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Where Is the Equity? Different Students Face Different Tests for NYC Gifted & Talented School Admissions

After his own Panel For Education Policy voted down renewing the contract that had been used to test students for New York City public school Gifted & Talented programs in January of 2021, Mayor Bill De Blasio swore that parents of incoming Kindergarteners would still be able to apply their children for admission… somehow.

In February, he explained that teacher and parent recommendations would be used in place of a standardized test. Students attending public Pre-K would be evaluated by their teachers. Students in private pre-K or not attending any kind of program would be evaluated by Department of Education Early Childhood Education experts.

At the time, I questioned the equity of the situation, writing:

Giving every student the exact same standardized test, administered in the exact same standardized way, then scored based strictly on how many questions were answered correctly is a much more objective assessment for evaluating children of varying races and classes than asking different teachers who might have different standards to use their different judgements about whether a child was something as ridiculously nebulous as “gifted.”

A week later, I elaborated: Add to that all of the children who will be assessed by a total stranger from the EC team — also remotely — and how can anyone pretend that this will be anything close to a level playing field? 

At the time, we were under the impression that the children would be evaluated remotely, rather than parents being asked questions, as it eventually turned out.

The parent interviews began in May, and appeared consistent, except for one detail. Parents wrote me to report:

AS: It was about a 20 minute conversation with a lot of questions about my child’s strengths, preferences, curiosity, emotional expression, and personality. She said I would likely find out in a few weeks regarding the lottery, but she did not specify exactly if she would be making a recommendation. 

SZ: The lady seemed nice and genuinely interested. She asked me a series of questions – describe how your child reacts to new experiences, how does he learn, how does he play, etc. She ended by saying she would write a recommendation. 

NN: The DOE person started the interview with an explanation that they only fill out the form and have no bearing on the lottery

The deadline for submitting a recommendation form was set by the DOE as Tuesday, May 11. The week before, my email box began filling up with the following:

BP: I filled out a G& T application for my daughter who attends a DOE Pre-K. I have not received an appointment to meet with anyone nor did her teacher receive any information to fill out about her. 

AB: My son’s pre k is still saying they haven’t received any nomination form. I called the DOE, they say they sent it. I feel so lost and confused on what to do.

CJC: Our daughter has not been evaluated nor her teachers contacted when we called last week. DOE advised that it was the school we applied to (not the Pre-K) that was organizing the evaluation. 

MTW: What I was informed by the DOE – and likely the reason why teachers are reporting that they have not received any forms is that there are actually none being sent out. Apparently, teachers need to go onto their portal to access the list of applicants to be able to fill out the form. However, it feels like there was probably not sufficient explanation to teachers that they had to do that, to put it mildly, or potentially any proactive notification that they had children in their class who had applied. I asked what portal and was told that I wouldn’t know what they were talking about so they wouldn’t tell me, but that her teacher is welcome to call the hotline if she has questions.

CC: My son’s DOE pre-K teacher informed me that she never received an evaluation. Was the DOE supposed to contact the teachers directly? She seems to have no idea how to complete the form.

LR: My teacher has yet to receive the nomination form. I called the DOE today and they advised they indeed saw my application go through successfully and suggested I reach out to the school, though they could not tell me who the email was sent to requesting the nomination form. My teacher said nothing was received, and checked her inbox. Later, I got a call from our assistant principal and she (not sure if it was just sitting in her inbox) was able to forward it to our teacher. 

Matters grew even more confusing when the parents of some children continued getting calls about interviews, while others were asked for the names of their child’s school so that the teachers could fill out a detailed form.

SA: My child attends private preK and I received an email from DOE to provide preK information.  At the end of the survey the response was that my pre-K would be contacted to complete the interview which they did a few days later.  

QZ: My daughter is currently enrolled in a private school. On April 29, DOE sent me an email with a survey link asking for my daughter’s program information and her teacher’s email address. I completed the form, the website says “We will email your child’s teacher or program in the next 24 hours.” 12 days later, my daughter’s teacher hasn’t received anything yet. I replied to their original email last Friday and only got an automatic reply saying that they would process my request. I called 718-935-2009 this morning. After a 45 minutes wait, the person who picked up the phone said the only thing he could do was to escalate the issue and he gave me a confirmation number. I also emailed [email protected] this morning and got a response quickly: “Apologies. Last I heard the system was processing requests very slowly because of the strain placed on it. They have increased capacity and it should be back to normal. I have also included the office responsible for this part of the process.” The “office responsible” is the email address [email protected] which didn’t reply to my email from last week. As of now, I’m still waiting, there is no link sent to my daughter’s prek teacher, and there is no interview arranged. 

