Paul Sullivan of The New York Times, writes in his Wealth Matters column Private Schools Hold New Attraction for Rich Parents that there has a huge uptick in families seeking private school education for their children. After all the uncertainty of the summer, when many families were not sure if they wanted in-person or remote education, currently in-person seems more desirable, perhaps because we have not read recently of major outbreaks stemming from private school attendance. Sullivan writes:
In New York, parents at one of the city’s most elite private schools, the Dalton School, which remains remote even when competitors have in-person learning, have begun to complain.
Its reputation for excellent teaching and college placement keeps parents from leaving, said Emily Glickman, president of Abacus Guide Educational Consulting, which works with families to get their children into private schools in New York. Schools with less competitive reputations have struggled more.
“It’s interesting because parents are all looking left and right to see what their friends’ kids are doing,” Ms. Glickman said. “No one is sure what is better.”
As Sullivan correctly notes, on balance, right now most parents appear to prefer in-person education. However, this can backfire, as happened this week at Horace Mann, where in-person teaching in the middle school and high school was suspended for two weeks after several employees tested positive for Covid.
<Unlike NYC public schools>, Its smaller and richer private schools have no such problems with money or resources. Instead, at $50,000 a year or more, these schools must contend with the demands and expectations that come with parents whose pockets are deep enough to pay the tuition.
“The reality is, there is no universal approach to reopening schools at this moment, just the best model for each school community,” Bodie Brizendine, who leads Spence, a private all-girls school on the Upper East Side, wrote to parents.
Gordon summarizes the plans of eight well-known Manhattan and Riverdale private schools. They all differ; confusing families even more as they try to work out what's most desirable for their children.
Our friend Karen Quinn, co-founder of www.TestingMom.com , sent us this invaluable intel for AbacusMom readers.
Recently, 27 independent schools in New York City announced that they would be giving the Thinking & Engagement Test to assess students for admissions to kindergarten for the 2020-2021 school year. Schools participating in this exam are Allen-Stevenson, Berkeley Carroll, Birch Wathen, Brearley, Browing, Buckley, Calhoun, Cathedral School, Chapin, Columbia Grammar, Dalton, IDEAL School, Little Red, Marymount, Nightingale-Bamford, Packer Collegiate, Rodeph Sholom, Sacred Heart, St. Ann’s, Spence, St. Luke’s, St. Bernard’s, St. Hilda’s & St. Hughes, Trevor Day, and Trinity.
This assessment is a "stop-gap" solution to relieve pressure on families and provide information to schools at a time when schools are unable to meet and observe your child in person. It will be give once (between 9.8 - 12.18.20) and results will not be shared with parents. After you apply to a school that requires this test, you'll receive a link to apply to take it. The fee is $250 (financial aid is available).
This non-normed, non-standardized test will be given over Zoom. Your child will need to wear headphones. An adult must be in the room wearing headphones or earbuds, and the adult must sign a form promising not to share content they may see. The test assesses for receptive and expressive language, verbal and nonverbal reasoning, problem solving, developmental areas for schools (most likely early math, pre-reading and ELA), and Engagement skills (most likely attention to instructions, on-task behavior, self-monitoring, use of strategy, persistence, enthusiasm/energy, positive or negative affect).
While this hasn’t been explicitly announced, the implication is that the Thinking and Engagement Assessment will take the place of in-person group visits and school observations of students. If schools you are applying to are not on this list, they are likely going to come up with their own virtual assessment and process to get to know your family and your child. In the past, almost every independent school has given their own “kindergarten readiness” evaluation during school visits to determine whether the child was a good fit for their program. We would suggest that you contact each private school you apply to in order to learn what their admissions process will be, and what type of assessment they may give if they are not using the T&E.
While we don’t yet know exactly how this test will be structured, we do know a lot about how early childhood experts assess a child’s abilities in each of these different areas. Here is a sample of different types of questions used to gauge these skills in early childhood testing.
T&E Verbal Reasoning Assessment What is Verbal Reasoning – Verbal Reasoning is thinking and reasoning around representational pictures, language and words. Here is one type of question you can expect on the T&E test that gets at a child’s verbal reasoning ability to conceptualize – that is, identify and group things together with like attributes.
Say: Look at the pictures on top. They belong together because they are alike in some way. Which picture on the bottom is alike in the same way and belongs with the pictures on top? (Answer: cherries – also a fruit).
Picture of: Apple Orange Grapes
Cheese Bread Milk Cherries Peas
T&E Nonverbal Reasoning Assessment What is Nonverbal Reasoning – Nonverbal Reasoning is also known as Visual-Spatial or Spatial Reasoning. It is the opposite of reasoning with words. It is your child’s ability to reason and solve problems using pictures, shapes, figures, images, diagrams, charts, maps, and tables.
(Analogy Questions in a 4-box matrix)Say: Look at the shapes on top. They go together in a certain way. Now look at the shapes on the bottom. Can you find a shapes on the side that goes in the empty box so that the shapes on the bottom go together in the same way as the shapes on top?
