Today Sharon Otterman of The New York Times brings to light what’s happening behind parents’ closed doors:  Tips for the Admissions Test … to Kindergarten 

As I’ve discussed before, test prep for four year olds is rampant.  Otterman profiles a new test prep company that focuses on both gifted and talented public and private school admission (OLSAT and ERB prep).  The company sends tutors to work with four year olds.  (My position is that ERB prep is not rocket science.  There’s no reason to hire a professional tutor when any parent or competent, bright babysitter can handle the preschool level material required for the tests.)  In the Times article, I comment:

“It’s the same phenomenon as with the SATs: a gradual rise in test prep, until it becomes the norm,” said Emily Glickman, a Manhattan educational consultant. “Given that the demand for high-stakes schools outstrips supply, that’s what’s happening.”

I was very interested to read what the admissions director of a very prominent private school said about test prep:

“It’s unethical.  It completely negates the reason for giving the test, which is to provide a snapshot of their aptitudes, and it doesn’t correlate with their future success in school.”

I see this completely differently.  Requiring four year olds to take a test is unethical.  The ERB test does not provide a snapshot of their aptitudes, since plenty of shy, ill, hungry, late developing kids do not do well before they prep.  I cannot tell you how many brilliant poor testers I have met over the years.  Finally, the ERB test given at four obviously has very little correlation with future success in school since everyone knows that children develop and blossom at different ages.

Clearly, with all this publicity about ERB prep (this article and the one a few months ago about another test prep company), there will be less emphasis on scores this year.  The problem the private schools face:  they need to manage their yields (the number of accepted kids who actually enroll).  The ERB test with its clear scores gives admissions directors a tool to determine in advance a particular child’s likelihood to enroll (top scorers will likely choose schools like Dalton and Trinity, low scorers less sought-after schools).  On the other hand, with extensive prep both in widespread prep programs and in the nursery schools themselves, more and more kids are scoring high 90’s.  This makes choosing kindergarteners more difficult, so I believe there will be more nursery school brokering happening this year.