Several parents with 2nd graders have inquired about the OLSAT test which is being administered in the Kingston City School District between January 26 – 30, 2015 according to the elementary assessment calendar.
The OLSAT is the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test and is a test of abstract thinking and reasoning ability of children pre-K to 18 published by Pearson Education, Inc. according to Wikipedia ( more info here).
Kingston administers the OLSAT to 2nd grade students as a way to assess gifted and talented students for participation in KALP, the Kingston Alternative Learning Program. KALP is for approximately the top 3-5% of students* in the school district. These students are offered a few programs outside of regular school hours (before or after school or occasionally in place of the regular school day) in grades 3 through 8. The programs offered change from year to year. Here are articles from the KCSD website about KALP from past years – here and here.
Since my children are well past 2nd grade, I can not remember if I ever received any information/feedback on their OLSAT scores after they took the test. A Kingston parent reported last year (spring 2014) that when she inquired about the OLSAT results for her 2nd grader, she was told she would have to submit a request in writing to the classroom teacher to receive a copy of the test results. The parent wrote:
I have been awaiting the results of the OLSAT testing for my second grader as I was told the results would be coming in May. I just spoke with our building principal to inquire as to when the results would be sent home and he said I must make a request in writing to the classroom teacher and she will send a copy of the test results.
I find this to be an unnecessary task to put on parents and the results should be shared with the parents as my understanding is that the results of this test help drive the selection of students for the KALP Program.
Some parents are inquiring about refusing the OLSAT test. As a parent, you should have the right to decide that your student will not take this test if it is not in the best interest of your child, however some parents report that schools consider tests such as this to be ‘local assessments’ and do not adhere to parents’ wishes for refusal.
The OLSAT is not one of the New York State Standardized Tests that are being advocated for refusal as part of the “I Refuse” movement supported by groups such as KAFE and NYSAPE. I believe the OLSAT is only being used in Kingston for the purpose it was designed (determining whether a student is ‘gifted and talented’) so that makes it a valid use of the test and it can directly benefit the student by gaining them access into KALP. I do not know if other criteria are used as part of the KALP selection process (I think teacher recommendation is part of the process) nor whether a student will be excluded from any possible participation in KALP if they do not take the OLSAT. I feel that the OLSAT is a high stakes test because it gates admission to KALP but if Kingston is going to maintain KALP, which is a limited-access program, there must be a uniform way to determine eligibility and I am not sure how to do that other than a test like the OLSAT. If there are indeed better methods of selection, please let me know.
Even though I personally believe that KALP is a wonderful program for those who are eligible to participate and I would like to say that every parent should allow their child to take the OLSAT, in today’s test-heavy education world the parent is in the best position to determine the stress that another test is going to have on their child and whether their child can handle taking the OLSAT or not. Ideally the parent would consult with the classroom teacher but unfortunately many teachers do not feel able to talk honestly about testing. I do not feel that students should start ‘prepping’ for the OLSAT like some do for the SAT. KALP is a good program but it is not that good and it is NOT worth stressing a child out for a test. I recommend that a parent weigh the possibility that their child might not get to participate in KALP if they do not take the OLSAT against any adverse impacts taking the OLSAT will have on their child in order to make a decision about test refusal of the OLSAT.
* Percentage of students eligible to participate in KALP is from information discussed at the November 5, 2014 KCSD Board of Education meeting.