Yet another phenomenon in the paranoia surrounding preschool.
Ronda Kaysen: When I first read The New York Times story that New York City moms were shelling out upwards of $1,000 for test prep classes so their preschoolers could get an edge when they took the city's gifted and talented test, I wanted to vomit. What kind of parent would put such pressure on a 3- or 4-year-old? But the more I thought about it, the more it became clear to me just how bad things have gotten around here.
New York public schools are inundated with kids who would have gone to private school in rosier times, so programs like gifted and talented are more competitive than ever. Parents who last year would have coughed up $20,000 for tuition, are happily spending a mere grand to make sure their kid gets a spot in the coveted gifted and talented classroom. After all, this is the city where Stuyvesant, a public high school, is more difficult to get into than Harvard. No wonder public school parents are freaking out.
"Even though we live in the West Village and there are great public schools, obviously, any opportunity to step it up a notch in caliber, we would like to try," Jena Rosenblum, mom of 3-year-old Kayla, told the Times. Kayla recently took an initial assessment exam at Bright Kids, one of the myriad test prep programs in the city that have lately been catering to the preschool set.
Remember the days when the gifted and talented test was intended to single out kids who were more advanced and offer them a program tailored to their needs? Now it's become the one place where you can hope your kid might actually get a decent education. It's no wonder parents are digging deep into their pockets to make sure their progeny has a chance to get into the best school available.
Of course this means that what used to be free -- gifted and talented programs -- will soon become something that requires an unofficial entrance fee. It's like the SATs. No, you don't have to pay for SAT prep classes, but since everyone else does, your child is at a disadvantage if he doesn't take the class.
The city isn't doing much to help the situation either. Anna Commitante, the head of gifted and talented programs for the Dept. of Ed., told the Times that the city doles out practice questions to parents to "level the playing field." I thought the test was supposed to be on a level field.
So what's a mom to do? I want my kid to get a good education and to have the best chance he can to succeed, but I don't want to pressure him at an age when he should be enjoying being a little kid. However, as the options for good education dwindle and more and more families feel the squeeze, we're soon going to have no choice but to pony up the cash for test prep for preschoolers.
|Ronda Kaysen is a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, BusinessWeek.com, Architectural Record, Huffington Post, New York Observer and AM New York. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.|