Preschool May Reduce Disparities in Giftedness Testing

Preschool kids and teacher studying a globeStudents in New York City who attend preschool are 4.8 times more likely to take a qualification test for the city’s gifted student program, according to a study published in Educational Researcher.

The program began in 2005 and requires students to fill out an application and take a test. Students who score well on the test can then enter challenging programs that may open new opportunities. In 2011, about 70% of students in New York City’s public schools were Latino and Black, but more than 70% of gifted and talented program participants were Asian or White.

How Testing Disparities Can Produce Unequal Outcomes

To find out why so few Black and Latino students enter the program, researchers from New York University looked at almost 70,000 school records for students in kindergarten in 2009. Testing disparities helped explain differences in giftedness participation.

Latino students were 45% less likely to take the test compared to White students, and Black students were 35% less likely to take the test. Asian students were 32% more likely to take the test.

Students in the free lunch program were 46% less likely to take the test, while students in Manhattan—one of the wealthiest areas of New York City—had the highest test-taking rate. Overall, students from poorer neighborhoods were less likely to take the test, while affluence correlated with higher test-taking rates.

Benefits of Preschool for School Readiness

In the year prior to kindergarten, about 37.5% of the children attended part-time public pre-kindergarten, with just 18.7% attending full-time public pre-kindergarten. Students who attended preschool the previous year were significantly more likely to take the gifted and talented test. Additionally, boys who did not attend preschool were 16% less likely to take the test. Among boys who attended preschool, the disparity disappeared.

Grace Malonai, PhD, LPCC, DCC, a psychotherapist who works with gifted children and their families, agrees preschool can equalize access to gifted programs.

“Preschool offers many benefits and promotes the development of healthy social skills and intellectual growth,” Malonai said. “Children who attend preschool are more likely to be spotted, and later endorsed, for assessment of giftedness. This is especially important for children who might otherwise not receive early testing, such as those from demographic subgroups that include non-English speakers, Latino or Black students, and those from lower income neighborhoods. Early identification can have a tremendous impact on gifted children’s development, both academically and emotionally, and inclusion in gifted programs, such as New York’s Gifted and Talented program, can support academic needs and learning differences.”

The research was based on observational data, so researchers were not able to directly test why preschool participation was correlated with more giftedness testing. The state department of education promotes the program within the school system, providing information about testing. Parents of children who attend preschool may be more likely to hear about the program.

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, preschool can boost cognitive and social skills, particularly among children who arrive at school unprepared. Children from lower socioeconomic groups are more likely to have issues with school readiness.

References:

  1. Debunking the myths: Benefits of preschool [PDF]. (n.d.). New Brunswick: National Institute for Early Education Research.
  2. Lu, Y., & Weinberg, S. L. (2016). Public pre-k and test taking for the NYC gifted-and-talented programs: Forging a path to equity. Educational Researcher. doi:10.3102/0013189×16633441
  3. Public pre-K boosted test taking for gifted and talented programs. (2016, February 17). Retrieved from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-02/nyu-ppb021616.php

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  • 4 comments
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  • Caren

    Caren

    February 23rd, 2016 at 10:24 AM

    Looks like firm proof to me that there needs to be far more accessibility to preschool programs regardless of income or race.

  • Evan

    Evan

    February 23rd, 2016 at 2:10 PM

    did it matter whether it was public versus private school?

  • Marla

    Marla

    February 24th, 2016 at 8:22 AM

    I am worried that these are things that we are placing on kids at such a young age. Knowing whether they are gifted intellectually or not, I think that is something that will evolve naturally and that one type of giftedness should not be valued over another that could be different than what we would normally associate with this. Let’s allow children to be children, and the other stuff for most of them will come in their own time.

  • tiffany

    tiffany

    February 25th, 2016 at 2:18 PM

    Great- so the answer is to make it available for every child

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