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Tuesday, 05 October 2010 08:12

Admissions update: Middle schools & G&T

Eighth graders applying to high schools aren't the only ones who should be mindful of the admissions calendar.  Important dates are looming for students applying to middle schools and G&T programs for the 2011-12 school year.  Here's the rundown for what you'll need to know for the upcoming weeks.

Middle schools

Most districts offer some degree of middle school choice, even in areas where the majority of students attend their zoned school.  Some districts, however, offer a full-choice model offering students few or no zoned school options.  In those districts, students must apply to in-district middle schools by ranking their choices on a middle school application.

According to the Department of Education's admissions calendar, middle school directories will be distributed to elementary school students during the week of October 4. They will also be available online. Friday, October 8 is the deadline for students to request to take the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT) for admission to selective schools in districts 17, 18, 20, 22, 24, and 30 as well as to request testing for admission to District 21's Mark Twain School, which is open citywide.

Beginning October 12, the Department of Education will hold middle school fairs in each district that offers school choice.  All fairs will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.  Check the DOE's website for the date and location of the middle school fair in your district.

While fairs are a great way for parents and students to meet with school representatives and to ask questions, they are no substitute for attending a school tour or open house.  Check schools'  websites, or call schools to find out about their tour and open house schedule. Use our advanced search to access school profiles for contact information.  Wondering what questions to ask when you visit? See our tips on what to ask on a school tour. Also check out the DOE's list of Fall 2010 middle school tour and open house dates.

For a full rundown of important middle school admissions dates, check out the DOE's calendar here.

Gifted & Talented Admissions

The Gifted and Talented Information Handbook for students entering kindergarten through grade 2 in September 2011 will be available on the DOE's website beginning October 12.

To schedule a testing date, parents will need to submit a Request for Testing Form (RFT) anytime from October 12 through November 17.

Insideschools reported back in June that 2010-11 may be the last school year that students applying to G&T programs will be evaluated based on their combined performance on the  Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT) and the Bracken School Readiness Assessment (BSRA).  The DOE is planning to employ a new G&T admissions test once their current contracts with testing companies end in 2011.

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The deadline to apply for upper grade Gifted and Talented programs has been extended from August 27 to September 17, according to an update on the Department of Education's website.

Acceptance into 4th and 5th grade programs is based on standardized test scores -- to be eligible, students must score at a Level 4 (highest level) on both the reading and math tests. The  2010 test results only became available online on August 15, leaving a very short window of time in the midst of summer vacation for parents to access the scores and submit an application by August 27.

Now they will have a few more weeks to apply, but they may not find out until September 30, well after classes start, whether their children have gained a slot.

"Seats are very limited," according to the DOE's notice.  We've asked how many openings there are, and where they are located,  and will post the information if we get it.

Check the DOE's website for links to the applications and the particulars on how to apply.

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Monday, 16 August 2010 05:43

2010 test results are available on ARIS

Students' individual scores on the 2010 state English and math exams are now available on ARIS Parent Link. Families who have set up an ARIS account will be able to find out their child's proficiency level (1 to 4), actual test score, and read a breakdown of their child's test performance by skill set.

If you're having trouble logging on to ARIS, or have never set up an account, you can get help here.  Families with children enrolled in independent and charter schools will need to contact their school to find out test results. 

G&T Reminder

Families of rising fourth and fifth graders applying for seat at a Gifted and Talented program can submit their completed applications as soon as they find out their child's 2010 test results.  Applications are due August 27

Students entering grades 4 or 5 in September, who achieved the highest level of  “4" on both their 2010 English and math tests, are eligible to apply for a G&T seat for the 2010-11 school year.

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UPDATE: On August 24, the deadline to apply for upper grade Gifted and Talented programs was extended from August 27 to September 17,

The Department of Education is accepting applications for upper elementary grade seats in Gifted and Talented programs through August 27.   One  hitch:  Parents can't complete their applications until they know their child's scores on the 2010 standardized English and math exams, which will be available on the ARIS Parent Link beginning the week of August 16. Another hitch: There may be very few seats available.

Students entering 4th or 5th grade who achieved the highest level of  "4" on both their 2010 English and math tests are eligible to apply for a G&T seat for the 2010-11 school year.  Rising 4th graders can apply for available spots at K to 5, K to 6, and K to 8  G&T programs.  Rising 5th graders only can apply for spots at K to 6 and K to 8 G&T programs.

