Every year, I brace myself.
Every year, as soon as it’s time for the New York City Department of Education to take some kind of action, my email box instantly fills up with questions from confused and frustrated parents.
This year, it was Thursday, April 23. That was the day the DOE was supposed to release Gifted & Talented scores.
My mailbox filled up almost instantly.
There were the parents who were thrilled. There were the parents who were furious. There were the parents whose children scored lower on the actual tests than they had on the practice ones. There were the parents whose children qualified for Second Round at Hunter College Elementary School but didn’t make the cut for G&T.
And then there were the parents who weren’t seeing any results at all.
Some, I was able to help via hacks provided by fellow parents (thank you, fellow parents!).
Others were able to call the DOE, stay on hold even when they wanted to fling down the phone in frustration, and get their child’s scores orally.
And some were told they weren’t seeing scores on the DOE’s end, either.
Those answering the G&T help-line instantly attempted to pin the blame on the families. One mother was asked if she was sure her child ever took the test. Another was told that the parents had asked for the scores to go unreported!
In most cases, callers were given the strong indication that not only was it all their fault, but they were the only ones having this problem.
I sent out many emails reassuring them they were not the only ones having this problem.
The DOE set the deadline for parents to rank their G&T school options for Wednesday, May 13. As many parents still didn’t have their scores, they were justifiably panicked.
The deadline was extended to Sunday the 17th.
But it wasn’t until the night of Friday the 15th that the following email was finally sent out:
Thank you for your patience as we worked closely with the test vendor and courier company responsible for the delivery and scoring of your child’s G&T exam to complete our investigation.
Following our investigation, we regret to update you that your child’s G&T test was lost while in transit to the test vendor for scoring. We recognize that you are eager to receive a score and find out whether your child will be eligible to participate in G&T admissions. However, unfortunately, we will be unable to provide a score unless your child is retested.
Due to COVID-19, we are unable to immediately offer a retest, but we will provide the opportunity as soon as it is safe to do so. The Office of Student Enrollment has been appraised of your situation and will assure you’ll be able to apply to G&T programs should your child attain a qualifying score at the time of retesting. You will not lose the opportunity to apply or chance at placement into a G&T program.
I immediately reached out to DOE Press Secretary, Miranda Barbot.
Dear Ms. Barbot –
I am hearing from dozens of families that their child’s G&T scores were lost. Could you please confirm exactly how many families this happened to, how you think it happened, and what parents can do now?
In addition, since the deadline has passed for submitting G&T applications, are you planning on assigning children to G&T schools prior to those children whose scores were lost being retested?
And for those children who are being retested, will their scores be calculated based on their current age at the time of the test, which would both give them an advantage over those who tested before, as they’d be older and presumably more mature, but also put them at a disadvantage, as older kids need to miss fewer questions to place in the same percentile?
On Monday, May 18, she passed my request onto Deputy Press Secretary Katie O’Hanlon.
I followed up on Tuesday.
I followed up on Wednesday.
At 5:09 PM on Wednesday, I received the following reply:
Sorry for the delay, please see below for more information.
“We immediately informed families when we found out UPS lost these tests and will offer retests as soon as it is safe to do so. Placement results will still be released in June but these families will still have the option to enroll in a G&T program if they qualify.”
UPS lost a box containing 61 G&T kindergarten admissions tests in transit from a testing site in District 2 to the testing company, Pearson. There were two total boxes of G&T tests from this site and the other arrived safely. We are in close contact with UPS and Pearson who are investigating this issue and continuing to attempt to locate the box they misplaced in transit.
As soon as it is safe to do so, we will give families the opportunity to retake the test if they so choose. This will not affect the timeline for gifted and talented admission offers, which will be made in June.
We aim to have a G&T retest in July 2020, which is not unprecedented and when make-up tests usually occur, but if testing before the 2020-2021 school year is not an option due to safety concerns, then the affected families will be able to attend the kindergarten program they were offered in April.
We have sent a survey to affected families to see if they would like a retest and what G&T programs they prefer — we will ensure seats are available in these programs until they are able to retest.
If they receive a qualifying score on the re-test, the Office of Student Enrollment will work with them to offer them a G&T program, which they can transfer into if the make-up test occurs after the start of the school year.
At 5:25 PM I wrote back:
Thank you so much, Katie, I really appreciate your response.
A point of clarification: Does this mean that highly coveted citywide programs like Anderson and NEST, and district programs like Lower Lab and PS 166 will set aside a certain number of seats for the late-testing children? How many seats will be set aside?
Or does it mean that the children who need to be retested in July 2020 will only be offered seats in whichever schools still have spaces after the initial placement round in June?
In other words, will a child who got a 99 have no shot at Anderson or NEST, as those schools always have more applicants than seats, and they will surely be all filled by July? Will they be added to the waitlist along with all the other 99s who didn’t get in on the first round? Or will they be placed ahead of those who were waitlisted after the initial round, and given first crack at the seats that were set aside just for them?
Will the children tested in July be graded based on their age at the time of the test?
Finally, you write: If testing before the 2020-2021 school year is not an option due to safety concerns, then the affected families will be able to attend the kindergarten program they were offered in April.
You mean the General Ed placement, correct? Why would that ever have been in doubt, since Gen Ed placement has nothing to do with G&T placement?
Does this mean that if the DOE is not able to test children prior to the start of 2020-2021 school year, then they will not be able to get a G&T seat? How does this line up with: If they receive a qualifying score on the re-test, the Office of Student Enrollment will work with them to offer them a G&T program, which they can transfer into if the make-up test occurs after the start of the school year.
So will there, or will there not be testing after the start of the 2020-2021 year? Those two statements seem to be contradictory.
I have not, as of yet, heard back.
Stay tuned, as soon as I know more, you’ll know more!
(PS: I’m a bit suspicious of the 61 number. When I reached out directly to ask how many parents had been affected, I heard from over 30 families. What are the odds that of the 12,834 students who took the G&T admissions test for Kindergarten (as per the DOE), half of them were subscribers to my mailing list?)