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Lost Scores, Retests & The Current State of Gifted & Talented Programs in NYC Schools

Last May, I reported on how the Department of Education lost dozens of Gifted & Talented tests — and waited almost four months to inform families (after weeks of telling them the tests weren’t lost, the parents must have done something wrong!).

Retests were offered to those affected along with students new to New York City, and those who challenged their child’s original test score, claiming it had been administered incorrectly.

Every year, NYC has many, many more children qualifying for Citywide and District G&T programs than they have available spots. Even those who score in the 99th — the highest possible — percentile are not guaranteed a seat. G&T placement is determined by lottery, with priority for siblings. Between two-thirds and half of those applying end up on a waitlist.

As a result, parents did not hold out much hope that, even if their child were retested, they would be offered a G&T spot.

The below email, which I received on Friday, September 4, confirmed the pessimism:

So we got retested and scored 99% as did a few other kids and we are all waitlist 230+… it’s obvious they didn’t allocate seats for us…. such a waste of our time and DOE knew we had no chance. It seems that all of the “lost scores” kids who scored 99 are waitlisted all around 230 for Anderson and Nest…district schools got better waitlist positions for those who listed them but we were not allocated seats in the citywide programs.

But then, only a few hours later, the same mother wrote:

Apparently there was something off again… now the date is moved to Tuesday. We got an email that said: We understand that you are waiting for more information on the results of your child’s G&T application today. The Office of Student Enrollment continues to work with schools to finalize placement offers and will be able to provide you with results on Tuesday, September 8. Thank you for your patience.

True to the DOE’s word (for a change), on Tuesday, September 8 the above parent gleefully reported:

We got an offer from Anderson! Thank you so much for all the support through this ordeal!

Subsequent emails from various parents shared:

I’m in a group with a dozen moms who lost their scores— 3 of us said we got a 99, 1 mom got into Anderson and two of us got into NEST+m, so they saved seats as promised. I also got into all the district G&Ts that we listed, which I declined….

Our daughter got a 99 on her retest and received an offer to Nest+m this afternoon, which we had ranked #1. We ranked Anderson #2 and got placed #230 on the waitlist. They didn’t let us know how placements were decided, but we’re obviously very happy with the results.  Thanks again for your counsel through this crazy process, especially pushing us to pursue our complaints with DOE….

We got an offer to NEST+M (2nd choice to Anderson). I’m also #1 on TAG’s waitlist for some reason, but I’m definitely going with NEST (wouldn’t you?). My kid had an 83 on the original test. I appealed and my child was retested in the same week as the lost score kids. She scored 99. Wish I would have gotten Anderson but I guess I can’t be greedy. I’m lucky they had a seat for my kid at any citywide, let alone my choice of two. I really appreciated your podcasts and articles throughout this process. The test date calculator was very useful, too. 

This news did not sit well with other parents, who lamented:

My daughter scored @ 99 (regular time) and we applied to all 5 citywides. So far she got off waitlist at TAG, but we passed it due to logistics, and she’s 14 on Anderson (our 1st choice). So I wonder if any of those new testers were preferentially placed in front of waitlists, which I feel would be totally unfair, unless they have siblings in those schools….

That is quite interesting how the kids who got retested and still able to get into citywide placements. My child got 99 and applied for all the citywide schools and is waitlisted for all, but placement is very unlikely. So I am wondering how others are still able to get placement in Aug? Did they leave some spots open for them….

The DOE is being very vague on how seats were assigned. Here’s what I suspect happened: In the first round, all the G&T citywide and district seats were filled. But there are always parents who turn down those spots, even at the most coveted schools. Those seats then became the “in play” seats for the second round of students who got retested in August.

A second lottery was held for that cohort, and placement distributed accordingly. 

Of course, what that means is that families already on the waitlist after the first round were pushed further down. 

They report:

My son dropped from #8 to #9 for NEST kindergarten….

