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(story updated 4/20/2013 & 4/21/2013 with numbers of affected children)
Pearson, the test company that administers the city's gifted and talented tests, miscalculated the scores for thousands of children, the company has acknowledged.
Pearson announced the mistake in a letter to parents late Friday afternoon, April 19, on the very day that parents were supposed to submit their applications. The application deadline has been extended until May 10, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said, and parents will get the results of rescored exams by April 29. Affected families will receive an update from the Education Department this weekend.
The DOE set up a hotline for G&T score-related questions. Call 1-888-705-9417.
The mistakes affected 4,735 children, or 13.2% of test takers. "Of these, 2,698 students (7.5% of test takers) who didn’t previously qualify for G&T now qualify for district programs; 2,037 students (5.7% of test takers) who previously qualified for district programs now also qualify for citywide programs," the DOE said.
Q: I was rejected by my #1 college choice – which I admit was a “reach” school. But what I don’t get is this: I was accepted by five other colleges, including another “reach” school! So maybe the college that turned me down made a mistake. What do you think my chances are if I ask them to reconsider? Should I tell them which other colleges have accepted me?
A: It is very, very rare for a college admissions office to change a decision. Decisions are always made by more than one person, and written notes are kept that explain (internally) why the decision was made. Unless crucial information was genuinely overlooked or considered in error (e.g. the admissions committee was looking at the wrong transcript when it voted – and this type of mistake rarely happens, if ever), they made the decision they wanted to make. Admissions committees are quite experienced in what they do, and they strive to make the best decisions they can for their college or university.
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."
In what's become an unfortunate annual occurence for New York City families, more than 2,300 children are waitlisted for kindergarten seats at 105 schools, according to the Education Department. Two of the hardest hit neighborhoods are Sunset Park in District 15 and Corona in District 24 in Queens. In both neighborhoods, the DOE is trying a new strategy to deal with overcrowding: opening “overflow” schools to absorb some of the waitlisted kindergarteners.
One overflow school will open in Sunset Park in the fall with three kindergarten classes. The new school, Sunset Park Avenues, is unzoned and will only accept children who are assigned to the school after landing on waitlists at other area schools.
“A portion of waitlisted students from 15K094 [PS 94] and 15K169 [PS 169] may receive alternate offers” to Sunset Park Avenues, DOE spokesman Devon Puglia confirmed. The families of kindergartners assigned to the school will get letters from the DOE’s Office of Enrollment, he said.
Children in grades 3-8 will spend three days -- April 16-18 -- taking state standardized reading exams. Next week, the same children will spend three mornings taking math exams. For some parents, that's just too many tests.
Around the city, families are asking: is there any way to opt out of the exams? And just what are the consequences for students who don't take the tests? Shael Polakow-Suransky, The city's Department of Education chief academic officer, has been busy speaking to parent groups about this, most recently on Staten Island. Chancellor Walcott, acknowledging the "heightened anxiety" over this year's exams advised school principals to cool it with the test pressure.
In response to all the questions about this year's tests, aligned for the first time with the new Common Core Standards, the DOE posted Yearly Testing guidelines which include the topic of "opting out."
On the eve of next week's state ELA exams for grades 3-8, Chancellor Walcott is urging principals to "turn the pressure down" on teachers in the wake of "heightened anxiety" about this year's high stakes tests.
Walcott and State Ed Commissioner John King have been saying that the 2013 state tests will be more difficult to pass because for the first time they are aligned with the new Common Core standards which many schools have just began to implement. Some teachers say they have not had adequate curricula and learning materials to prepare for the new standards.
In his weekly letter to principals, Walcott acknowledged the anxiety surrounding the upcoming ELA and math exams. He writes: "...a natural reaction would be to turn the heat up on your teachers, who tend to respond by turning the heat up on their students," he writes. "Instead, to the greatest extent you can, I’m asking you and your team to do the opposite, and turn the pressure down."
Even with the expected drop in student scores, "roughly the same number of students will attend summer school as in previous years," he said . "And teacher evaluation and school accountability will adjust accordingly so no one is punished by the change in assessments."
Earlier this week, Walcott visited Academy of Arts and Letters in Brooklyn with King and Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, to see how that school was implementing the Common Core. He praised the leadership for "cultivating a caring culture" that other principals should follow.
See the full text of his letter after the jump.
Many parents exhaled this weekend when they learned their children qualified for the city's sought-after gifted and talented programs.
But many will hold their breath again for the next stressful steps: visiting schools, ranking their choices and submitting applications to the Department of Education by April 19.
