A whopping 1,603 incoming kindergartners scored in the 99th percentile on this year's gifted and talented assessments. Out of 14,239 test-takers, 11 percent scored in the top one percent. You'd think this was Lake Wobegon!
The tests are supposedly designed so that one out of every hundred test-takers nationwide scores in the the 99th percentile. So either New Yorkers are 11-times smarter than people elsewhere (or only smart kids are taking the tests) or there is something wrong with the tests.
For the last two years, just over 1,000 kindergartners scored in the 99th percentile. Scoring between the 97th-99th percentile on the G&T assessments means a child is eligible for one of five citywide programs. But there are fewer than 400 seats for incoming kindergartners. And qualifying siblings of current students get first dibs at those seats. At The Anderson School, 16 of the 50 kindergarten seats will go to siblings. At NEST+M, siblings will get about 15 of the 100 seats; at Brooklyn School of Inquiry, there are 12 qualifying siblings and four at STEM in Queens.
Despite the shortage of citywide slots, there is no plan to increase the number of programs, according to the Education Department. At a forum earlier this week, a parent advocacy group for citywide gifted education called for additional citywide programs to open.
Schools consultant Robin Aronow, who moderated the forum, said that the "huge number" of qualifiers "sends a clear message to the Department of Education that they need more of these programs."
Tours for prospective parents at The Anderson School this week were open only to parents of children who scored in the 99th percentile and even then the school couldn't accommodate all who wanted to visit.
"I don't understand why the parents aren't angrier," said Donna Smiley, community coordinator at Anderson. "The city has tested their children, said they are in the top one percent of learners and then they are not providing them with the appropriate setting."
Why are so many children scoring so high? Many say it's the assessments that are used and the fact that many families send their children to do test prep.
Next year the DOE will replace one of the two G&T tests -- the Bracken School Readiness Assessment -- with the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test. In the Bracken, children identify shapes and colors. The Naglieri emphasizes cognitive ability and children must identify patterns and sequences. In another change, scoring will be adjusted to be more balanced between the two assessments, a spokesperson said. Now, the OLSAT counts for 75 percent of the score and the Bracken, only 25 percent.
That's a step in the right direction, according to some.
"I'm all for everything that's going to test for giftedness rather than preparedness for school because preparedness just shuts out poor kids whose parents can't afford test prep," said Smiley.
Children entering kindergarten to 3rd grade may test for a gifted program, although there are very few seats in the upper grades. The number of 1st graders scoring in the 99th percentile also rose sharply, from 205 in 2011 to 352 in 2012. There is a huge gap between poor and middle class neighborhoods. There were virtually no students scoring in the 99th percentile in four of six Bronx districts and virtually none in poor Brooklyn neighborhoods like East New York, Bushwick and Brownsville. In District 2, which includes the Upper East Side, Greenwich Village and Tribeca, there were 345 in the 99th percentile and in District 3 on the Upper West Side there were 204.
See the details here.