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?