Even if a 4-year-old made the grade on the new, harder standardized gifted tests — scoring in the top 10 percent — they are not guaranteed a coveted seat, especially as the number of gifted and talented programs is in flux in local school districts.
[Read more of this article on DNAInfo.com, including a rundown of G&T programs in different neighborhoods and boroughs. DNAInfo reports that at least one Queens school was surprised when parents called to ask about a G&T tour. The school hadn't been informed that they would be housing a program!
Some parents say that this system is flawed and wonder why there are not enough seats for the kids who score high enough to merit one. How did it work for you?]
Dear Judy: My son was accepted to Beacon High School. He is very happy and is already making plans as to what he will do at the new school. I don't come from the U.S. and my question is: Is it a good school? How can I help him prepare for his first year? He doesn't know yet what profession he wants to pursue when he goes to college.
I am glad to hear that your son is pleased with his high school placement. Beacon is a very good school and it will prepare him well for university studies. Universities in the United States do not require students to choose what they will focus on until they are well into the second year of the four years they will spend there. High school years can be used for exploring many subjects and possible careers. That's why, to graduate, students must earn 44 credits for academic courses in math, science, social studies, English, a non-English language, art, music and physical education. Beacon is a member of the New York Performance Standards Consortium, and, as such students are exempt from taking most state exams called Regents. Instead, course credits are based on detailed projects called portfolios which students present to their teachers and peers.
Beacon graduation requirements are online. You can compare these to the city's Department of Education requirements listed on the website. And, when the time comes, there is a very helpful guide to preparing your child for college: Your Children Can Go to College...Yes They Can!" [PDF] which was developed by the New York Immigration Coalition. It's available in English and Spanish.
But, right now, turn your attention to helping your child prepare for entering 9th grade in September. Like many city high schools, Beacon will have a summer orientation, where your son will visit the school, get any summer assignments and suggestions as to how to prepare for 9th grade. There may be a reading or writing assignment. There he will also meet other 9th graders. If your son is to travel to school via public transportation, help him learn the route and practice the trip. He should time the door to door travel during early morning --when getting there on time is so important. The school may be able to help you get in touch with other students traveling from your neighborhood.
Finally, as summer winds down, try encourage him to follow a sleep schedule that he will need to arrive at school ready to learn.
Good luck to your son for a great high school experience.
For the first time in four years, fewer than 1,000 incoming kindergartners scored in the 99th percentile on the city's gifted and talented exams, but there are still more than twice as many top-scoring tykes than there are seats in the five most selective citywide programs. Of the 13,559 rising kindergartners who sat for G&T assessments in January and February, just under seven percent -- 921 -- scored in the 99th percentile on the nationally-normed tests.
Despite the introduction of a non-verbal exam meant to increase the number of low-income children who qualify for G&T programs, the gap in performance persists between rich and poor districts.
Scoring between the 97th-99th percentile on the G&T assessments means a child is eligible for a citywide program. But there are fewer than 400 seats for incoming kindergartners. Further decreasing the odds of entry, qualifying siblings of current students get first dibs at those seats.
Fewer incoming kindergarteners scored high enough to qualify for the most competitive five citywide gifted & talented programs this year than last, according to data released by the Education Department this morning. Almost 14 percent of the rising kindergartners who tested this year qualified for citywide programs, as opposed to nearly 19 percent last year.
But, this year, more kids made the cut for districtwide G&T programs, which require a lower score: 18% of kindergartners who tested qualified, as opposed to 16 percent in 2012.
For this year's test, the DOE adopted a new, nonverbal G&T assessment -- the Naglieri -- in an attempt to level the playing field for families who don't have access to tutoring for their four year olds. Children from low-income neighborhoods -- such as District 7 in the South Bronx and District 23 in East New York -- are historically under-represented in G&T programs.
G&T program cutoffs remained the same as in years past: if a child scores at the 90th percentile or above, she is eligible for a district G&T program. A score at the 97th percentile or higher makes her eligible for one of the citywide options. Last year only children who scored at the 99th percentile were offered a spot in one of the five citywide G&Ts and even that score didn't guarantee a seat.
Despite the change in the assesment, the total percentage of kindergarten through 3rd graders who scored in the 90th percentile or above is the same as last year: a quarter of the 36,000 test-takers made the cut. Click here for a breakdown of 2012 and 2013 scores [PDF].
The DOE released a districtwide breakdown of G&T qualifiers and the number of students who scored in the 99th percentile. We posted it here.
Parents whose children qualified for G & T must apply by April 19 and will receive placements May 20th.
Did your child take the G&T test? Did she qualify? Let us know in the comments below.