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Upper West Side parents learned at the District 3 Community Education Council meeting on Wednesday that PS 9 will phase out its popular gifted and talented  program and will not admit incoming G&T class of kindergartners next fall.

The belated announcement by the Department of Education, coming more than a week after the May 10 deadline for submitting applications, caught parents by surprise. According to Robin Aronow, of SchoolSearchNYC, PS 9 has become increasingly popular, with many more neighborhood families choosing to attend its regular program, in addition to the sought-after G&T classes. At the end of the kindergarten registration period on March 30, there were nine zoned families on a waitlist, according to the DOE; the PS 9 website reports there were103 zoned children who filled out registration materials this year, many more than the 73 last year.

"It used to be that families only went for the G&T at PS 9 and now we've seen a turn-around, and many neighborhood families are now attending the school," said Aronow. "The timing [of the decision] is unfortunate given that families had to finalize their choices 10 days ago. The question is: will District 3 parents have a chance to reorder their choices."

District 3 isn't the only place where there has been confusion over where programs will be housed next year. Parents who called PS 229 in District 24 in Queens were told there would be no kindergarten G&T program there next fall despite it being listed on their application. DOE officials told parents that the school will offer a program if enough families select it, and parents were allowed to add it, or re-order their choices on their application late last week.

Typically, the DOE places G&T programs in schools that have space for children from outside of their catchment zone. According to a DOE spokesperson Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld, "P.S. 9 will not be serving G&T students this year because the school needs the space to accommodate families from its zone. This is not a reduction in G&T seats, however, as we’ll be offering more seats in other programs in order to accommodate G&T students.  Shifting programs is very common, and every year we carefully plan our G&T sections to make sure we’re meeting demand and prioritizing the way we use our limited space."

An email circulated by the PS 9 PTA executive board says the "PS 9 administration and community had no say in this [decision not to offer G&T kindergarten classes] and were only notified after it was announced at the CEC meeting this past Wednesday.  The timing of this announcement - not to mention the decision itself - has caused great concern not only among the many district 3 families who selected PS9 G&T as their first choice for their incoming kindergartners..."

The email suggests ways in which concerned parents may take action:

"1) Send Questions About OSE's Decision To:

D.J. Sheppard, District 3 Family Engagement Advocate, NYC DOE:

Office: 212-678-5857 Press 4


2) Send a Message to Chancellor Walcott Via DOE Website:

3) Attend Town Hall Meeting  (with Chancellor Walcott on Monday Night, 5/23:

6 – 7:30 PM @ PS 165, 234 W. 109th St. (Between Broadway & Amsterdam)

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Dear Judy,

I have several questions about the G&T testing process. First, the DOE lost the test taken by one of my twins and it took a long time to find it. I checked with the school where it was administered and finally got the information that led to the test being located.  Second, I thought that the results of the test were off because one twin did well and the other (who took the test later in the day) missed the cutoff by just a few points. I wonder what I can do to deal with that? I heard from other parents that the accent of the tester may have adversely affected my child's performance. Is there a remedy for that?  I know it is late in the process since applications were due on May 10.

G&T  parent

Dear G&T parent:,

It is late in the gifted and talented testing process so, while it is possible that last minute appeals will be attended to, I wouldn't count on it. In any case, here is some information for you that may also help summer applicants and future test-takers.

If the test is lost and you don't get your results, you can get in touch directly with the school where it was administered. The school should have a record of the test and test-taker and should contact the central office at the Department of Education with that information. You may also call  the Division of Academic Support and Performance service desk at 212-374-6646. Note that G&T is not one of the options given when you reach that number; instead you must stay on the line or press zero. There are prompts for ARIS, periodic assessments, New York State Standardized tests, researchers, and school staff.  You can also e-mail

As for the few points difference in the test results, and the problematic accent of the test-giver: If there were conditions that you believed were not fair or conducive to an accurate test result, you were supposed to report the problem within 48 hours of the test administration. See the Gifted & Talented  Handbook for more information on that.

According to the Department of Education office in charge of G&T testing:  "When a parent appeals the test administration due to a perceived problem with the administrator’s accent, the Office of Assessment investigates the complaint, and, if warranted, retests the student."  Even though it is late in the game, it can’t hurt to call the service desk about the problem. I hear that they are swamped with calls so be  persistent but patient.

We're wondering whether other families encountered such issues during the administration of the BSRA or OLSAT, and how they were resolved.  Please comment below. And we wish all students a happy experience in September.


