As their parents sat anxiously in a waiting room, five children were sharpening their test-taking skills in a tutoring center in TriBeCa, underlining words that might hold clues to the answers and crossing off the illogical multiple-choice options intended to trip them up. For homework, there were more practice problems.
The tutoring business has come a long way from Stanley Kaplan’s basement in Brooklyn, and test-preparation courses for college or private school admission are practically a rite of American education. But in New York City, where even seats in public schools can be the rewards of a Darwinian contest, the industry has found a whole new lode to mine.
從左至右，克洛伊·陸、尼古拉斯·呂、輔導老師葆拉·希格拉和哈利·斯萬遜在“Bright Kids NYC”舉辦的輔導班上。
The students in the Manhattan center, all high achievers in their elementary schools, were practicing for the state standardized tests that begin this week, exams that for years had typically been overlooked, if not ignored, by the parents of top performers.
But competition for top middle schools has intensified as more families choose to remain in the city and others find themselves unable to afford private schools, and performance on fourth- and fifth-grade standardized tests is crucial to getting into one of those schools. So many parents — some wealthy, some not — are now shelling out hundreds and even thousands of dollars for tutors and for courses like the eight-week Saturday morning boot camp in TriBeCa. And that is on top of test preparation that almost all elementary schools now provide in class.
“This is just us wanting to kind of ease the pressure of the test,” said the father of a third grader enrolled in the TriBeCa program, run by Bright Kids NYC. The program costs about $550 for eight one-hour tutoring sessions. He asked to remain anonymous because he feared his decision to pay for tutoring would reflect poorly on his daughter’s school, the Lower Lab School on the Upper East Side, which like most schools makes its own efforts to prepare students for tests. “I think a lot of families are tutoring in some way,” he said. “Everybody we know does something.”
“我們只是希望緩解這項考試的壓力，”一位父親說，他讀三年級的女兒參加了在翠貝卡舉辦的培訓班。這個培訓由Bright Kids NYC開辦，費用約為550美元，每次一小時，一共八次。這位父親不愿意透露名字，因為他擔心讓女兒參加付費輔導顯得瞧不起女兒所在的洛爾實驗學校(Lower Lab School)。這所學校位于紐約上東區，像大多數學校一樣，它也在為學生做考前培訓。“我覺得很多家庭都參加了某種形式的輔導，”他說：“我們認識的每個人都是這么做的。”
The Education Department has not tried to discourage private tutoring, nor would officials say whether they are concerned about the possibility that it could give wealthier students an unfair advantage in middle school admissions. But the department has already seen an unusual rise in high scores on its tests for gifted programs, administered to 4- and 5-year-olds, with figures released on Friday showing 2,656 students qualifying for roughly 400 seats in the most selective schools this fall.
The department is switching to a new type of gifted test next year, partly in response to concerns that tutoring and test preparation are influencing the results.
“Students at schools with strong teaching and a rich curriculum should be well prepared for the annual exams,” said Shael Polakow-Suransky, the department’s chief academic officer. “At the same time, we do encourage families to reinforce what students learn in the classroom with activities like reading, writing and solving complex problems.”
Bige Doruk, the founder of Bright Kids NYC, said she began offering the math and language arts boot camp in response to parental demand and had opened more classes in the last month, as the tests drew near. Most of the students in these classes do not need remediation, she said, but their parents want assurance that when the exams begin on Tuesday, their children will be comfortable and not lose their cool.
Bright Kids NYC的創始人比奇·多魯克(Bige Doruk)說，她開設數學和英文培訓班是響應家長的需求，隨著考試日期的臨近，她在三月份開設了更多的培訓班。多魯克說這些培訓班里的大部分學生不需要補習，但是家長們希望開考的時候，孩子們可以泰然自若地應考，不會表現得慌張失措。
Some hire tutors when their children are in third grade, a full year before they will take the fourth-grade tests that many selective middle schools use for admissions.
“Parents are feeling the pressure more,” said Robin Aronow, a private and public school admissions consultant. “I know parents who have resisted tutoring because they thought it was crazy, but just the fact that I’ve had parents resist it means there’s a lot of it going on.”
