Monday, August 4

Follow-Up on DOE: G+T


Last week, Insideschools spoke with Anna Commitante (head of DOE G+T), Elizabeth Sciabarra (OSEPO head) and Marty Barr (OSEPO's elementary-schools head) about gifted and talented programs, enrollment, and admissions policies. Here are highlights from our conversation; a longer article in the next alert will answer some new questions, too.

Centralized admissions will still be the mode for grade-school gifted and talented programs in 2009-2010. The two exams currently used to evaluate youngsters, the OLSAT and the Bracken School Readiness Test, will continue in use; there is no plan whatsoever to add a human, subjective eye to assess the effects of, say, a suddenly tongue-tied, shy, or stubborn four-year-old. The OLSAT carries triple the weight of the Bracken, because the former looks at aptitude and the latter, at actual knowledge (letters, numbers, colors, etc.).

Sibling priority enrollment meant, this year, that applicants with older sibs in the program or in the school building (a subject of significant confusion at PS 9, which also houses the Anderson School) were eligible for citywide g+t classes at lower test scores than kids who don't have sibs in the first-choice school. The three citywide g+t schools, Anderson, NEST+m, and TAG, accepted siblings with scores from the 99th to the 96th percentile. Non-sib applicants were admitted at the 99th percentile at NEST and Anderson, with a few exceptions at TAG.

We asked how many of the newest crop of citywide g+t Kindergarten students were younger siblings vs. non-sibs; DOE rep Andy Jacob said he would get us the numbers, and we hope he will.

The question of opening a new citywide g+t school in an outer borough is under discussion, but has not yet been resolved. (We'll know more in a few weeks, promises Liz Sciabarra.) Ditto, for whether gen-ed Kindergarten applications will be centralized or school-based. Pre-K applications will, however, continue to be centralized again this year -- but the timeframe will be earlier, and communication, everyone promises, will be better, clearer, and more consistent.

As parents learned this year, some districts start g+t programming in Kindergarten, and others in first grade. While there's no citywide mandate to regulate when g+t 'should' start (or, for that matter, an official, citywide g+t curriculum, above and beyond grade standards), DOE planners now recognize that their guarantee to seat every qualified student was understood by many parents to mean, starting in Kindergarten, with new classes created where none existed before.

But new K classes were never part of the plan, said Marty Barr. The decision to hold over scores -- the 'exemptions' parents got letters about -- came about in the wake of parent protest. Most kids who qualify for g+t seats will receive them, but in first grade. (Qualifying students in Districts 7 and 14, however, were offered seats in alternate districts, because no g+t programs were offered within 7 and 14, forcing parents to consider commuting challenges and other daunting logistics.)

"It's a communication issue," said Sciabarra, who cited 'lessons learned' and a desire to "take the angst out" of admissions. "We have to do better at that."

We couldn't agree more.

(Readers seeking nitty-gritty answers to fine-tooth questions, watch for an expanded story in the upcoming alert -- too much here to bog down the blog.)

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

What is there to say about a disorganized, under-serving system finally making a lame statement about needing to do better. There was mass anxiety, disrespected children and families, lost $$-all around and a significant number of kids locked out from appropriate classroom settings. The issue of seats being filled by new residents and first time testers has not been, nor is it likely to be, addressed along w/a host of other failings.

Anonymous said...

To the 3:47pm poster. You are overly dramatic. In general the application process was smooth and painless (yes, there were delays but they were bearable) and the school assignment was fair. It worked out as promised even though the DOE adjusted a few things like the district cut-off. Who was disrespected? And yes, there was never a guarantee that your child will get into a certain school.

Not sure what your beef about the summer testing for new residents is all about.

Anonymous said...