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May 10 is the deadline for families of nearly 8,000 students who qualified or elementary school gifted and talented programs. Some 4,000 incoming kindergartners qualified this year,  many more than last year.

Five years ago the Department of Education adopted a new set of assessments, standardizing testing across the city. Previously, each district offered its own testing requirements and entry points: some districts offered programs, others did not. Some required IQ tests, others devised their own tests. In standardizing the assessments and the testing timeline, the DOE said one aim was to equalize the process, and ensure that a diversity of students were represented in programs across the city.

But, it turns out that when districts administered their own tests, black and Latino students fared better in admissions. According to city statistics cited in The New York Times, before admissions were standardized in 2007, 15% of the students admitted to G&T programs were Latino and 32% were black. Last week, the DOE released statistics showing that in the 2010-2011 school year, only 11% of  kindergarten G&T students were black; 12% were Hispanic. In the 2009-2010 school year, only 14% were black and 12% were Latino.  In several high-poverty districts around the city, there were no programs for kindergartners at all this year because not enough children qualified

Last June, amid criticism that parents were gaming the system and prepping 4-year-olds for the tests, the city announced it would seek a new test. Gentian Falstrom, head of elementary school admissions, confirmed that the city has issued a Request for Proposals from test providers and a new contract will be in effect for the 2012-2013 school year.

We'd like to know what you think of the G&T testing? Is it fair? Should the assessments remain the same? If not, what changes do you suggest? Take our poll and let us know.

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Families of the nearly 8,000 students who qualified for kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade gifted and talented programs for next fall are busy weighing their options and ranking their choices before applications are due on May 10. The Department of Education posted a list of open houses.  There's still time to visit schools between now and Tuesday. (Note that some of the schools listed will not be accepting incoming kindergarten classes.)

Once you have visited the schools, how should you rank your choices?  The DOE says there is no gaming the system -- you should rank your top choice first, and so on down the list. "Students with higher scores are placed first, regardless of how they prioritize their options," according to Gential Falstrom, head of elementary school enrollment.

The 2010-2011 G&T Handbook stipulates that the only students who are guaranteed a G&T seat in a district program are incoming kindergartners and 1st-graders "who rank every district option listed on their application." But, in a few areas around the city, especially when a district has only one option, parents must also rank a program listed on their application that is not in their district to be guaranteed a seat.  According to an email from Falstrom, that is due to one or more of the following reasons:

  • "geographic proximity and ease of transportation between the two districts;
  • situations where the applicant pool in one district might not support the program with enough students;
  • districts that do not currently offer a G&T program; and/or
  • situations where offering the out-of-district program would add available seats to address district qualifiers."

Falstrom writes: "A student is only guaranteed a seat if he/she ranks all the options on the application, including options in another district."  Bottom line for parents:  make sure to rank all of the programs listed on your application. You can always turn down the seat later if you decide you'd prefer your neighborhood school.

The DOE is looking into a new test for next year's crop of G&T candidates, Falstrom confirms. The department has issued a Request for Proposals from test providers and "a new contract would be in effect starting in the 2012-2013 school year"  -- welcome news for many families who believe that the current assessments are flawed.

For families who wonder why some popular schools won't be offering a G&T kindergarten program next year, here's the DOE's explanation of how location decisions are made: "schools must have the space to accommodate students from outside of their catchment zone;  there is demand within the district requiring an additional program; and the Principal and staff have the interest and capability to offer this type of program."

The Department of Education has not yet released a list of eligible students by district, or a list of the schools at which they plan to offer programs next fall. (A final list of programs will depend on how many students rank a school on their application -- if there is not enough interest, a program may not open.) No word yet, either,  on the breakdown of students who scored between the 97th and 99th percentiles, making them eligible for citywide programs.  Last year so many students scored at the 99th percentile that lower-scoring students were mostly shut out of the citywide seats.

Got a question about your score or would you like to review the test booklet? You must file a request by May 10. The details are on the DOE's website.

We'll post new information as we get it.

Published in News and views
Thursday, 05 May 2011 06:36

Fitness Focus: G+T- K PE = not for me

The degrees of my good luck are incalculable, in Sinagpore Math or Everyday Math or anything else. I have good health, a wonderful family, and a child who qualified, based on her pre-K test, for a range of "gifted and talented" programs. This lucky circumstance plays out in kooky paths, though, as any parent with similar good fortune can understand. There isn't room for all at the most overcrowded schools, and the Department of Education essentially runs a lottery for the available slots.

