Who's Gifted?
April 14th, 2008

To many parents, no issue looms as significant as selection for public elementary schools gifted and talented programs. In a city where “all the children are above average,” any system that designates some 4 and 5-year olds as gifted (and others as not) becomes a minefield for educators and politicians.

School Chancellor Joel Klein has vowed to make access to the programs fairer, by creating gifted classes throughout the city and instituting a uniform requirement (you guessed it — a test) to determine admissions.

Now the results of those test are available although in aggregate and not for individual kids (in other words, you dont know yet whether your child made the cut). The test, according to Eduwonkette, has not resulted in more admissions to the gifted programs in poor neighborhoods. To the contrary, the blog reports, “On average, districts with higher proportions of poor kids saw declines in gifted admissions.”

Taking a closer look, it found that only 50 children in the Washington Heights district will be offered seats in gifted programs next year, compared to the 80 in gifted kindergartens there this year. In relatively affluent District 2, also in Manhattan, on the other hand, the number of kindergarteners in gifted programs could more than double. Districts with large numbers of African-American students also lost out.

To address the problem Eduwonkette suggests that, instead of simply relying on the test, “we might consider offering gifted slots to the top 5 percent of students in each community school district, while also guaranteeing a seat for any student who scores in the 90th percentile or above.”

That 90 percent also is controversial. Originally, the education department planned to make the 95th percentile the cutoff. Apparently not enough kids measured up. So last week, the Panel on Educational Policy voted to endorse Klein’s decision that the all kids in the 90th percentile or above on the tests be guaranteed space in a gifted program. “I think it’s safe to assume that the DOE decided it wanted to avoid the outcry from families who would have been shut out and from schools that would have lost their gifted programs,” the Inside Schools blog observed.

All this debate over who to let in how has spawned delays. Admission letters will not be mailed out until this week — at earliest — weeks later than originally planned, according to Inside Schools. And there are more applications to come: Once a child is deemed gifted his or her parents have to apply to specific programs. They will not get notification of placement — even by the Department of Educations probably optimistic assessment — until June. And while all the gifted kids will get seats in some gifted program, it may not be close to home. Kids in districts that do not have at least eight students qualifying will have to travel to a different district.

In a rather overwrought column in today’s Times, Susan Dominus bemoans the uncertainty confronting parents whose kids will elementary school in September. I cant plan my life. I feel frozen in time, one parent waiting to hear tells her.

“If the Department of Education does succeed in broadening its outreach to more children for outstanding programs, it seems likely that next year the city will be fielding at least as many calls and complaints from lower-income parents about the systems ever-changing rules as it already does from middle-class parents,” Dominus concluded. “In New York City, thatll be considered progress.”

Of course, another kind of progress would be to not have separate gifted programs and instead provide enrichment and challenging classes for all children are met, Alas, none of the current debate seems to concern that.

By on April 14, 2008, 2:39 pm
In category: Education | 1 Comment »

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One Response to “Who's Gifted?”

  1. Bob Says:
    April 18th, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    So conversely should the Board of Ed do away with programs for kids on the other side of the spectrum – Programs for kids with disabilities? Seems that a lot of people have problems with kids being seperated into gifted programs. These “gifted” children do better in a setting with their peers. Its a proven fact. This keeps them more engaged.

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