Eligible applicants will be ranked in order of their combined English and math scores and offered seats based on availability within their zoned district, according to the DOE's website.  Families offered a spot in a district G&T program "will be contacted" by September 3.  Those not being offered a spot "will be notified by mail."

You can download the application from the Department of Education's website or pick one up at your nearest borough enrollment office.

Current public school students can download an application here.

A separate application for non-public school students is available here.

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Thursday, 05 August 2010 11:07

Elite schools: Testing and diversity

A front page story in today's New York Times spotlights the practice of deciding a student's "giftedness" based on performance on just one test and points out a lack of diversity of students accepted to the city's topnotch public schools.

The article focuses on Hunter College High School, a laboratory school for the intellectually gifted, where students are admitted based on their scores on an exam given in the winter of 6th grade. Other students  move up from Hunter College Elementary School which they entered in kindergarten, after scoring high on an IQ exam.

In his speech at the Hunter College High School graduation, senior Justin Hudson, who is black and Latino, expressed his guilt at being accepted at the school based solely on "performance on a test we took when
we were eleven year olds, or four year olds." He said that less fortunate students, especially those from inner-city neighborhoods,  "who naturally needed those resources much more than us wallowed in the mire of a broken system."

Although 70% of the city's public school students are black or Hispanic, only 3% percent of the students entering Hunter in 2009 were black; 1% percent were Hispanic. That compares to the entering class of 1995 which was 12% black and 6% Hispanic, The Times reports.

Hunter is a public school administered by Hunter College not the Department of Education, but the same lack of racial diversity in gifted programs has become increasingly evident and reported in other city public schools. Of the 5,261 students scoring high enough on an exam to qualify for one of the city's eight specialized high schools this year, 7% were black and 8% were Hispanic.

Black and Hispanic students are also under-represented in the city's elementary school gifted and talented programs. As we reported last week, Times  educational columnist Michael Winerip noted that the number of blacks and Hispanics in G&T kindergarten classes “dropped to 27 percent this year under the test-only system, from 46 percent under the old system” when admissions criteria varied from district to district.

Now the city is looking for a new way to assess the city's youngest pupils for G&T programs, that might not rely only on the results of one test, for which students who can afford test prep appear to have an edge.

Some members of the Hunter High faculty have called for that school to adopt a multi-dimensional measureof student giftedness, such as interviews,  and an examination of student work.  Critics of the current kindergarten G&T assessment advocate additional measures such as observing kids in groups or at play.   The release last week  of sub-par test results for New York State’s students appears to reinforce doubts about using tests as the single measure of achievement.

Should entrance to elite  schools or programs be based on the results of one test? Is there a more equitable way to assess which students are truly intellectually gifted? Share your thoughts and ideas.

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Tuesday, 27 July 2010 07:59

G&T update: 1000 scored a 99

It took a few months but the Department of Education finally crunched the numbers.  In 2009 a grand total of 1000 children scored in the 99th percentile on the citywide assessments for kindergarten gifted and talented programs.

The "99s" account for 56% of the 1788 students who qualified for citywide G&T programs by scoring at or above the 97th percentile on the tests. Not surprisingly, the largest number of students scoring in the 99th percentile came from high-performing districts 2 (193 students), 3 (144), and 22 (91). These districts also had the highest number of test-takers.

Of course, scoring in the highest percentile doesn't guarantee a seat in one of the five citywide programs , which offer a combined total of roughly 300 slots for incoming kindergartners.  And, as parents have noted in comments to previous posts, many seats in citywide programs are taken up by siblings, even though they didn't score in the 99th percentile.

All this has caused parents to wonder if there really is a difference between a "97" and a "99"?  And was the spike in the number of students scoring in the highest percentile due in large part to more test prep for 4-year-olds?

In his On Education column in Monday's New York Times, Michael Winerip questioned the equity of the G&T test.  He interviewed low-income parents of smart 4-year-olds who weren't aware that prep materials existed for pre-schoolers. And, he talked to the owner of a test prep company who charges more than $1000 for a two month "boot camp" for 4-year-olds.

