TAG Young Scholars
Manhattan NY 10029
Engaging classes in citywide program for gifted children
Very limited sports
The most diverse of the citywide gifted programs, Talented and Gifted Young Scholars (TAG) has a mix of black, Latino, Asian, and white pupils. The school also has a diverse teaching staff, so children have role models of different races. Neat red-plaid uniforms, cheery classrooms and engaging lessons are hallmarks of this warm and orderly school. Principal Janette Cesar knows every child by name, even down to who has which allergies. Children come from as far away as the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.
Lessons are fast-paced and demanding. All children are expected to read at home for at least 45 minutes a night. In addition, kindergartners typically have a half hour of homework, 5th-graders have one-and-a-half hours, and middle schoolers have up to two hours each night. Homework packets are assigned on all holidays and during summer break. The quality of writing we saw was good: Children write long essays on topics ranging from Tom Sawyer to the history of the robber barons and civil disobedience.
It's long been a traditional school, with plenty of emphasis on grammar and spelling (1st-graders learn about nouns and adjectives), drills in the multiplication tables, and Latin classes (that teach children the roots of many English words).
But it's also a school where kindergartners create a restaurant in the class and learn computer coding. Everyone goes on class trips to pick apples in the countryside or to take a Circle Line Cruise around Manhattan. The school is shifting away from teacher-directed lessons and toward more class discussions.
"Whoever is doing the talking is doing the learning," Cesar told us.
Rather than relying on one math program, teachers combine the best of a number of programs including Math in Focus (the American version of Singapore math) and Go Math. One 6th-grade math teacher we saw had children make up their own word problems as an exercise to see if they understood a lesson on multiplying fractions. Strong math students may accelerate: A 1st-grader may go to the 3rd grade for math. Children in grades 4-8 may take part in the American Math Competitions club after school.
Most 8th-graders graduate with four Regents exams under their belt, including English, American History, algebra, and living environment. Children may choose electives such as Latin jazz percussion, band, or drama. First- through 4th-graders may study piano.
Children in kindergarten through 8th 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 do test prep for the specialized high schools starting in the 7th grade. A vibrant PTA raises funds to supplement electives for the after-school program.
With so much attention paid to academics and arts, however, some students (particularly active kids) may find there are too few physical outlets outside of gym class.
Many 8th-graders go on to specialized high schools, while others receive financial support to attend private institutions and boarding schools such as Little Red School House, Phillips Academy Andover (in Massachusetts), and the Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, NY. Other popular choices are Talent Unlimited and Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics.
The school, which has long attracted some of the most talented black and Latino children in the city, was founded as a small alternative program in 1989 and became a full-fledged school in 2004. It had its own admissions test until 2008, when then-schools chancellor Joel Klein centralized admissions to citywide G&T programs. Since then, white and Asian families have enrolled their children in the school, which once served almost exclusively black and Latino children.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Speech and occupational therapies are offered, but TAG does not have Special Education Teacher Support Services (SETSS).
ADMISSIONS: To be eligible, K-2 students must score in the 97th percentile on the city's gifted and talented exam. Parents should sign up in November for the test, given in January. 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 and Clara Hemphill, November 2013)