The Parent Imperfect is even more exhausted than usual after a two-day Human Rights Institute at work. Liz, Connie and I went to the annual celebration of El Día de los Muertos on Ridge St. That is a very nice celebration that draws a great group of people, but this year we weren’t even able to stay for the ofrenda. Connie was ready to come home early because tomorrow is the day she takes the ISEE.

This is, of course, the exam that will probably decide where she’ll be going to school for the next six years. Incredibly, despite her brother’s very difficult experience at the nation’s oldest public school, Connie seems interested in following in Vince’s footsteps.

When big brother was in sixth grade, he spent quite a bit of time preparing for the test. He went to a prep program at BLS for three weeks in the summer between fifth and sixth grade, and then took yet another prep course in the fall. He, too, had decided that some of his friends were going to be going to the nation’s oldest, so he wanted to do the same. Liz questioned the wisdom of this course, but I aided and abetted Vince in his efforts. In the end, he scored enough points on the test to be invited to the school. I remember vividly the day when he got the invitation to BLS. Vince was as excited as I’ve ever seen him.

Over the past few years, I’ve advised several people that they think long and hard about doing a lot of prep for the ISEE. The preparation offered by BLS is one thing, but the private prep has become very expensive and I’m convinced that it puts many youngsters in the nation’s oldest who might do better elsewhere.

When it came time to decide what Connie should do, we didn’t even consider a prep course for her. We were certain that she would do fine on the test, with or without. The problem is that the environment around her AWC class at the Irving has served to make her nervous because she hasn’t done the preparation that literally every other student has been doing. She has always been very relaxed about standardized tests, but she’s definitely stressed about this one. Probably trying to get her to take the test more seriously, one of her teachers told her that BLS is going to admit many fewer students this year. Another told her a story about a “brilliant” student who did very poorly on the ISEE, probably because she managed to get her answer sheet out of alignment with her test booklet.

She’s in bed now, but I doubt she’s sleeping very well. We’ll get her up early tomorrow, make her a nice breakfast and try to get her calmed down before the test. I’ll go to bed tonight wondering if we made a mistake by not enrolling her in at least the BLS prep course. At least that would have probably left her with her usual level of confidence about tests.

‘Twas the night before test time, and all through the house,

Father was squirming, feeling like a louse…



Filed under Exam Schools

4 responses to “ISEE Eve

  1. We too eschewed the usual prep courses over the summer for our daughter, instead using her fifth grade teacher as a private tutor for a few weeks. After the test, we wondered if we had done the right thing, not giving her more of an edge. When she was invited to BLA instead of BLS, admittedly we were a little disappointed. But we’ve been absolutely thrilled with BLA. The work and courses are just as hard, the curriculum is nearly identical (her best friend goes to BLS), but there are a few more helping hands offered. Sometimes things out for the best, even when they don’t work out the way we want them to.

    • Gulp. It would be a strange irony if, after her brother’s experience, Connie ended up not getting into BLS. But I guess we must prepare ourselves for that result. Maybe our nonchalance about the test prep (nothing) means that we’re secretly hoping for such an outcome. I now have the experience to know how wrong BLS is for so many kids, but I have it in the back of my mind that Connie would do well there. I’m glad to hear that BLA is going well for your daughter. I hope she’s even more thrilled about it than you are.


  2. Kathy

    Hope things go well for her today. We also struggled with doubt about whether we should have pursued private prep classes for our son (who also did the BLS prep classes) but it turned out OK in the end. It’s awful having those nagging doubts of “Should I have done something differently?”

    • Thanks. Luck seems to be on her side. She got out of the car this AM at BLS and promptly dropped her passport on the ground (along with most of her pencils). Neither us us saw it, but a friend of hers from the Irving who was walking a short distance behind her, picked up the passport, and gave it to her. I take that as a good omen.

      It feels very strange to know so well the limitation of a school, but still surreptitiously hope that one’s child gets into it.

      One thing I’m glad we didn’t do is opt for the “make-up” day so that Connie could obsess even more about the test for two more weeks. I just realized in the last few days that this, too, has become a strategy. For one of those “empowered” parents, I’m really out of it.


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