Thursday, April 30, 2015

Zoe vs. Standardized Testing

If your first thought when you see the abbreviation G&T is "gifted & talented" and not "gin & tonic," then you are the parent of a school-age child. (The latter, however, will always come in a close second.)
Zoe starts kindergarten in September, and in January she took a test to see if she was eligible for the Gifted & Talented Program. What's that you say? Not every PS (precious snowflake) is G&T? If only grandmothers were in charge. Then there'd be no question. Alas, the NYC Department of Education has no grandchildren.
Considering Zoe is only four and a half, I had to wonder if it was really possible to measure her talent. Or maybe the test just measures the small child's ability to sit still and follow directions. Maybe that's an indication of giftedness.
I'm no expert. However, I do plan to read just enough about early childhood education to be irritating to her teachers. Similar to the tack I take when I go to the doctor and inform him of the latest headlines kicking around the Interwebs. All professionals love amateur opinions! That sour face is just masking their respect for you!

The Gifted and the Damned

In any case, as Zoe is in constant motion---I have the blurry pictures to prove it---we figured it was a 50/50 chance whether she'd actually sit still long enough to take the exam.
The weekend before the test, I downloaded a practice version and sat down with her to get her comfortable with the types of questions they'd ask. The test was divided into two sections: nonverbal and verbal.
The first hurdle was having her understand what a test was. She didn't understand the concept of multiple choice and thought the answer to each question should be "1" no matter what. I asked her why and she said, "Because one is first." Can't argue with that logic. 
Eventually she caught on, and she did pretty well, even if I had to bribe her with juice so she'd finish. 
On test day, we took her to the school where the testing was to take place. The husband and I had to remain in the auditorium while she was escorted to a classroom. So there'd be no way for us to know how she really did.
Aside from asking her, that is. . . .
Okay, just came back from laughing.
Anyway, we did ask her, but all she said was: "Teacher let me walk around the room." Hmmm. Did she answer any of the questions at all? we wondered. Or did she just go exploring?

Good try, children, and now let's throw your art project in
the fire so no one has to look upon it with their naked eyes.

Last week we got our answer. We opened the envelope, read the results, and both the husband and I burst out laughing.
The upshot: Zoe was not eligible for the G&T program. Children have to score above the 90th percentile (compared to kids their age) in order to get accepted. Zoe was at the 83rd.
What made us laugh was the breakdown:
For the nonverbal part, she was, impressively, in the 98th percentile. But the second part, the verbal, she bombed: 43rd percentile. Kids for whom English was their second language probably did better.
Though I've always endeavored to keep our relationship professional, I have come to know Zoe pretty well over the past four-and-a-half years---more if you count the time she gestated inside me for 42 weeks---and I know there's no way she would've scored that low unless she just didn't answer the questions, probably preferring to hunt for toys. Or maybe she suspected the proctor was holding out on her and decided to wait for a bribe in the form of juice or candy. She's trained me well, after all.
I'm left to conclude that if the G&T test had measured craftiness, stubbornness, and all-around willfulness, Zoe would've aced it. In those areas she's ahead of the curve.
Zoe: 90; Universe: 0 

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 
For laughs that score above the 98th percentile, click here to subscribe.


  1. "The husband and I had to remain in the auditorium while she was escorted to a classroom."

    Husband always has a capital "H".

  2. Elizabeth CatalanoMay 1, 2015 at 7:47 AM

    Well, maybe if my first reader wasn't too sick to read it....

  3. Oh lord. I'm dreading this so much. So silly to make toddlers take a one time test to see if they are eligible. Henry would never deign to answer questions he wasn't interested in answering. Glad you have a sense of humor about it.

  4. Elizabeth CatalanoMay 1, 2015 at 12:40 PM

    Well, I think you get another chance. Anyway I felt ambivalent because without a car it would be hard to get to the G&T school that's in our district. (NYC doesn't let you know if there's a bus on your route till the week before school starts--helpful!)

  5. I saw Zoe won this round for sure. ;)

  6. Elizabeth CatalanoMay 3, 2015 at 7:10 AM

    Agreed! ;)

  7. Uh oh. I have kids and I thought Gin & Tonic. ;) Oh, the testing! Oy vey! Miles is taking the PARCC test today. So much stress for little ones.

  8. Elizabeth CatalanoMay 5, 2015 at 10:27 AM

    So maybe after years of testing it circles back again to Gin and Tonic being your first thought!

  9. Sarah (est. 1975)May 5, 2015 at 1:16 PM

    Oh girl. You do NOT want her in G&T. Those kids get MESSED UP. Not that I know from personal experience *cough*

  10. Elizabeth CatalanoMay 5, 2015 at 4:55 PM

    Really? I sense a story.

  11. 43rd percentile is not bombing the verbal all. it means she's within the prescribed "normal" range for children her age in that domain. and 98th percentile is absolutely spectacular.

  12. Elizabeth CatalanoMay 13, 2015 at 12:19 PM

    You're right. I suppose it was just in comparison to the 98th percentile. And I was an overachieving test taker who cried in grammar school if I got a B so I suppose I'm projecting onto her. Isn't she lucky?!

  13. yeah, i pity my children for all of the projections i unconsciously project on them. i think they're all lucky...