As the parent of a soon-to-be Kindergartner who's G&T score was not high enough to be considered this year, my question is this: When will my kid get another shot, or will she be damned for the rest of her NYC public school academic career based on the very first time she was EVER in a testing situation, at the age of 4? It's all very well to complain about the way things were handled this year -- but I need answers about TOMORROW, because my daughter's FUTURE is at stake.
I don't have a problem with the new residents' testing program. I do have a problem with my kid not being given another shot in the future, and being tracked based on what I consider to be insufficient data.

Anonymous said...

4:26pm - you can request testing for 1st grade if you want to. If your daughter qualifies then and if there are seats open she'll get into a G&T. Btw, your child's future is not at stake just because she didn't qualify for a G&T at *elementary school* level. Don't be so overly dramatic. You should really focus more on middle school selection when time comes around.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the heads' up on the retest in first grade, I appreciate it. However, please do not belittle my concern. Please do not belitle anyone's concern where their child's welfare is at stake. I am not being "overly dramatic." I am lucky enough to have had the resources to find this site. Others are not as lucky (and no, not everyone has access to computers. Yes, they are more available. Not everyone has the time during daytime/evening hours when public libraries are open, the ability to teach themselves computer skills, or even the knowledge that this information is even on the Web.)
However, there won't be seats open if she does re-test. There are not enough spots for all the children of her age group to go to Kindergarten this year in the first place. That is why the NYC DOE had to make kindergarten "optional". I don't forsee this getting any better...
the overcrowding and underfunding of the NYC public schools is world renowned, and as soon as I am able I will be leaving NY. Until then, I will "over-react" on behalf of my daughter, just as I am sure you would on behalf of your child.
In any event, thank you for the information, it is appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I don't really think giving a sibling who scored a 96 an advantage at a citywide is particularly fair. Especially since the DOE initially said siblings would have to qualify with a 97, the same as everyone else, but then would get a seat automatically. Even the fairness of this is questionable, but to lower the bar for siblings is a blatant injustice. My dc scored a 98 but was shut out of citywides. According to research, only children who are two standard deviations beyond the norm (98 and above) truly need an accelearted program, but my dc was shut out while a 96, by accident of birth, got a spot. I think the DOE needs to re-evaluate the whole process for next year, including the sibling policy.

Anonymous said...

'please do not belittle my concern. '

I don't think anyone is belittling your concern. Plenty of children who do not take a gifted test and attend there local "good" public school have great educations and even go on to Brooklyn Tech and all those special HS. Your child has every day and every year to shine. In my District of D15 I think that PS 321, the brooklyn New School and the Children's School, plus that one in Carroll Gardens, I forgot the number, are all better schools then any of the gifted programs in D15. It is not about tracking your child the G & T, to me the G & T is about taking advantage of what opportunities there are. But if in a good zone, or get picked for the lottery for one of those great schools, there is no need for G & T in elementary school. If all schools were great there would be no need.

And if one is really adamant about getting into those lottery schools, there is always 1st, 2nd and 3rd to try when it is easier to get in by lottery in those grades.

Anonymous said...

I am with the 4:26 - my kids were between 1-3 points below the cut-off, they were in the testing setting for the first time ever, and it's sad to see that they won't get a second shot at this, pretty much ever. OTOH, our school has a solid reputation, and no real curriculum, so what G&T is about is to segregate the kids who tested well into one classroom. The most amusing part is that nobody wants to teach G&T in our school - the teachers don't want to deal with pushy and demanding parents. One G&T teacher left, another transferred from a diff. grade and has never taught G&T before, nor has any education, nor experience in working with advanced kids... It's all so shaky that maybe just having your kids in a good elementary school, with involved parent body and solid reputation is far superior to pretending that your child is getting special attention from a G&T teacher and curriculum, where in reality there is none.

Anonymous said...

