Stipek was right: a report by the Alliance for Childhood, an international NGO promoting healthy child development, found an average of 20 to 30 minutes a day of testing and test preparation among kindergarteners in Los Angeles and New York. This past spring a New York City mother sued her daughter’s $19,000-a-year preschool for failing to prepare the girl for the standardized tests that private schools rely on for kindergarten admissions. The suit cited an article in the New York Times as evidence of what has become an accepted fact of life among professional-class Manhattan parents in recent years, despite the absence of proof: admission to what is considered an “elite” preschool is a necessary first step to admission to the Ivy League.
Gopnik says the preschool teachers with whom she speaks regularly tell her they know that play is best for their small charges, but they feel squeezed between two sides. On one, as if confirming Mangione’s hypothesis, is policy makers; on the other is parents.