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ERB ECAA Test Requirement Questions

Some schools have recently chosen to eliminate standardized testing for Kindergarten and/or First Grade. Why does Horace Mann School require testing?

We read with great interest the September 18, 2013 letter from the Board of Trustees of the Independent Schools Admissions Association of Greater New York (ISAAGNY) regarding its decision to discontinue its endorsement of the Educational Records Bureau (ERB) Early Childhood Admission Assessment (ECAA) effective for the 2014-15 admissions cycle. Occurring as it does during an admissions season already underway, this decision can be confusing for families going through the admissions process.

In what follows, we explain our attitude toward the ECAA in light of the fact that ISAAGNY schools – to which many families applying to Horace Mann School will also be applying – may no longer endorse it. Horace Mann School will continue to require the ECAA for Kindergarten and First Grade applicants for this year and in the future.

ERB uses an adapted Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence IV (WPPSI-IV) as the ECAA. Our School’s decision to require the ECAA for admission ensures that every applicant for Kindergarten and First Grade at Horace Mann School has completed a standardized measure of general intelligence that is psychometrically valid. In fact, the ECAA’s use of the WPPSI-IV reflects ERB’s understanding and appreciation of one of the most empirically sound and widely accepted models of assessing cognitive and academic abilities. While the score report is only one element of a child’s application, it is the only piece of the application that is consistent and objective for our applicants, who come from many schools and many different backgrounds and include children who do not come to us from formalized preschool settings.

We, along with other schools, consider confidential the school report forms submitted by a child’s current school. The ECAA results are one part of the process that we can discuss openly with parents.

While we recognize ISAAGNY’s stated concern about test prep and the negative effect it may have on the reliability of the ECAA score reports, the ten year data set recently analyzed by ERB and an outside consultant in response to ISAAGNY’s concerns shows no drastic score increases during this time despite the growing presence of test preparation services. Horace Mann School does not believe that test preparation is developmentally appropriate for prospective Kindergarten and/or First Grade students. We do believe, however, that developmentally appropriate assessments are useful tools in schools like ours, both during the admissions process and following enrollment.

As for those who would categorize a school’s use of the ECAA as high stakes testing, we can respond only from the perspective of how our admissions committee operates when considering prospective Kindergarten and First Grade students. At Horace Mann School, the ECAA score report represents a subset of data points, some empirically and statistically valid and others derived from the narrative summary of the child’s test taking behavior, that contribute to other subsets of data collected throughout the admissions process. No child is admitted or denied admission to Horace Mann School based exclusively on his or her score report.

We understand that there is a cost for parents associated with taking the ECAA. While the ISAAGNY fee waiver program will continue only for this school year, Horace Mann School is committed to working with ERB and other participating schools to find ways to reduce costs for families in need now and in the future.

In forty-five years of partnership with the Educational Records Bureau, we estimate that we have received and reviewed more than 10,000 sets of ECAA score reports in their various forms. Those results have been an integral part of our ability to welcome and serve children who are mission-appropriate as we create and recreate a community of learners who share our value of the Life of the Mind. We firmly believe the completion of this assessment to be in the best interests of our School and our applicants.

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