In response to Anonymous: I have no 'issues' w/new residents being tested or eligible for remaining g&t seats; I'm relieved, as this may keep some currently unfilled classes from closing down. I do have issues w/not taking kids from gen ed classes and integrating them into g&t classes in their schools, while maintaining openings for newer comers. This is common practice in schools w/ctt classes. I can't get up in fluff about your penchant for labeling others , yet 'overly dramatic' would more accurately describe the dragged out, resource wasting process that was this year's DoE G&T process, than my opinions and observations. Your 'bearable delay' is subjective. Shall I label you? No. However, I feel you may have felt differently if you lived in a horrible zone. My child had great results for citywide, so I can say that my opinion isn't coming from personal bitterness; DoE has closed ANOTHER
district g&t in D6-one they had hyped and to which families were committed and excited about. D6 is massive and the DoE didn't wait to see if the newer comers would opt to fill it out. THAT is dramatic; enriched environments should be the right of all kids, failing that, the DoE needs to quit shutting them down in rapid succession. This would never happen in nearby Manhattan districts. I remain disgusted.

Anonymous said...

District 14 does have a g and t program at PS 132. There wasn't an alternative offered. Do you guys know something we don't?

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I'm in District 6 and I am truly saddened about the fact that PS 153 G&T has been eliminated. It's quite clear to me that DOE has no interest whatsoever in ensuring access to quality programs for the kids in place like Washington Heights. Something like 60 kids qualified for G&T in District 6, and they now only have a single program as an option, a program that is located on 212th St, on the uppermost edge of Manhattan. Clearly the DOE is not interested in truly reaching the 35-40 kids who qualified for G&T, in light of where the DOE has chosen to site the program(s) --- far away from the highest concentration of qualifiers.

Anonymous said...

Without trying to put down the efforts of families and educators in D6, where many committed forces are hard at work, I'd like to add to the D6 poster's comment. Schools in D6, taken as a whole, are really not good. This is not the way to improve education for all our kids and the DoE can continue to expect what it delivers- inadequate results.

TrudiRose said...

Reading the comments, it seems like the REAL issue isn't G + T, but the lack of good schools in certain zones period. The poster whose daughter didn't make the cutoff does not sound like she's saying that her daughter is brilliant and NEEDS an accelerated program; rather, she's saying that if she's not in G + T, she's "damned" for her entire public school career. I don't know what zone she's in, but I think what's needed is better SCHOOLS, not putting more kids in G + T.

My daughter is currently going into third grade at P.S. 154 in District 15. When she was in pre-K, her teacher encouraged us to test for G + T, because she was only 4 and already reading at a first grade level, writing her own stories, being very verbal and articulate, etc. But I didn't even bother TESTING her. Why, you ask? Because the G + T program was in a different school, and I didn't want to switch her. P.S. 154 is only a block from my house, my older son was there, and most importantly, my daughter LOVES it there. Although it does not have a G + T program, it's still an excellent school, with small class sizes and lots of art and music and other enrichments. The teachers work with the kids at whatever level they're at (i.e. they give my daughter higher-level books to read, etc.) So my feeling was, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

The problem is that too many kids are in zones without good schools PERIOD, so the parents feel like they HAVE to get into G + T to get any kind of decent education at all. That should not be the purpose of G + T. There should be decent schools for ALL kids, and G + T should be for the TRULY gifted, the exceptional kids who are SO far above the norm that a regular classroom won't challenge them at all.

Anonymous said...

In response to the 7:31pm poster. You can label me what you want. I DO live in a horrible zone and pursued all the options I have in my district. While in the process (and yes, it's up to everybody's personality and situation what "bearable" means) I did come to peace with the fact that if all falls through my child will go to the zoned school. And you know why? Because this is elementary school. Your kid is not going to be ruined by a not-so-stellar school. You as a parent are the steering force and keep your child on track.

The whole G&T thing is just that. Kids test and qualify. No matter how you design the testing there will always be a bunch of loud folks calling it a crock and how unfair this and that is. The line has to be drawn somewhere nevertheless. And I rather deal with standardized tests and hard scores than some fuzzy subjective observation by the schools (onsites) or the preschool teachers (GRS).

