Ahh, it’s that time of year again. The pumpkins are out, and sunscreen and sandals have given way to light jackets and boots. There’s no denying it: gifted and talented testing is upon us.

Two years ago, I documented my elder son’s attempt to penetrate the exciting, if somewhat notorious world of gifted and talented testing in New York City. Several Pearson debacles and rejection letters later, our son ended up happy and thriving at a wonderful neighborhood school. And although the G&T testing experience taught me a great deal and yielded a few laughs, I secretly vowed then that unless my youngest son was clearly a savant—say, reciting Chaucer and analyzing Bayesian statistics—I’d spare him the hours seated with strangers asking him weird questions.

My husband disagrees. In his opinion, “Delta Force”—my sweet little powerhouse of a 4-year-old—gets the shaft in everything. He wears his brother's old shoes and gets less attention, so how dare we deny him this opportunity. "And besides," he explained, "I want to know how smart he is." 

Just like last time, I am torn on the “genius” question and whether labeling a 4-year-old does more harm or good. I’m troubled by the racial and economic disparities still rampant in G&T, and of course I have my personal doubts. Delta Force has a sharp and practical mind, but is he gifted? Sure, he can count to 300 (with a bit of help) and has got quite a knack for tangrams, but the other night when I tried to embark on a deep conversation about the Yom Kippur holiday, he just nodded thoughtfully and said, “Mommy? Sometimes I like to suck on my feet.”

So it remains to be seen whether our family joins the thousands of others vying for spots at the city’s coveted gifted and talented programs this year. But like any fiercely loving mother I will remain true to my conviction that Delta Force is a genius in his own way, and no test result will change my mind.

My only piece of advice to others tackling the G&T is don’t stress too much, and remember that genius comes in many shapes and sizes. What you want from a school is the right fit for your child, and if G&T offers you more choices, go for it and don’t look back.

Here is what you need to know this year:

  1. Families interested in kindergarten through 3rd-grade G&T placements for 2015 may submit a Request for Testing (RFT) form between Oct. 8 and Nov. 7, 2014. Forms can be submitted online, or in person at your child’s current public school or at an enrollment office

  2. The sooner you register the better your chances are for getting a desirable date, time and location. (If your child is also applying to Hunter College Elementary School, which has a separate application, remember to take Hunter's second round evaluation dates into consideration when selecting your DOE test date.) Tests will be administered on weekends at selected school sites between Jan. 8 and Feb. 6, 2015.

  3. The Department of Education uses two assessments to determine G&T eligibility : The Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT-2) and the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT-8). The NNAT-2 gauges a child’s ability to solve problems and understanding of relationships through pattern completion, analogies, serial reasoning and spatial visualization. The OLSAT-8 measures abstract thinking and reasoning skills. The nonverbal and verbal scores are weighted equally at 50 percent in the calculation of a student’s overall percentile rank.

  4. Alternate language assessments are available in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Urdu. Switching back and forth between languages during the test is not allowed. The DOE asks parents to carefully consider which language their child is most comfortable using.

  5. Scores in the 90th percentile or above qualify your child for a district G&T program, although seats are not guaranteed. Please note that children are compared to others whose birthdays are within three months of theirs. If your child is eligible, you will receive an application in early April due back by April 23, 2015.

  6. Scores in the 97th percentile or above qualify your child for a citywide program. Truthfully, your child will need to score in 99th percentile to be offered a citywide slot (or sometimes even a highly desirable district placement), and even then it’s no sure thing. Even with a dip in qualifying students last year, there were still three times as many top-scorers as there were seats available.

For more information check out the G&T Handbook online and attend one of five evening information sessions (one in each borough), beginning Oct. 14 in Manhattan.

Want to see which schools offer programs this year? See the list (PDF). Note: it changes from year to year based on space and demand for a program.

To see how children in each district fared on the 2014 assessments, the DOE provides a link here.

Good luck!