SATs for ABCs: Four-Year-Olds Taking Test Prep to Get Into Kindergarten


Four-year-olds: They attend preschool, and spend their days finger-painting, riding their Big Wheels, and dressing up like a princesses. Or whatever guys do. Their lives typically don’t include pricey test prep in order to test into a gifted kindergarten class.

Unless you’re a New York City toddler.

The New York Times files today on Bloomingdale Head Start, a preschool for disadvantaged kids in the west 100s. Given the socioeconomic makeup of the families who’d send their kids there, it’s unlikely their parents are going to be able to spend extra money on something like test prep for kindergarten. And none of the 100 kids from this year’s program will be attending gifted kindergarten when they move into the New York City’s elementary schools this fall.

The system in New York City is set up so that the only way preschoolers can get into a gifted kindergarten class is by scoring above the 90th percentile on a standardized test. While this doesn’t sound so bad — all things considered — at face value, in theory, it’s fair. But consider that wealthy parents are essentially gaming the system by paying upwards of $1K for test prep courses, the same stripe of which kids about to take their SATs* are enrolled in.

Reminder: these are four-year-old children we’re talking about. Without getting into whether or not “gifted kindergarten” (Kindergarten!) even makes any difference in the long run. And it’s only going to get worse:

And a test-prep industry for 4-year-olds has burgeoned. Bige Doruk opened Bright Kids NYC in 2009, and there is so much demand that she says she’s opening a second site this month. She runs a two-month “boot camp” for the gifted test in the fall that includes eight one-on-one 45-minute sessions and two test-prep books for $1,075.

Boot camp for preschoolers. And results?

80 percent of the kids at Bright Kids NYC made it into the 90th percentile.