Anonymous said...

Look what I found on the Board of Ed website about busing. The 5 mile yellow bus limit for citywide school kids is going to make life hell our little ones who live further away.......

Please Note: Admission to a gifted and talented program or school does not guarantee a student yellow bus transportation. Eligibility for yellow bus transportation for general education students attending gifted and talented schools and programs is based on the same criteria that apply to public school general education students as indicated above. Students attending one of the three citywide gifted and talented schools (PS 334—The Anderson School, NEST + M and TAG School for Young Scholars) are eligible for busing if they live in the same borough (Manhattan) and the route, as measured by bus stops, is no longer than five miles.

Anonymous said...

In response to the 10:25am poster: I'm not sure why my earlier post didn't appear but I will repeat the gist of it.
It is clear we will remain in disagreement, yet for me it isn't as personal as you seem to perceive. I am quite certain zoned, elementary school wouldn't and will not 'ruin' my child. However, we don't dismiss the importance of these years in elementary school; These are hungry, developing minds, bodies and spirits and very developmentally important years. We're not our child's 'steering wheel'; We are parents, guardians and primary educators and don't expect- or wish-that a school would relieve us of these roles. Yes, overly dramatic.
We have opted out of participation in the citywide g&t program and won't be a ps family anywhere. Those facts will not prevent us from actively advocating for improvements in public education and the handling of critical issues by the DoE.
There was a notable lack of fairness in the handling of the citywide & district g&t for several reasons. The lack of transparency makes it hard to address some but others are clear. While I'm not a big believer in the whole g&t program, I do think sibling preference, in cases of citywide placement(at least), should only be honored when the siblings have scores matching or surpassing those of eligible, non-sib candidates and should certainly not apply to siblings enrolled in other programs- in the same building. That is but one of the ragged edges.
The evidence of the olsat/bsra combo criteria for assessing 'giftedness' being a poor gauge is well-substantiated- not anecdotal; It is used mainly due to it's comparative $cost-effectiveness, not it's quality or suitability for that age group. There are no 'hard scores' w/that margin of variable percentage; Those points made big differences for families trying to secure opportunities for their children, which should be available to all-'gifted' or not.
I firmly hope that you will advocate for improvements, whether or not your child was granted a spot in one of the g&t programs.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update Helen. As a parent of a G&T eligible DC in Queens for kindergarten and have been closed out of any programs, I'm skeptical on the promise of holding the scores from previous testing. Will there REALLY be enough seats in the G&T class in 1st grade for all those who previously qualified in pre-k? Is my dc GUARANTEED a seat in 1st grade? There will probably be more students eligible from the group of new testers in kindergarten this year. Is DOE hoping for attrition and therefore will be able to accommodate ALL of us? Also, will the DOE continue to keep the eligibility to 90% (as they lowered it this year) or will they raise it back to 95%? If they raise it, what happens to the held scores of those who scored at hte 90-94% range? With the looming budget cuts, I worry about DOE's "promises" of holding the scores. Will it mean anything to my dc next spring? If we could get some answers to this and possibility get in writing that we are guaranteed a seat, the DOE letter stating that they are holding our scores means nothing. If your child is truly gifted, he/she should test gifted again.

Anonymous said...

To the 11:18pm poster. I guess we have to agree to disagree. The siblings preference is a quality of life policy that I totally agree with. I don't think admission to a G&T is supposed to be a competition. Just because your child scored higher than mine but both of them made the cut-off both children are equally qualified. Sure, it makes admission for first born harder but all children that made the cut-off were promised a G&T seat. Some districts don't have G&T for K but that the DOE will honor the scores for 1st grade admission.

The DOE cannot and will never be able to cater towards every single individual. They made a promise (every qualifying child will get a seat) and they stuck to it. Sure, it is most likely not the school YOU prefer but that does not matter.