Nobody would doubt that Charlie and Lola are gifted and talented! (Courtesy of Disney)

Parents can feel a little powerless. Nobody knows exactly where our child may end up being placed, so we visit a range of schools in our district (or beyond).How can we make up our minds about which schools to rank top - or bottom - on the list?

I came up with my own arbitrary rule. If the school offers no physical education classes for kindergartners, I wish it success but my wife and I will rank it low. I have three reasons for this rule. All aid me in strategy.

First, phys ed provides an alternate outlet for the skills that qualified kids for G&T programs.  Physical education imparts the value of collaboration, patience, isolation and second-order thinking - and it teaches that results can vary from game to game and day to day. Kids who are gifted and talented at basketball may need to slow down to learn English grammar- and vice versa. Both journeys inculcate crucial self-confidence. Put another way: if my kid can learn Mandarin, she can learn isometrics. And if you think she doesn't need to learn both, you have a different theory than I do about what makes a community of learners.

Second, phys ed can cut across socioeconomic lines. The son of a pair of Columbia astrophysicists and the girl who'll be the first in her family to go to college need each other to get the ball down the court. Phys ed is full of moments that prove how cooperation leads to success for all.

Third, phys ed provides a welcome relief from academic pressure. One principal on a G&T tour this week described her students as "suffering from perfectionism." Stipulate for a second that perfectionism is an illness. Can't a little physical release provide at least a topical cure?  It worked for Bill Bradley and Dave Bing. Story time is engrossing: art is expressive; music transcends, but phys ed delivers a vital message to these young achievers:  You can always play again and do better. And the score matters a lot less than what you learned about how to play.

It's a message some anxious parents might welcome in the next couple of weeks. Email me here if you're up for a post-application pickup game!

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Thursday, 28 April 2011 08:42

4,000 qualify for kindergarten G&T programs

Four thousand incoming kindergartners qualified for the city's gifted and talented programs this year, the Department of Education reported today, with many more students tested this year than last.

Some 14,040 four-year-olds were tested in 2011 as compared to 12,443 last year. After a steady increase over the past several years, the percentage of eligible students remained static this year with 28 percent of the test-takers qualifying.  Eighteen percent of test-takers qualified in 2007-08 (the year that the DOE standardized testing across the city), 22 percent qualified  in 2008-09, and 28 percent were eligible in 201o and this year.

Of the 4,000 eligible kindergartners, 45 percent (1,803 students) tested high enough to be eligible for one of the more selective citywide programs. That is lower than last year when a whopping 50 percent of the qualifiers were eligible for just 300 citywide seats. (No sign yet that the DOE will increase the number of citywide seats, although they have said they are looking for new assessment tools for next year's crop of test-takers.)

All incoming kindergartners and 1st graders who score at or above the 90th percentile on the assessments are guaranteed a seat in a district program, providing they list all available options on their applications, according to the G&T Handbook. Those scoring between the 97th percentile and 99th percentile are eligible for five citywide programs, but in reality most of those seats go to the students who score at the 99 percentile: there were 1,000 of them last year.

Kindergarten is the main entry point for G&T programs but the same assessments -- the OLSAT and BRSA -- are also offered to interested incoming 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-graders.  This year more than 25,000 children in those grades were tested, a similar number as last year, with 3,906 qualifying for either district or citywide programs. That's compared to 4,043 who qualified in 2010 for a scattering of seats -- the DOE has not said how many.

Still to come: a breakdown of how many children qualified in each district, where new programs are opening and where existing programs will not be accepting new classes of kindergartners. The DOE said these numbers will be coming in the next two weeks.

If fewer than 10 students qualify in any district, there will be no new gifted kindergarten class. Children in those districts who qualify may attend a gifted program in a neighboring district. The DOE's 2010-2011 list of programs shows there were no G&T kindergarten classes in districts 7, 9, 12 in the Bronx, districts 23 and 32 in Brooklyn, or District 27 in Queens. The programs may change from year to year depending on the number of eligible students, the interest in programs, and the capacity of the schools to house them. As a result, several very popular neighborhood schools no longer host G&T programs, while traditionally under-enrolled schools now offer them.

Parents have between now and May 10, when applications are due, to consider their options. Note that many -- but not all -- of the schools offering G&T programs invite parents to come in for a tour or an open house. Your best bet is to check the school's website (linked on our school profile pages) or call the parent coordinator to find out.

