Friday, June 01, 2012
NYC's gifted programs...and mine
I lived in New York City for 9 years, and my oldest two children were born there. We'd started thinking about the whole school question before we left -- though we didn't get very far down that road before moving to Pennsylvania instead. Anyway, this past week, the NYC school system mailed out its letters informing parents whether their K-3 child landed a spot in one of the city's gifted programs. Unlike many school systems, NYC has quite an elaborate network of GT classrooms. On the other hand, getting in one is not all that straightforward. A child is tested and is labeled gifted if she scores above the 90th percentile. But there aren't actually enough seats in programs for the students who receive that label. Some 13,508 students got scores high enough to qualify. Of those, 7,562 applied for spots (the others presumably chose private schools or found other non-GT programs they preferred -- maybe a neighborhood school or a language immersion program). Of these, 5,486 received offers. The other confusing part is that there are two tiers for the program. Scoring above the 90th percentile qualifies you for "regular" gifted programs, but scoring above the 97th percentile qualifies you for "citywide" gifted programs. These, at schools like Hunter, are the most popular. But because more kids score above the 97th percentile than there are seats, in effect, you have to score at the 99th percentile. Reading about all this has me pondering what we're doing with my 5-year-old next year. We moved to a school district outside Philadelphia that is known for being good. Certainly the offerings of contests and courses dwarf anything I experienced at the local schools in Indiana I attended for a few years. His elementary school is about a mile from our house. To enroll him, all I had to do is show up at the district office with his immunization record and birth certificate. I'm really quite grateful to have skipped all the stress of figuring out if he'd have a spot in a certain program, applying to private schools, and all that. I have no idea if my son is officially gifted or not. We'll likely have him tested next year. But on some level, I'm not sure it much matters yet. Kindergarten is half day here. So he'll be in school for a grand total of 2 hours and 45 minutes per day. If it's all playing on the playground, we'd deal, because my son winds up doing a lot of academic work at home. He writes stories, reads books and informs us of various things he's learning about dinosaurs and planets. We sometimes do our bedtime math problems. Or we stumble into it. He's become obsessed with this guide book on San Diego (we might visit in August). He's informed me multiple times that it's 77 degrees in August (per the average high in the table). But he was trying to figure out, does that mean it's 77 degrees on August 1? or 10? or 20? So we started discussing the concept of averages (which I'm having a hard time explaining, by the way). Anyway, I feel like next year will be about easing into school, seeing how it goes. I'm glad to have avoided the high stakes system of NYC, even though I'm glad NYC even has a system. What are your school plans for next year?