Most children attend their zoned neighborhood elementary school. However, New York City has an extensive system of school choice and you may want to consider other options. Children who score particularly high on standardized tests may be eligible for G&T (gifted and talented) programs. These programs offer an accelerated curriculum and the chance to be in a class with other academically successful children. There has been a boom in the popularity of these programs in recent years, and some only accept children who score in the 99th percentile on admissions tests.

Is a gifted program right for your child? Some of the best schools in the city refuse to segregate children by ability and manage to bring all children to a high level of achievement. At a school like that, your child may do very well in a general education classroom, even if he or she is unusually capable. On the other hand, in parts of the city where the overall quality of the neighborhood schools is poor, gifted programs may offer a refuge.

You may request that your child be tested in the fall the year before he or she starts kindergarten through 3rd grade. The deadline to request testing is generally in early November; the tests are given in January and February. Families typically receive scores in April, send in applications in May and are notified of placements in June. Those who move to the city after testing is completed have an opportunity to screen their child over the summer. It’s sometimes possible to transfer to a gifted program in the upper grades through a combination of test scores and teacher recommendations, but seats after kindergarten become increasingly limited.

Most of the city’s 32 districts offer gifted programs. All incoming kindergartners–3rd-graders who score at the 90th percentile on the admissions tests are eligible for a spot in a district G&T program. In addition, there are five even more selective programs open to children citywide. Students who score at or above the 97th percentile are eligible for citywide programs. (In recent years, most citywide programs have only admitted children who score in the 99th percentile.) The following are citywide programs:

Each G&T program has its own personality, shaped by its philosophy and the strategies and materials it uses. We recommend taking time to get to know the programs via our school search tool, the Department of Education’s list of schools that offer G&T this year and by touring the school, if possible.

Find more information about deadlines and test procedures from the Department of Education’s Office of Gifted and Talented website or by calling (212) 374-6646.

There are two other programs for gifted children that have a separate application process, both located in Manhattan.

The Special Music School offers intense musical training along with rigorous training. You must apply and audition for the Special Music School using its application and also list the school on your kindergarten application from the Department of Education. The application deadline is Dec. 1 in 2017 but only the first 400 applicants are guaranteed an audition so it's best to apply earlier.

Hunter College Elementary School is an elementary school open to gifted kindergartners from Manhattan. Applications are due by early November for kindergarten, which is the only entry point in the elementary school. See Hunter's admission page for more information on how to apply.