And, we'll continue to post updates as we get them.

See the DOE's breakdown of the numbers after the jump.

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Wednesday, 27 April 2011 07:58

Gifted and Talented letters mailed

Score reports and applications for students who qualified for kindergarten and 1st grade gifted and talented programs were sent yesterday, April 26, by email and regular mail. There is no word yet on how many students tested and how many qualified this year.

Families of eligible students must submit an application for a district or citywide programs by May 10. Students won’t find out where they are offered a seat until early June — late in the game for many families who are weighing other options.

Incoming kindergartners and 1st graders who score at or above the 90th percentile are guaranteed a seat in a district program, providing they list every available G&T program on their application. Children who score at or above the 97th percentile are eligible for the five citywide programs but not guaranteed a seat. In the past, only children scoring at the highest percentile —  99– were accepted at most of the citywide programs.  Last year 1,000 students scored at the 99th percentile and for only 300 seats. When there are more qualified applicants than seats, there is a random selection process for placement.

Last year some, 3,542 incoming kindergartners were eligible for district or citywide programs as compared to 3,231 the previous year.

Already there is some buzz on neighborhood listservs with parents noting that some schools that offered programs this year will not offer seats for incoming kindergartners this year. PS 10 in Park Slope found out just this morning that there would be no G&T kindergarten class next year,  Parent Coordinator Madeline Seide said.

"The city made the decision -- not we -- that we would not have an incoming kindergarten class next fall," she said, citing the increasing popularity of the school which has grown from 410 students about five years ago to nearly 800 now.

Although the school did not have a waitlist for zoned kindergarten students at the end of March, Seide said there were 350 total kindergarten applicants -- including those from outside the neighborhood -- for only 150 kindergarten seats. PS 10 will be expected to take the overflow of students from other District 15 schools that do have a kindergarten waitlist, she said.

There are a few seats at PS 10 in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade G&T classes which will continue at the school, and, like other schools with G&T programs, the school will offer tours for prospective students before the May 10 application deadline.  Check schools' websites and the DOE's calendar and handbook for details.

We’ve asked the DOE for the statistics on how many students applied for G&T and how many qualified, as well as the district breakdown. We’ll post the information as soon as we get it.

For those of you awaiting a letter, let us know when you get it. And, if you hear about any open houses. post those as well. Please comment below.

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Parents whose children will turn five this year should submit their applications for kindergarten by Friday. You may apply at your zoned neighborhood school as well as any other schools that may interest you. The good news: Overcrowding in Manhattan has eased a bit as new schools have opened. The bad news: there are still children on the waiting list at some very popular schools.

Children who have been tested for a gifted program won’t find out whether they are eligible until May. So parents need to apply to their neighborhood school regardless of whether they have had their child tested.

Parents of special needs children should fill out an application at their neighborhood school and any other school to which they are applying. They may also wish to attend special Department of Education orientation sessions on how to best get special services. Advocates for Children has a brochure for special needs children who are turning five.

Charter schools have separate applications, due April 1.  For some charter schools, you need to apply in person. For others, you may fill out on a new online application at the New York City Charter School Center.

We recently visited some Manhattan schools that are open to children outside their immediate neighborhood, including Central Park East I, Central Park East II, The Twenty-first Century Academy (open to District 6 children) and Midtown West (open to District 2 children). We also visited a new Upper East Side school, PS 267, that may have room for children outside its attendance zone this year. A new Upper West Side school, PS 452, is off to a promising start.

We’ve posted new reviews of some well-known Manhattan schools: Manhattan New School, PS 183, PS 11, PS 199, PS 452, PS/IS 217, PS 198 and PS 158.

In Brooklyn, we visited PS 20, PS 189, and PAVE Academy Charter school. In Queens, we visited PS 201. (PS/IS 217 on Roosevelt Island also accepts children from Queens in the gifted program.) In the Bronx, we visited Girls Prep Charter School and PS 279. We’ll continue to update our school profiles this spring.

Parents who have been touring schools this winter, please share your insights in comments below or on school profile pages. We welcome your views.

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On the eve of my four-year-old daughter’s date with the gifted & talented examiner, we sat down together with the Department of Education's sample test, a stack of papers I’d printed out the week before. The goal was not to drill Leia, but to familiarize her with the testing format, so she would be comfortable on the day of the exam.

“What’s that?” she asked, inching closer, “do I get homework today?”

