Thursday, May 19, 2011

New York City, Gifted Classes and Seats

We've made the hard decision recently to leave New York City. We're actually moving out to the Philadelphia suburbs this summer, since my husband has been working in that general region and I can (in theory) work anywhere. The idea is to have more space for our growing family and hopefully let my husband have a bit of a calmer life. So I've been watching with a bit of detachment as many parents I know have had their 4- and 5-year olds take New York City's tests for its gifted programs and over the past few weeks have gotten the results back. (If we'd stayed, Jasper would have been tested next year).

This is a huge city, and thanks to decent outreach, many thousands of children sit for the test. I think it's great that NYC tries to test so many children, and I also think it's great that New York City starts gifted education in kindergarten. In many districts, the idea is that they'll all "even out by third grade" when, allegedly, any benefit gained via hothouse parenting or any gaps created by a less-enriching home environment will have been erased. So that's when you start. But this is patently ridiculous. Any reader of this blog who lives with a highly gifted child knows that their quirks, gifts and struggles don't all come out in the wash as they get older.

The issue is that New York City has not actually created enough seats to accommodate students who meet its definition of gifted. To qualify for the city-wide gifted programs, a child needs to score in the 97th percentile nationally on the qualifying tests. This year, 1,788 children did so. There are only 250 seats in the city-wide programs (there are others in neighborhood schools...but maybe not your neighborhood school). So it is still going to be a scramble.

One can argue about where, exactly, on national standardized tests the cut-off should be set. But it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to create a program that can't accommodate all the children who qualify. When you create fewer slots, gifted education starts to be a reward as opposed to an educational intervention for children who need it. In theory, gifted education shouldn't cost more than any other class, as long as you figure a way to keep class size constant (which you could do by combining grades or in NYC where schools may be close together, combining programs at one of the schools). So it's unclear why the situation is what it is. But hopefully, as this massive school system starts to change in other ways, the powers that be will think about this issue as well.


gasstationwithoutpumps said...

But the powers that be do think of it as a reward, and deliberately manipulate its rarity to keep it a desirable "prize". If it were available to everyone who needed it, no New Yorker would want it. If it were completely unavailable, no one would bother chasing it. By manipulating the rarity to make "gifted education" seem precious but possibly attainable, they can maintain the frenzy, which gets them some good press.

Bostonian said...

If there are not enough seats to accomodate the top 3% on the test, why not change the threshold to 99th percentile until the number of seats can be expanded?

Yiotula said...

Curious what you think about split classes. We are moving to FL and the school we chose has a 1/2 gifted split. They go to their regular class for some subjects but, math and reading with the gifted teacher. Comments I've heard are "that's how they are trying to sell that classroom" and "that's great for the 1st graders but, they are going to be bored in 2nd" I know every situation is different but, the principal says that the teacher is the best she's worked with and I feel like they are trying harder than any other school in the area to give these kids what they need. Thoughts?

joano4boys said...

Wouldnt the school in FL continue this in subsequent grades? If so there's no reason to expect them to be bored the next year. I personally think that kind of arrangement can be both financially manageable and beneficial to the child.

Charlotte Pritchard said...

I am facing the same problem in Columbus Indiana, my daughter meets the gifted definition, but there are not enough seats.