He also points out that the number of blacks and Hispanics in G&T kindergarten classes "dropped to 27 percent this year under the test-only system, from 46 percent under the old system" which varied from district to district.

The question of equity also arose at a City Council hearing in June when Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg announced that the city is looking for a new way to assess students for G&T programs. Critics argue that the current system does not include observation of children in a classroom or interviews.

As families scramble to enroll their children in the best schools possible, especially given kindergarten waitlists at popular neighborhood schools, the debate over G&T programs is not going away anytime soon.

Click here to see the Department of Education's district-by-district breakdown of students scoring at the 99th percentile for G&T kindergarten.

And please share your thoughts about the G&T testing process in comments below.  Can the process be made more equitable?

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Tuesday, 22 June 2010 11:07

What to do about G&T?

At yesterday's City Council Education Committee hearing on school admissions' policies, the city's gifted and talented programs were on the hot seat.

City Council members, led by committee chair Robert Jackson, repeatedly questioned Department of Education officials about the lack of G&T programs in minority communities and the under-representation of black and Latino students. This has occurred despite changes to the admissions policies made several years ago that standardized the testing process throughout the city to ensure fairness and access to all students. Council members also questioned the timeline by which students are tested in January and notified of acceptance into G&T classes late in the school year.

One major pitfall of the current G&T test is that it can't be administered until all eligible students turn 4, which means holding off until January. Liz Sciabarra, the director of the enrollment office, conceded that the admissions timetable, which has "kindergarten offers going out absent of G&T" results is tough. "We really need to have better alignment," she said.

Now, it seems the city will be shopping for a new admissions test once the current contracts with testing companies end next year. Newly-appointed Deputy Chancellor for Portfolio Planning Marc Sternberg said, "we are looking for a new test." Requests for Proposals will be issued in the fall but any changes in the assessments would not take affect until the following year, he said.

This news came as a surprise to all in attendance and later Department of Education spokesperson David Cantor told reporters that there was no change in policy and that the DOE doesn't believe there is anything wrong with the current tests.

In the past, when districts administered their own tests, minority 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. In the 2009-2010 school year, only 12% of admitted students were Latino and 15% were black.

Much of the City Council's discussion about G&T yesterday centered on how  to ensure that G&T classes remain diverse. To qualify for a gifted program students must score above the 90 percentile nationally on a combination of two assessments, the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (Olsat) and the Bracken School Readiness Assessment (BSRA).

City Council member Jackson suggested that the city "eliminate a national norm and use a citywide or district level norm" in determining which students qualify for G&T programs.

Others have suggested assigning students to G&T classes using a holistic approach and considering factors other than test scores.

Still others question the validity of testing children for gifted programs at age four and urge assessing them at a later age.

We're wondering what you think.  How should students be evaluated for G&T programs? In what grade should G&T programs start?

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Monday, 21 June 2010 08:05

Admissions hearing today!

Got something to say about public school admissions policies? Today is the day to speak your piece. The City Council Education Committee  is calling all interested parents and advocates to testify at a hearing about Department of Education admissions procedures.  Among other things, the hearing will focus on changes made in the past few years,  including the  centralization of  admissions for pre-Kindergarten and gifted and talented programs.

The education committee, chaired by Robert Jackson, will be questioning elected officials and  members of the DOE's enrollment office about policies and procedures that affect  all students admissions from  pre-K, to high school.

According to the hearing notice: "We invite members of Community Education Councils, parents, students, educators, advocates, and all other stakeholders and interested members of the public to testify at this hearing.  Testimony will be limited to 2-3 minutes per person to allow as many as possible to testify.  Although the hearing starts at 1:00 pm, the Administration (Department of Education), as well as other witnesses (such as elected officials) have been invited to testify and answer questions from Council Members at the outset, so we do not expect to hear from others until sometime after 2:30pm.  Please make sure you fill out a witness slip on the desk of the Sergeant-at-arms if you wish to testify.  If you plan to bring written testimony, please bring at least 20 copies."

For those parents who have been commenting all year on InsideSCOOP, here's a chance to let elected officials know what you think! Head over to 250 Broadway, 16th floor hearing room this afternoon. (Take the 4,5 or R train to City Hall; 1,2, or 3 trains to Chambers Street.)  We'll be there too.


