View Full Version : All NYC Drama of the NYC “Gifted” Program

05-07-2011, 12:15 PM
From the Brooklyn Rail (http://www.brooklynrail.org/2011/05/local/report-card-drama-of-the-gifted-program) by Liza Featherstone:
Parents all over Brooklyn are now learning how their preschoolers performed on entrance tests for the city’s Gifted & Talented program. (Yes, we do test children who are too young to tie their own shoes.) The children’s scores will determine whether they are eligible to apply for a range of advanced tracks and special schools throughout the city. You may already be getting the idea that this is not a smart way to deal with children’s widely varied learning styles. The system creates immense frustration for parents, whether or not their kids qualify.

Most of the children tested—despite ample gifts and talents—won’t qualify for the program. Of those who qualify, many will not get a spot; with so many more affluent parents in the system than ever before, it is now common practice to have children coached for the test, with the result that too many children now receive qualifying scores, as the NewYorkTimes reported last year, and there is not enough room for all of them. Those who do get spots often find that transportation is not provided by the city.

But the problems with the Gifted & Talented program run much deeper than these glitches.

Unlike the general public-school population—which is 73.4 percent black and Hispanic—kids who pass the G&T test are overwhelmingly white. And the kids passing the G&T test are affluent. In 2008, CUNY demographer extraordinaire Andrew Beveridge reported in his GothamGazette column that 15.2 percent of kids in Manhattan’s District 2 (Midtown, as well as parts of Upper and Lower Manhattan) and 22.3 percent in District 3 (the Upper West Side) qualified for the program, compared to under 5 percent in most of the city’s other districts.

So the effect of the G&T program is to redistribute city resources to the well off, and worsen the problem of racial segregation. Why would anyone participate in this unfair and regressive system? Partly because some children are in urgent need of academic challenges, and partly because many parents—whether or not they believe their kids are exceptional—figure they’ll try anything to get a better education for their children.

But the Department of Education (DOE) seems adamantly opposed to another option for fast learners: grade-skipping. Research shows that— although, as with so many matters of education policy, everyone thinks he knows otherwise and has an anecdotal story to prove his point—grade skipping works well for most kids.

Compared to “gifted” programs, grade skipping is (obviously) cost-effective for school systems. More importantly in the long run, it’s also more democratic: Fast-learning kids can do it even if they lack the extensive family resources—for test prep, transportation—that admission to a gifted program can require.

When I called the DOE to inquire about how my son—who is only one day too young for first grade and already reads—might skip kindergarten, the official I spoke with—let’s call her Ms. Timeserver—had a winning suggestion for me along these lines: I should keep my son out of school altogether this year, and send him to first grade next year. Presumably she reasoned that if he stayed out of school, he would learn nothing, and would then slow down to his appropriate grade level. In Ms. Timeserver’s world, the existence of a bright kid was a problem, and her solution was to let him stagnate for a year so that he wouldn’t have these troublesome abilities. She did not view my kid as a social resource—whose intelligence might, if cultivated, have some value to the world.

read more>> (http://www.brooklynrail.org/2011/05/local/report-card-drama-of-the-gifted-program)