Tutoring companies have popped up across the city, and a quick Internet search turns up dozens of one-on-one or group programs set up for the state’s math and reading exams.
Sylvan Learning advertises test prep for “any state test” on its Web site; Manhattan Edge Education offers individual tutoring for the state exams at rates of $80 to $150 an hour, its Web site says; Park Slope Tutorial Services, which charges $75 an hour, reminds parents just how tough it is to get into a good middle school. Although Kumon does not brand itself as tutoring for a particular exam, parents do use the company for the state tests, and 642 third and fourth graders are currently enrolled in the 12 Manhattan locations.
Sylvan Learning在其網站上宣傳針對“各州統考”的補習班；Manhattan Edge Education的網站上說可以為全州統考提供個別輔導，價格為每小時80至 150美元；Park Slope Tutorial Services的收費是每小時75美元，它還提醒家長說，小孩要進入一個好中學非常困難。雖然Kumon沒有宣傳針對特定考試的補習，家長們確實在購買該公司的全州統考輔導服務，目前有642名三年級和四年級學生在Kumon位于曼哈頓各處的12個教學點參加補習。
This elbows-out and wallets-open competition for top middle schools is most apparent in Manhattan, where a boom in development has carried in a flood of elementary- and middle-school-age children. Since 2002, four new schools serving the middle grades have opened in District 2, which runs from the Upper East Side to Lower Manhattan, and others have expanded, according to the city. But that has not cooled the contest over selective middle schools like the Salk School of Science, which received 777 applications for 146 seats last year.
進入重點中學的競爭十分激烈，成本高昂，這種情況在曼哈頓最為明顯，該區域的繁榮發展導致了大量小學和初中適齡兒童涌入。城市記錄顯示，自2002年以來，從曼哈頓上東區到曼哈頓下城的2區已經新開了四所中學，其他學校也在擴大規模，但好中學的入學競爭并沒有因此降溫，比如索爾克科學學校(Salk School of Science)去年就收到了777份申請，但入學名額只有146個。
To have a shot at schools like these, fifth graders need to have scored at least a Level 3 — out of 4 — on both the reading and math exams in fourth grade. But at some of the most-sought-after schools, a Level 3, which means that the student met the state’s standards, is insufficient.
To apply to Delta, a gifted program at Middle School 54 on the Upper West Side, the children needed to reach Level 4 on both exams, or a combined scale score of 1,385 out of 1,575, according to the school’s Web site. At Anderson, one of the city’s most selective middle schools, they needed a 725 on the English test and a 731 on the math test. That means they could get no more than four wrong answers on the English test and five on the math test, making every missed question a costly one.
And those scores do not guarantee admission; they simply qualify the student to take another test, given by the school itself.
Students who want to take the Hunter College High School test for seventh-grade admission must score high on the fifth-grade standardized tests.
希望參加亨特學院高中(Hunter College High School) 七年級入學考試的學生，必須在五年級的標準化考試中獲得高分。
At one highly regarded school, East Side Middle School on the Upper East Side, each applicant is graded on a 30-point scale. Seven of those points are assigned based on students’ reading and math exam scores — 3.5 points for a score of 4, 2.5 for a score of 3 — and the rest are based on an interview, a writing sample, a math quiz and the elementary school report card.
上東區的東區中學(East Side Middle School) 是一所非常有名的學校，它按30分的總分給每個申請者打分。其中7分是根據申請者的閱讀和數學考試成績——需要分別在滿分4分的測試中取得3.5分，在3分的測試中取得2.5分——其他分數的依據是面試、一篇作文、一個數學測驗以及小學成績單。
The school received about five applications this year for every open seat — and those were only the applicants who ranked the school as their first choice. The principal, David Getz, said he had heard people talking about children being tutored for the fourth-grade exams, but had not noticed whether his incoming sixth graders had been prepped.
“I would hope parents were doing that because their kids were struggling over all, as opposed to just doing well on that specific test,” Mr. Getz said.