If you’re thinking of applying to a gifted and talented program in New York City for your child currently in pre-k to 2nd grade, the time is now: The G&T application season is open and the sooner you sign up, the better your chances are of getting your preferred test date. 

The first step is submitting your RFT (request for testing) form either online or in person at your child’s current NYC public school or at a Family Welcome Center (if your child is a non-public school or charter student). All RFTs must be submitted by November 12. (The original deadline of November 9 was extended, the Department of Education announced on Nov. 5)

Here's an overview of gifted and talented programming, testing procedures and—as always—advice to help your family navigate the process.

The schools

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, DOE’s list of schools that offer G&T this year and by touring the school, if possible.

There are two types of programs. 

  1. District G&T programs give priority to students living in that district and are housed in neighborhood schools that have space for them. G&T students have their own academic program and classroom, but may join other students for gym, music and art.

  2. Citywide G&T programs are free standing schools. They accept students from all five boroughs with no preference for where you live. The score cutoff for eligibility is higher than that of district programs. There are five citywide G&T programs: The Andersen SchoolNest + m and TAG Young Scholars in Manhattan; The 30th Avenue School in Queens and Brooklyn School of Inquiry in Borough Park.

The tests

The Department of Education uses two assessments to determine G&T eligibility: The Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT) and the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT). The NNAT gauges a child’s ability to solve problems and understand relationships by doing things like completing patterns and analogies. The OLSAT is meant to measure verbal reasoning and comprehension through tasks like noticing likenesses and differences, remembering words and numbers and following directions. Like last year, the verbal and nonverbal portions will be weighted equally, each counting toward 50 percent of the overall score. 

In case you're wondering: Children born in 2011, applying for kindergarten, will not have to bubble in their own answers.

Logistics

When you submit your RFT you will also select your preferred test date and time. According to the DOE website, testing dates range from January 6-31, 2015. Pre-school and non-public school children will be tested on weekends at select school sites throughout the city, while current public school kindergartners through 2nd-graders will be tested at their school during the school day. While the tests are untimed, the DOE advises parents to block off about one or two hours at the testing site. Appointments fill up fast.

(All children must live in NYC at the time you submit your RFT through the time of admission.)

How to prepare

While shelling out major bucks for a fancy prep class is an official no-no, the DOE does encourage parents to “prepare” their kids for the assessment. The online G&T handbook has a sample test for families to review with their kids, and you should feel empowered to do so. Helping your child become familiar with the test’s procedure and question types will give him the comfort and confidence he needs to do his best. Keep stress of any kind out of the picture and remind kids that they are not expected to know the answer to every question.

Keeping everyday interactions stimulating and conversations flowing is probably the best preparation any child needs. Talking about patterns you see, discussing ideas like “more” and “less” and trying to imagine what an object would look like turned upside down or sideways are some helpful activities suggested by the DOE. And of course, a hearty meal and a good night’s sleep on test day will go a long way.

Special needs?

Students with special needs are encouraged to apply to G&T. Having a learning difference or behavioral challenge doesn’t mean a child can’t also be extremely bright (and, for the record, a child who doesn’t qualify for G&T can also be extremely bright!). Insideschools visits G&T programs throughout the city, and we always see students who are receiving special services. 

For test day, if your child has an IEP or 504 plan, he may also be able to receive certain accommodations including a larger print exam, a scribe or a separate location.

English not the primary language?

If your child’s first language is not English, don’t worry: Assessments are also offered in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Urdu.

Families can select the testing language and note any special considerations when submitting the RFT. If your child requires an accommodation that isn’t listed, call the Office of Assessment at 212-374-6646 or email [email protected]

The results

In early April, families will get a score report via email (if you submitted an RFT online) and regular mail. If your child qualifies for a G&T placement the DOE will send you an application along with your score report and a list of G&T programs to rank.

Decision letters will be sent out in late May. If your child doesn’t get a seat, she will be placed on a waitlist for all the programs you applied to; if your child does get a seat, he will also be placed on waitlists for all the programs ranked higher than the one that extended the offer.

In order to qualify for a district program, your child must have an overall percentile score of 90 or above; for citywide programs, the cutoff is 97 percent. As we’ve mentioned every year, the number of kids who qualify for G&T greatly outnumbers the available seats. Last year, 7,242 students rising to grades k–3 qualified and applied for a spot, but only about 66 percent got seats. The breakdown for incoming kindergartners showed the best odds with nearly 80 percent of qualifying applicants receiving offers. Still, many more students qualify each year than there are seats available. That means that in reality most citywide offers go to those with scores in the 99th percentile or who have siblings in a program, while in district programs the highest scores win out. 

More questions? There is detailed information in the DOE’s gifted and talented handbooks available online and in hard copy at all city pre-k programs and elementary schools. Families are also encouraged to attend information sessions in the coming weeks across all five boroughs where a DOE official will be on hand to answer questions. For dates and locations, visit the DOE’s Gifted & Talented Events page or see our calendar.

(Updated with new due date to submit a Request for Testing form, Nov. 5, 2015)