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With the June 18 registration deadline looming for the city's elementary school gifted and talented programs, PS/IS 217 on Roosevelt Island is reaching out to eligible applicants in Manhattan and Queens urging them to apply.

The Department of Education last week told the school that it could not open a G&T kindergarten class for next year because not enough families signed up. On Friday, school officials, parents, and local politicians met with Elizabeth Rose, director of portfolio planning at the DOE, to protest that decision. Rose agreed that the program could remain open providing 18 children could be recruited.

PS/IS 217 PTA President Nikki Leopold said that admissions were hampered this year because the DOE did not list PS/IS 217 as an option for students in Queens. While the school lies in District 2, the G&T program was open last year to District 30 (including Jackson Heights and other neighborhoods in western Queens) because of its' close proximity to Roosevelt Island (two subway stops on the "F" line). Enrollment in the school's current G&T kindergarten class includes four students from Queens, one from Manhattan, and the rest from Roosevelt Island, according to Assistant Principal Jenn Bartolino.

Bartolino confirmed that the school is still taking applications. "The school is very committed to the program," she said. "It's been a long process with the Department of Education. What we've been told is to 'do the outreach'."

PTA President Leopold said the school asked the DOE to "send a formal letter to all families in District 30, and the surrounding Queens area, letting them know that the program is now open to them."

In a reply statement forwarded to Insideschools, Rose said: "We are planning to notify any student in D2 or D30 who did not receive an offer to another G&T program through the match process. However, in potentially opening a class at PS 217, we have to be mindful of not taking enrollment away from D30 G&T programs. Those classes also require a minimum number of students to enroll. "

The school is committed to opening a kindergarten G&T class next fall, regardless of the number of students who enroll, according to Leopold. "As it was clear that the DOE would only do minimal outreach, the PS/IS 217 administration made the decision to move forward with our G&T program even if the number of recruited students turned out to be below 18," Leopold wrote in an email. "As the program had been fully embraced in its first year, and time and money was invested in anticipation of its growth, we felt that this was an important decision to make, despite the financial implications to our school."

This year's G&T kindergarten class -- the first ever at PS/IS 217 -- has only 14 students enrolled but "enrollment went from 14 to 18 or 19 [for 1st grade next year] because it was such a successful year," the assistant principal said.

Interested parents, whose children meet the criteria (scoring above 90% on admissions exams), should contact Parent Coordinator Lauraine Rademaker at 347-563-5165. For more information on how to register, see the school's G&T Kindergarten Update flier.

While schools such as PS/IS 217 and PS 376 in Brooklyn's District 32, where only seven students qualified, are lacking in applicants others have too many.

The Brooklyn School of Inquiry, a citywide G&T program that opened last fall, had 251 families listing it first on their application, for only 56 seats, making it the "city's second most coveted gifted program," according to the Wall Street Journal. Students who score at 97% or above on the assessments are eligible for five citywide programs. In reality, however, most citywide seats fill up with students scoring 99%. And at some schools, including the Brooklyn School of Inquiry, there aren't enough spaces even for the highest scorers.

We're hearing from parents, and some districts, that there were many more students scoring 99% this year than previous years, but we're still waiting to hear from the DOE exactly how many.

Got any news about the G&T programs in your district? Please share it in comments below.

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Friday, 04 June 2010 09:53

G&T offers go out today!

The wait is almost over for parents and kids who sweated out this year's round of Gifted and Talented (G&T) admissions. Placement letters are being sent out today, Department of Education spokesman Matthew Mittenthal confirmed.

The registration period for anyone offered a spot in a G&T program will run from Monday, June 7 to Friday, June 18.

Information about summer G&T testing for families new to New York City will be  is posted  in mid-June on the DOE's website. Summer G&T test administration is only open to children entering kindergarten or 1st grade in September, 2010 who moved to the city after the main testing period ended. A Request for Testing form must be submitted by June 25; testing will take place from July 6-16.

Applications for upper elementary grade G&T seats are not yet available on the DOE's website. Check there regularly for updated information.  According to the latest information, because standardized tests were administered late in the school year, test scores, which determine placement in G&T programs in the upper grades, will not be available until late in the summer. According to the DOE's website, applications will be available on the website in August; and placement offers  for "the few available seats" will be made in late August or early September.

Did you get your letter yet? Please comment below.

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