Hunter College Elementary School (HCES) opened its kindergarten 2018 application on Friday, September 1.
Despite the misnomer of it being a Department of Education-run public school (it’s closer to a charter), HCES is considered New York City’s top gifted school. Over 2,500 Manhattan four year-olds vie for 50 kindergarten spots. Their families believe the (no-tuition) accelerated curriculum is worth it. (For tips on how to raise your odds of getting in, see here.)
NYC has dozens of enriched district Gifted & Talented public school programs, although still not nearly enough for all the kids who qualify. But the DOE only has five Citywide G&T schools where the curriculum, like Hunter’s, is accelerated.
Last month, we heard from parents who, due to NYC law, struggled with whether to send their child to kindergarten before they turned 5 years old.
When it comes to Hunter, Kindergarten is the only entry point before high school. And while kids can keep testing for public G&T programs up through 2nd grade, spots in Accelerated schools tend to fill up in kindergarten, leaving very few openings in subsequent grades.
If a parent has their heart set on an accelerated school, kindergarten is their best (sometimes only) opportunity. Should you send your child to not merely a general education kindergarten, but one that is academically advanced, even though he or she is still only 4 years old?
A NYC Mom shares her experience:
NY School Talk: How did you feel about your child needing to start kindergarten before he turned 5?
NYC Parent: I was hesitant, especially since I had two other sons and I knew it was better for boys to be more mature. We would have never chosen it, but felt we had to take a chance since we won a coveted spot at the (accelerated) Anderson School. To put it in Hamilton’s terms, “We’re not throwing away our SPOT!”
NYST: What were your specific concerns?
NYCP: Knowing that he’d be in a classroom with kids a whole year older, especially verbal girls, might pose a problem. We were worried his self-esteem would be low if he were the last in class at everything.
NYST: Why did you decide to go ahead and send him?
NYCP: There was no downside in trying. It’s a blessing and a curse to be in that 3 month cut-off purgatory between private and public schools. Having to wait a year for private is a benefit when you want to try out your public option. We could just send him to private kindergarten the next year if it didn’t work out.
NYST: How has it worked out so far?
NYCP: It’s worked out OK. Our son loves school and feels good about himself. As long as those two criteria are there, we’re staying put. He has risen to the occasion and, little by little, the age gap has closed as far as performance difference.
NYST: Did you find your initial concerns were justified?
NYCP: Yes. He was a late bloomer in everything, especially reading. Luckily, we had the wisdom, since he was our third son, so we weren’t as anxious about him being behind. He received many 1s and 2s on his report card for a very long time in kindergarten, and even into 2nd grade. By the end of 2nd grade, he blossomed and is catching up with his peers.
NYST: How did you and the school deal with his challenges?
NYCP: The school was fantastic, giving him extra support and communicating what we could do to help him. It’s been a satisfying journey for him to struggle, persevere, and then succeed. It’s given his “grit muscles” a workout.
NYST: What advice would you give parents in the same situation?
NYCP: If you have a choice, I’d certainly wait for boys with late birthdays. If you don’t have a choice, I’d say go for it and just be AWARE. Take it year by year. If it seems your child isn’t feeling good about themselves or hates going to school, then you need to reevaluate.
I frequently work with families who want to transfer. No school is one-size-fits-all.
Some leave Accelerated schools because they’re still too easy, some because they’re too hard. (A test administered at age 4 is a poor predictor of ultimate ability, and it can never assess work ethic.)
Some families leave because their child is unhappy no longer being the smartest, and some, yes, do leave because the social difficulties of being the youngest are too much.
It all comes down to what you’re looking for in an educational environment. Ultimately, all families have the right to choose the school that works best for their children..