A coalition of parents from the five citywide gifted and talented schools is petitioning the Department of Education to open more programs because hundreds of children who test in now are not getting seats.
This year 1,863 incoming kindergartners scored between the 97th and 99th percentile on the G&T assessments which makes them eligible for the selective citywide programs. Yet there are only an estimated 281 kindergarten seats at the citywide schools. That number diminishes further - to about 222 open slots, according to unofficial parent counts - after factoring in qualifying siblings who get first dibs. [There may be even more top qualifiers. NBC Local News reported Wednesday that 400 tests have yet to be scored!]
"We’ve met hundreds - even thousands - of parents who are interested in citywide schools but there is a lack of seats," said Joli Golden, a member of the Parents Alliance for Citywide Education (PACE) which was founded in 2011 to advocate for gifted education. "Parents are clamoring for those schools."
While there are G&T programs in most school districts that accept children who score at the 90th percentile and above on the assessments, there are only five of the more selective citywide programs -- three in Manhattan, one in Queens and one in Brooklyn. Several years ago the DOE promised to open a new program in the Bronx but that has not happened.
According to Golden, at least 200 Bronx students now travel to citywide programs, some in expensive private buses. Many more would come, she said, but "they can't handle the transportation requirement." There is no yellow bus service across district or borough lines. Some parents from Staten Island carpool to Manhattan schools, she said, because there is no program there either.
"We believe that if there were more schools that were reasonably located in other boroughs, the kids wouldn’t have to suffer the burden of travel and more candidates would test and we’d see more diversity in the programs," she said.
PACE parents met with DOE enrollment officials last fall to push for more seats, Golden said, but were told that establishing more citywide programs is not a priority with this administration.
But a new mayor will be elected in November and, Golden said: "We’re hoping that petitions specifically will help us get attention from the current mayoral candidates."