Tag Young Scholars
MANHATTAN NY 10029 Map
Tag Young Scholars
One of five citywide programs for gifted children, the Talented and Gifted (TAG) School has long attracted children from as far away as the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. TAG became a K-8 school in 2004, with grades K-3 on the main floor and 4-8 on the second floor. Neat red-plaid uniforms, cheery classrooms and engaging lessons are hallmarks of TAG. The teaching staff is nicely diverse so that all students can see themselves represented. The school is warm and orderly, and Principal Janette Cesar knows every child by name, even down to who has what allergies.
The school can be fast-paced and traditional, with children walking in lines and running multiplication drills. Students work at least one year above grade level in all subject areas. In kindergarten a half hour of homework a night is routine, gradually increasing to about 1½ hours by 5th grade. Middle-schoolers get up to two hours a night. Packets are assigned on all holidays and during summer break. Computer technology is offered two to three times a week in K to 6th grades and Spanish three to four times a week in the upper grades, with 5th-graders taking the proficiency exam and 8th-graders the Regents. In fact, most 8th-graders graduate with three to four Regents exams under their belt. One possible downside, especially for active boys: With so much attention paid to academics and arts, some students may find there are too few physical outlets outside of gym class
There is effective use of creative and hands-on projects. In a 2nd-grade math class, children divided a cracker into equal parts to share among four friends, while explaining why the solution was best. In the science room, 2nd-graders created an ecosystem in a terrarium with crickets and earthworms. Third-graders explained a living anthology, and 5th-graders analyzed poetry. “This poem is progressing through different periods of time,” explained one student, who then went to the text to support her statement. Children may choose electives such as Latin jazz percussion, band, drama or Entrepreneurs Club (which is a part of NFTE, the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship). First- through 4th-graders can participate in a violin program.
Understanding that even gifted and talented students need varied learning support, TAG has created three tiers within a class and across grade levels. Tier 1 is for those who are working at grade level (for an accelerated program) but have room to push farther. Tier 2 keeps students that are on track engaged, and Tier 3 is for those who are accelerated beyond their class and grade. On the day of our visit, we saw a 5th-grader in an 8th-grade math class.
In middle school the ELA focus is on expository writing and classic world literature, like the writings of Whitman and Emerson. Eighth-graders participate in the advanced thought process of Socratic circles a few times a year. Math and science classes integrate learning whenever possible; for example, a field biography class allows students to observe environments and develop data in order to critique and analyze information. Top science projects are presented at the American Museum of Natural History each year.
TAG once lost its best students to other selective middle schools after 5th grade; now, most are staying. After a few years of growing pains, the 6th, 7th and 8th grades are as strong as the elementary. Of 30 8th-graders who took the specialized high school admissions test in 2010, almost half were offered spots, while the majority of the others received full financial support to private institutions and boarding schools such as Packer, The Taft School and Loomis Chaffee. Other popular choices are Talent Unlimited and Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics.
In 2008, the DOE opened two new schools in the building: Esperanza Preparatory Academy and Global Neighborhood Secondary School. Cesar says: “It was a rocky start at first, with all schools coveting space for classrooms. But now we have learned to coexist peacefully.” Each school has its own entrance and lunch times. Though the building is old, TAG’s PENCIL partner provided SMARTboards in every classroom, along with scanners and projectors. TAG is also a pilot for iZone, a technology-based project that provides individualized online lessons, in grades 3 and 4 for ELA and math.
Special education: Speech and occupational therapies are offered, but TAG does not have Special Education Teacher Support Services (SETSS).
After school: Children in kindergarten through 6th grade may attend an on-site Y after-school program that also offers all-day activities during the summer, school vacations and holidays. TAG middle-school teachers trained with Kaplan to do test prep for the specialized high schools starting in the 7th grade. Club offerings include Entrepreneurial Club, Robotics and MICE Squad.
Admissions: To be eligible, K-2 students must take two tests, the Otis-Lennon School Abilities Test (OLSAT) and the Bracken School Readiness Assessment (BSRA), and score in the 97th percentile nationally. Only a handful of seats are open in the upper grades. Middle-school admission is based on grades, standardized test scores and a teacher recommendation. (Jacqueline Wayans, June 2011)