Two-Thirds of NYC Children Eligible for Gifted & Talented Programs are Denied Access

New York City has more Gifted & Talented children than it can accommodate. And it is doing everything to fix the problem — except the most obvious thing.

Each year almost fifteen thousand children take the test that would qualify them for public G&T programs. (This year applications close on November 14.). And each year thousands make the test-score cut-off. Yet only about half of those eligible are actually offered a seat.

There are two kinds of G&T schools in NYC: Accelerated schools, which teach the standard New York state course standards one year in advance and Enriched programs, which teach the standard New York state course standards at grade level. And… uhm… enrich them.  There  is no such thing as a G&T curriculum and so every public school teacher is creating his/her own.

There are dozens of Enriched programs, but only five Accelerated schools. To be eligible for the latter, a child must score above the 97th percentile on the G&T test. In 2016, 1,084 students did. Except that there are only about 300 seats combined in all five schools. This means that two-thirds of children eligible for entry into Accelerated program weren’t placed in one.

How do schools decide who gets in and who doesn’t?

They hold a lottery.

Yes, a lottery, playing Russian Roulette with a child’s education. This is literally an example of how two children of equal ability (assuming you believe that an IQ test administered to a four-year-old is predictive of anything) are unequally educated, based on a roll of the dice.

The Department of Education annually expresses their shock and dismay that the bulk of the children in NYC G&T programs are white, with a smattering of Asians, while the majority of the school system is Black and Hispanic.

For 2017, one of the Accelerated schools, Brooklyn School of Inquiry (BSI), has announced that, as part of a self-selected diversity initiative, they will set aside forty percent of their seats for children who qualify for Free or Reduced Lunch status.

As with all government initiatives, the details are sketchy. Though BSI said those forty percent of seats will only be open to those who test above the required 97th percentile, it’s unclear whether Free Lunch applicants will be treated like siblings, who are accepted with a score of 97 ahead of a non-sibling who scores a 99, or whether all eligible 99th percentile scorers will be placed before the 98s and 97s, with 40% of those seats going to Free Lunch candidates.

But there is a much easier solution. Instead of letting bureaucrats decide which child is worthy of an Accelerated or Enriched education, why not – I know it’s radical, but bear with me – provide a G&T seat for every child who qualifies?

Wacky, I know!

In 2016, 4,539 NYC kindergarteners qualified for G&T programs. Yet only 2,507 got offers. Some of the “leftover” children opted for private, religious or charter schools. But the majority stayed in the system, which means they still took up seats in public schools. It’s not like they disappeared. So why not turn those seats into G&T seats? It wouldn’t cost the public schools anything extra.

If the DOE really wants more underserved children in G&T programs, why not create more programs for them to fill? (An attempt to do so recently for older grades came with a new set of programs; see here.) Frankly, if NYC treated those in the bottom 10th percentile the way they treat those in the top, they would be in violation of Federal Law regarding educating those with Special Needs.

The solution is obvious, simple to implement, and inexpensive. So what’s the hold-up?

What do you think?

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