“Sure, this is your homework.” I said, and explained that tomorrow, someone at school would quiz her with questions like these–"kind of like puzzles." Calling this exercise homework was all I needed to pique her interest, since she begs me for evening assignments–something her sister, a first-grader, receives plenty of.

She caught on to the format quickly. As we waded our way through sets of murky diagrams, she attacked each one eagerly, sometimes before even hearing the instructions. We reached the end, and she slumped in disappointment.

“I want some more! Can you print out another one? Please?”

Something became crystal clear to me, and it wasn’t that I believed she would ace the test. I saw how purely my four-year-old loves learning, and I felt a strong urge to preserve this–whether by keeping her at a well-balanced school like the one she attends now, or moving her to a more challenging track, or simply seeking out more fun educational experiences outside of school. I really don't know what she will need down the road, since a four-year-old has plenty of time to evolve–but just as we did for her sister, we will watch her and decide what school environment is the right fit.

The registration numbers for this year's exams are not yet available, according to the DOE. Last year, despite the fact that fewer children took the exam than in 2009 (12,454–down by 2,400), more rising kindergartners actually qualified for spots (3542, 300 more than the previous year). Competition is stiff, particularly for coveted citywide schools such as The Brooklyn School of Inquiry -- and with more children scoring in the 99th percentile than ever, odds are slim that my daughter would even have a shot. I haven't the slightest clue how she fared on the test, only that she seemed to enjoy it.

“I had my homework today,” Leia said, after I picked her up from school on testing day. "You did?" I asked. "How’d it go?”

She shrugged. “It was just like the one we did at home. With the little rainbow and pen pictures near the choices...I know there are some I didn't get right.”

"That's OK," I said, and it was. We went for hot cocoa.

Has your child taken the G & T exam yet this year? Any feedback on how it went? Results won't be in until May.

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Monday, 03 January 2011 05:31

Elementary Dad: Gifted & tormented

I vividly recall sitting in a waiting room, thinking my daughter’s future was being determined 15 feet away. There, behind closed doors, a child psychologist was administering the Stanford-Binet IQ test designed to detect early signs of genius. If my daughter aced the exam, she might gain entry into New York’s top elementary school for gifted students, a feat that would likely put her on a fast track to academic and professional success. An average score would mean – well, in New York such things make parents shudder.

My daughter was 3 years old.

Her SB results indicated she was above average but not brilliant. Hunter College Elementary School was not an option.   Later came the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT) and the Bracken School Readiness Assessment (BRSA) for entrance into a gifted and talented program. I anxiously waited for results that might show I had spawned a prodigy, but hopes fell as the numbers arrived.  She did not qualify for the citywide Anderson or NEST. A nice gifted and talented program on the Upper West Side offered her a seat, but it had a few drawbacks, and getting there would be a daily inconvenience.

Today, nearly two years after that first IQ test, I’m making a resolution for 2011: No G&T testing. My daughter, now 5, is happily enrolled in a general-education kindergarten at a fine NYC public school three blocks from home. She’s doing well and is fitting in among her Manhattan classmates, all of whom seem like good, bright kids. Her teacher seems to be pushing my child’s development at the right pace. I can’t imagine a rigorous G&T program would be a better fit.

I didn’t always feel this way. When the good-but-not-stellar test scores arrived, I took it personally. I reasoned (as do most fathers) that my daughter was capable of greatness. Any failures must therefore be mine, not hers. Perhaps we spent too much time playing in the sandbox, and not enough with alphabet flashcards. Surely I had squandered precious hours, missed once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. As a result, doors were closing that might have led to wonderful opportunities.

I’ve since learned this mind-set misses the whole point of a G&T program. Kids who are truly gifted – those who flourish amid an enriched and accelerated curriculum – possess a natural curiosity and persistence, and parental prep rarely fosters such qualities. Gifted programs certainly have flaws (G&T classes have been eliminated in parts of NYC where they would be of great benefit to exceptionally bright kids), and the idea that a quiz can accurately predict which 4-year-old will grow into an Einstein is problematic at its core (marshmallow test, anyone?). But when the system works, G&T programs challenge and nurture naturally bright kids in ways typical classrooms can’t.  (Testing begins January 10 for this year's 4-year-olds who have already signed up.) G&T is not the Ivy League of public education, but rather a rescue rope that hoists bright kids out of insufficiently stimulating schools.

My daughter's NYC elementary school meets her needs, and then some. Her future has not yet been decided. Doors remain open. And to her mother and me, my little girl remains the greatest gift any parent could receive.

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