If your child is entering kindergarten-3rd grade in fall 2013, you may sign up now to test for one of the city's 80 elementary gifted and talented programs. Online and in-person registration is open from Oct. 10 to Nov. 9; testing takes place in January and February in public schools.
Handbooks explaining the G&T programs and admissions requirements are online now and include sample tests. This year, in an attempt to increase the diversity of students who qualify, the Education Department changed one of the exams which determines entrance. The DOE will administer the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test, or OLSAT, as usual, but kids will also take the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT) instead of the Bracken School Readiness Assessment. The Naglieri will count for about two-thirds of the score, the OLSAT, one-third. In previous years the OLSAT counted for 75 percent.
The percentage of students who qualify for G&T programs from low-income neighborhoods and districts is significantly lower than those qualifying from middle class areas. This year four districts -- two in the Bronx and two in Brooklyn -- did not have enough students qualifying to offer a kindergarten G&T program.
The city hopes the new nonverbal test will help level the playing field because it does not rely on language skills and, theoretically, is harder to prep for. However, some experts say that hope is unfounded. According to a Wall Street Journal article this week, tutoring companies say the NNAT is "harder than the tests the city has previously used." It can be confusing to children who "don't understand what they're supposed to do," one professor said.
As for cutting down on test prep, tutoring companies have "reported a frenzy" of people signing up for private sessions, weeklong "boot camps" and test preparation booklets, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The DOE handbook gives an overview of the assessments and tips on how to prepare: Make sure your child gets a good night's sleep and eats a healthy meal. It suggests you review the test materials with your child a week before the test.
If a child scores at the 90th percentile or above, she is eligible for a district G&T program. A 97th percentile or higher makes her eligible for one of the five citywide options. However, in a departure from previous years, "there is no guarantee that a student will receive a placement offer to a G&T program," according to the handbook. Previously, all incoming kindergarten and 1st graders who scored at the 90th percentile and above were assured of a spot in a district program if the family listed all district options on the application. As for the five citywide programs, demand is so great that even a 99 percentile ranking doesn't guarantee a seat.
The handbook lists schools that have G&T programs this year, but programs change from year to year and the final list of schools which will have kindergarten programs in 2013 will be determined in the spring.
Register online or in person at your child's school, not by mail. A Request for Testing form (RFT) form is is included in the handbook. Non-public school parents may register at a Borough Enrollment Office. Whether you register online or in-person, make sure you get a receipt and hang on to it. That way you'll have proof of registration. There's some benefit to registering early and online, because you'll be able to select the most convenient time and place for testing.
The DOE will be hosting evening (6-8 pm) information sessions in each borough beginning on Oct. 23 in Brooklyn. There will be sessions in Manhattan on Oct. 24, Staten Island on the 25th, Queens on Oct. 29 and the Bronx on the 30th.
(updated 10/12 with new information)