and OLSAT testing.

See you there,

Harley Evans

OLSAT upon us

We are now knee deep in OLSAT / BSRA testing.  Parents are emailing/texting me that they are ill on the appointed day from all of the stress – ready to vomit.  I have a few words of advice – Chill Out! Drink a scotch or do whatever it takes to  keep the stress inside you and away from your child. They are only going to meet a teacher to show them what 4 year olds know.

We had our own little crisis on testing day! Our daughter’s test was on the Lower East Side. We were greeted by a male security guard that told us we should be going to school in our own neighborhood – not there. This made my daughter upset, asking us why they don’t want us – she did not feel welcome to say the least. While waiting, we saw many parents faced with the dilemma of asking to make sure the teacher giving the test spoke some resemblance of English (many teachers did not have this gift of language skill at our location) – we did the same and felt on guard because of this request.  Instead, they gave us a person,  sadly, crippled with an affliction that was scary to our 4 yr. old child. While we can all understand wanting to be politically correct, this is not the time to introduce your child to the unfairness of physical impairments.  A child with no separation issues suddenly began to cling to her mother even as this person promised lollipops afterward – straight out of a witches story in my daughter’s mind. We were forced to ask for a replacement and met with consternation. Another person finally came out asking for my daughter and abruptly took her out of the waiting area. With my stomach in knots, I could only imagine what could happen next?

A friend had told us that a week ago, she was upset that her child had come out from the testing after only 25 minutes. She asked if her child had finished all of the exam and was given the standard reply that it is impossible for the teacher to skip anything, so of course the child had finished. This mother insisted that they check the exam – which they did – to find that indeed, two pages had been skipped over. The only thing this mother could tell us about her testing experience is that if your child comes out sooner than 35 – 40 minutes, then make sure the test was completed. For the most-part, the teachers giving this exam are not well trained and do not care that their input affects the future of the child entrusted to them.  So what happens next to us? … our child comes out after 25 minutes!  … complaining that there are no lollipops!

1. Stay calm, no matter the opposition you face

2. Keep your child free and clear of the stress you feel

3. Bring two books; one to read to your child and then one for yourself

4. Tell your child to show the teacher how smart a 4 yr. old can be

5. Bribes can’t hurt this one time – so promise a treat (lollipop?) afterward

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.