JG: I was never contacted. I emailed and called the DOE twice this past month and they said they’d notify someone. NOTHING. So much for “equity.”…. Now that I emailed them again they are forwarding me surveys to fill out with the private preschool information for my child’s teachers to perform an evaluation. The best part is that they are “reminding me” per the body of the email to use the survey which they have absolutely never before sent to me. Good times! 

JS: I have received zero communication from the DOE on next steps for completing my daughter’s G&T application. I have attempted to contact DOE every day this week and I’m either put on hold for long stretches of time, only to reach people who can’t help me except to send me to me to the same email addresses that I keep following up with but haven’t heard anything back from. In the meantime, my private preK teacher notified me she received nomination forms for my daughter’s classmates interested in G&T, but nothing for her. 

PL: My wife called last week regarding our daughter because we received an email that she was enrolled in a program and we had to complete a survey. She has not been enrolled since March 2020 and never for Pre-k. Upon calling they said we have her listed as being in pre-k or the school has her listed, so the form was sent to the school. Again, she insists she hasn’t been enrolled nor does the school have her listed and they tell us to contact her last school about the form. Well, my wife is the Director of that school and goes on to inform them that she has not received ANY forms for G&T for any students including our daughter. After a few more days of back and forth with the DoE, she still has no forms and we are told our daughter was placed on a waitlist for interviews. Today we received another email asking us to fill our said survey (already have) and any one who hasn’t will be scheduled for an interview next week. 

ML: I asked the principal of my son’s school about it yesterday. He said the teachers had filled out questionnaires about each student and that the school had submitted them to the DOE, and that we would find out the results in July.  I asked if the teacher/school had made recommendations to the lottery and he basically said at this point it’s in the hands of the DOE, they didn’t have any further visibility. I was surprised since I had thought we’d be informed whether our kids were even going to be in the lottery, but perhaps the DOE makes the call based on the form?  Makes it a little frustrating to read some about these inconsistencies… but in fact the principal (who I like a lot) was visibly frustrated with the whole process so sounds like that feeling is shared all around.

AN: My son’s teacher emailed us today to say they received the assessment forms for G&T lottery and already submitted them (not sure how much time she spent on them since her email was sent in the middle of the day when the kids were still in school 🤨). She said they asked about the child’s curiosity, play and approaches to learning and relationships and interactions. She did not indicate if she had specifically “recommended” a child to be eligible for the lottery or not or if the DOE would make that determination based on how the form was filled out.

JP:  I was called by a DOE instructional coordinator on Friday to schedule the interview. I was surprised because our child is enrolled in DOE preK but in a remote learning cohort. I thought her teacher would do the nomination. When I asked why it was not her preK teacher who nominated, I was told that they were trying to get a whole picture of the child from both teacher and parents. We were told that our child would be nominated for the G&T lottery at the end of the interview. 

PW: Spent 40 min on hold and finally got through to the DOE. The person I spoke to said that G&T nomination forms need to be accessed through the Principal’s Hub Portal. I made sure that they knew that schools hadn’t been informed of this and there was a lot of confusion. I then reached out to my son’s school (he’s in a DOE pre-k inside of a private school) and they said that since they’re not a public school they have no access to the Principal’s Hub. I freaked out for a minute and prepared myself for another long wait on hold with the DOE, when my school’s principal wrote back and said she just got an email that the deadline was extended to Friday and she got a link to the nomination form. 

As the newly extended deadline grew closer, the interviews, questionnaires and teacher evaluations suddenly seemed irrelevant as parents and preschool directors now informed me:

LB: For a private nursery school perspective (as a director) doe has emailed us a form to ask if we nominate or don’t nominate. That is the only question. Seems strange that DOE remote kids get more input on their forms.

RG: Our daughter’s teacher/school director said she received an online prompt that simply asked for an up-or-down question on whether they recommended the child for G&T (accompanied by an explanation of the kind of factors that they should take into account). 

So let’s get this straight:

Some children in public Pre-K were evaluated based on a detailed questionnaire. Some children in public Pre-K were evaluated based on a single yes or no question.  Some children in public Pre-K were evaluated based on their parents’ opinions. Some were evaluated based on a combination of the above factors.

Some children in private Pre-K were evaluated based on a detailed questionnaire. Some children in private Pre-K were evaluated based on a single yes or no question.  Some children in private Pre-K were evaluated based on their parents’ opinions. Some were evaluated based on a combination of the above factors.

No one, at any point, knew exactly what was going on.

And this is the equity, transparency, and inclusion in admissions that Mayor De Blasio promised us for his final year in office?

Please share your experiences with us below!

What do you think?

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