Thinking through gifted and talented education in New York City public schools: One parent’s reflection on the system

How does the process work? Four-year-olds take a nationally normed standardized test (actually, two tests, the NNAT and the OLSAT, which are supposed to measure reasoning ability and general intellectual aptitude). No bubble sheets: It’s administered in person by an adult. Those above 90th percentile qualify for district programs. Those above 97th percentile qualify for citywide programs.

Those are the technical qualification thresholds. In practice, you need a 99 to qualify for a citywide school and usually something like a 95 to qualify for a districtwide program, though it depends on the district.

Test prep is a rite of passage for many Asian-Americans

Non-SHSAT article that discusses the intersection of culture and single-measure testing.

Related to the Harvard case, test scores for all students should be considered with a grain of salt. Yes, high scores are impressive, but they should be understood in the context of opportunity. It’s also important to note that strong scores are the norm in Harvard’s applicant pool.

Given that test scores are limited in their ability to predict future achievement, and are heavily shaped by race and social class, colleges should consider the value of SAT-optional or even doing away with the test.

The Big Problem With the New SAT

The SAT will remain a “norm-referenced” exam, designed primarily to rank students rather than measure what they actually know. Such exams compare students to other test takers, rather than measure their performance against a fixed standard. They are designed to produce a “bell curve” distribution among examinees, with most scoring in the middle and with sharply descending numbers at the top and bottom. Test designers accomplish this, among other ways, by using plausible-sounding “distractors” to make multiple-choice items more difficult, requiring students to respond to a large number of items in a short space of time, and by dropping questions that too many students can answer correctly.