Large triangle is to small triangle as large circle is to small circle.
T&E Receptive Language Assessment What is Receptive Language – Receptive language is your child’s ability to tune in and understand the language she hears (and later reads) all day. Here is one example of a question that assesses receptive language.
Say: Point to the picture that shows “galoshes.”
Picture of: Lightening Raincoat Shoes Umbrella Galoshes
What is Expressive Language – Expressive language is your child’s ability to use words orally (and later in writing) to express ideas and feelings in a clear, organized manner.
One method early educators use to evaluate a child’s skills in this area is to ask the child to define a word. The more extensive the definition given, the more points the child earns!
Say: What is a couch?
1 point: Furniture.
2 points: Furniture that a few people can sit on. It’s soft and comfortable.
T&E Developmental Early Academic Skills Assessment (Reading and Literacy)Questions in this category would be asked to give schools an idea of where your child is with their academic development, and whether or not there is a fit between your child and the difficulty level of their program. Schools do not expect your child to be able to read before starting school. If they can read or add numbers (for example), that’s great. However, if they cannot, the school knows that your child will master these skills later. Here are two examples of the kinds of questions that may be asked.
Say: Listen to the word I am going to say: DISH. If you change the beginning sound of DISH to the sound “F” – as in f/f/f – which of these would be a picture of the new word? (Answer: fish).
Picture of: Fish Snake Bird Dolphin
Say: Which shape is not divided in half?
Picture of 4 shapes. Three are divided in half and one is divided into thirds.
Engagement Assessment Engagement refers to observable actions that indicate active participation and focused involvement in a learning activity. Research has shown that the following qualities comprise “engagement” and altogether create a picture that can inform educators how a child responds while taking part in new learning:
Attention to Instruction – How well child listens to examiner’s instructions
On-task Behavior – How well child stays with the task at hand
Persistence – How hard a child works on a task even when it is challenging
Monitoring and Strategy – Whether or not the child approaches and works through the challenge deliberately using active trial-and-error-exploration to find the solution
Enthusiasm and Energy – How eagerly the child takes on the challenge
Positive or Negative Affect – Does the child’s behavior indicate pleasure/excitement or indifference/frustration about taking on the learning challenge?
Level of Engagement can be assessed through observation of a child during a testing session. The examiner would complete a checklist of behaviors that indicate the level of engagement the child demonstrated while being assessed.
For practice, on the www.TestingMom.com website, we give you 5 challenging, novel tasks to teach your child that require them to use their thinking and problem-solving skills. You are given a 5-point scale on which to measure your child’s level of engagement against the various observable actions that indicate their level of involvement. This will give you a sense of how engaged your child is in learning novel tasks.
To prepare for this test, we would suggest that you do the following:
Work with a variety of practice questions that build abilities and assess for each of these skills. At Testingmom.com, we have put up a variety of over 1,500 practice questions that you can do with your child to practice. When you work with your child, keep it fun and playful!
If you can, have your child work with a tutor who has experience administering assessments and teaching young children over zoom. At Testingmom.com we offer tutoring with teachers who have been preparing 4- and 5-year-olds for the NYC tests for years. Since March, they have been teaching children over Zoom and are now trained to assess students for the T&E. They are able to effectively work with very young children to build the skills needed for this and any NYC assessment. It is important to be sure that your child is able to participate, engage and answer questions from a teacher effectively over Zoom before your child is assessed with the T&E.
Karen Quinn is the co-founder of www.TestingMom.com. If you are interested in tutoring or doing a practice Thinking & Engagement Assessment over Zoom, contact them at 813-544-3833 or Tutoring@testingmom.com.
Avenues is also the most expensive high school in America, according to a separate survey by personal finance site GoBankingRates.
The tuition for Avenues New York is $58,700, more than double the average tuition at private schools across all grades nationwide, according to the National Association of Independent Schools.
As many school districts are scrambling to come up with a plan for the fall, the imbalance in educational opportunities is perhaps most pronounced when it comes down to the options some wealthy families now have — particularly with regard to public versus private school.
But experts have doubts about how well parents can truly prepare their children and how the tests can capture a child’s true potential at such an early age.
Those in the kindergarten age range typically have more loose behavior at home than they do in a classroom away from their parents, said Emily Glickman, president of Abacus Guide Educational Consulting.
“I think it’s inevitable that there are going to be some very difficult situations, some tantrums, and some parents who are really upset after this test takes place,” Ms. Glickman said.
In prior years, a child who misbehaved at an interview at one school might have been able to make up for it by doing well on an interview at another school, she said. But this year, the one Zoom assessment a child takes will be used by all the schools the child applies to, meaning parents will be at the mercy of their child’s mood and behavior on test day.
Otani notes, "According to the guidelines for the assessment, children will be expected to participate in “a variety of developmentally appropriate activities” for up to 45 minutes while their parent or caregiver sits silently behind and to the side—there only to provide technological assistance if needed."
Clearly, this is oxymoronic. It isn't developmentally appropriate for 4-year-olds to engage in 45-minute Zoom calls.