Our waitlist number at NEST dropped from 9 to 10. For whatever that’s worth….

We went from 31 on Lower Lab waitlist to 34 last week and now it is at 32….

My son qualified to apply to district 2 schools.  His score was not super high but we applied to the two programs near us. His placement on the waitlist has fluctuated between 37 and 31.  Problem to me is that every time his position improves a few points it then moves in the opposite direction. I find it annoying that you do all you are asked to do and you have your chance at placement decrease because kids that scored better but who were not on the list originally are added and are placed ahead. I think if you qualified to apply and did not you should not move ahead of those who did apply from the start….

Wait, how did they receive seats ahead of qualified people already in the waitlist? How did they get priority? My child scored a 99 and was pretty far down on the waitlist for the three city-wide schools we applied to. But if a spot came available how did that group that got re-tested get priority over my child and everyone else that was already on the waitlist? I don’t understand this….

My guess is that the second lottery superseded the first one – the idea being that everyone got a crack at one lottery and placement. If you got a 99 originally and did not get a spot, those who got a 99 in August went ahead of you depending on their lottery placement.

Soul-crushing, isn’t it?

A fed up mom told me:

We were one of the families that had their scores lost. We ultimately ended up cancelling and deciding not to re-test, as during the window they offered us for re-testing, we were outside the city, and we didn’t think it made sense to come back to the city early and subject our child to the COVID risk of in-person testing. Also, he had prepared for the earlier (lost) test with a tutor and was doing very well, but when he tried to do some refresher sessions with his tutor over Zoom, he was having a hard time focusing and found it confusing to answer the questions on a screen. Unfortunately, we didn’t think he was in a good place to succeed on the re-test, so we cancelled it, but I just think the way this was handled was so unfair and irreversibly prejudiced. 

G&T testing is always full of screw-ups, and the fact that every child who qualifies doesn’t receive a seat just proves what a sham the entire process really is. If the DOE believes that children who score above a certain percentile need to be in a G&T classroom, how do they justify not making one available to everyone who qualifies? And if they think a G&T classroom is unnecessary no matter what the score, then how do they justify going through the expense of testing and having any dedicated G&T classrooms at all?

On the other hand, if it makes those who were screwed over this year feel any better, here is yet another email I received:

My child is registered to start  kindergarten G&T later this month. While perusing the school website, I noticed a FAQ page and way at the bottom the following:

If my G/T student is going Full Remote will they be taught by a G and T teacher? 

As of right now your child is assigned a teacher (not a G and T teacher) unless further direction is given by the DOE.

If my G/T child is in a Blended Cohort will my Remote teacher by (sic) a licensed G and T teacher? 

As of right now your child is assigned a teacher (not a G and T teacher) unless further direction is given by the DOE

We were able to further confirm with our parent coordinator that there will be no G&T. Finding out that there won’t be a g&t program offered this year from an faq page on a website instead of directly from administration is pretty lousy. 

Perhaps in response to this — and many other — angry parents, on September 9 that text was removed and a new one put in its place (not to mention finally proof-read):

If my G/T student is Full Remote or in a Blended Cohort, will they be taught by a G and T teacher? 

We make every effort to ensure G/T students are taught by G&T certified teachers. In cases where this is not possible due to availability and staffing constraints, teachers selected to teach G/T students will have:  

  • knowledge and understanding of the characteristics of gifted students; 
  • the skills for planning, providing and coordinating differentiated teaching and learning 
  • environments that appropriately challenge gifted students so they achieve at high levels; and  
  • abilities to collaborate with families and school staff to provide individualized instruction for gifted students

G/T students will receive instruction with adjustments to content, process, products, activities to meet their individualized needs.

Considering how often we’ve heard from parents claiming the above wasn’t happening during the best of times, what are the odds it will happen now, as the DOE keeps making up reopening plans as they go along?

More on this story as it develops!

What do you think?

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