Using the BRSA/OLSAT combo is debatable but it did make the G&T program more accessible (i.e. many more kids took the test this year but due to the strict cut-offs less minorities qualified, unfortunately) and you have to consider the costs of such testing. There is a correlation between "better" tests like the SB or the Wechsler and the OLSAT and that, I think, is "good enough".

Anonymous said...

To poster 10:32

It would be as fair as you believe, had the DoE put ALL 97%+s in a pool-That isn't how it went. In the case of Anderson, they took(considered) 99's only. That was counter to the promised procedure...and my kid was a 99.

Anonymous said...

To 7:00 pm: The DOE was careful not to make any promises about the methodology (assuming there was one) they used to allocate the citywide seats. Their statements were purposefully vague. I don't expect any clarification either.

Anonymous said...

To 7:00pm poster: the DOE said from the beginning it would fill the spots according to percentile. How exactly they assigned the seats within percentile is not known but the rumors are that it was random. I would like to see that the DOE puts all 97+ kids into a hat and drew from that one randomly to fill the city-wide schools. Anyway, unfortunately all city-wide seats were assigned within the 99th percentile and not even all 99er kids got a city-wide spot.

Anonymous said...

It is untrue that all citywide spots were filled w/99s and impossible to confirm that they were randomly selected.

Anonymous said...

Helen, thank you for the updates. Can you also check on the rumor that if you did not rank ALL of your choices, your child's application was put to the bottom of the lottery pile? (ie. a parent that ranked all schools (district/citywide) with a 99 had a much better chance of getting their first choice than a parent that list only the citywides and a few district options)

helen said...

Glad this string is still lively, thanks to all for writing in.

To 11:18p on Aug 5, who says the family has opted out of g+t and "won't be a ps family anywhere," where will you send your child/ren to school? Are you opting out of the city (other publics elsewhere) or for private school? For 3:40am in Queens, our understanding is that your child is guaranteed that grade 1 seat, based on the previous score. We don't know if the 90% will persist this year, but I'll ask. And yes, we all share healthy skepticsm about DOE promises... To the 8/7 poster about the bottom-of-the-pile rumor, I'll ask, although this is the first I've heard. Anyone else out there hear anything similar?

Anonymous said...

To 7:41 AM on Aug 7:
That rumor cant be true. We were a 99, and only ranked 2 schools, and got our first choice.

Anonymous said...

Hello Helen;
Aug 5 at 11:18pm here. Our child's 99 resulted in no citywide seat, yet that was for 1st grade. We were not surprised, as we had been expecting that outcome.
I think the majority of posters on this thread may be parents of entering K children. We only listed one CityWide and the volume of siblings seated left no spots.
We're very happy that our child was offered a seat at a wonderful progressive, which we've preferred over Citywide g&t all along and are happy to have our family be part of that community. Our involvement there, will not preclude our attention, advocacy and any possible involvement, in working toward goals of improvement and enrichment in NYC public schools.
Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hi Again Helen,
I forgot to mention that we were not considering-nor did we select- the district option.

Anonymous said...

Helen,

This is not necessarily for posting. Last week you said that you were going to have more details about the G&T program in an upcoming alert. Where can I find these alerts? Are they emails that I need to sign up for? Or are they in the "What's new" section on the home page?

Thanks

Ted said...

You say, "a finite number of seats, especially in the three citywide schools, meant that siblings filled a high percentage of the available slots." But in the same paragraph you say you have no actual numbers. That you are waiting on DOE to provide them. How can you make the "high percentage" claim if you have no numbers?

Anonymous said...

Helen,

A related question: my district starts G&T in 1st grade. My child received a 93%. I am considering retesting her for next year, in case the DOE raises the cutoff to 95%.

My question is: will they toss out the old score, or take the higher score? I realize we will be taking a risk by retesting (more questions, group setting etc.) Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Are they going to keep the sibling preference for next year, and with the same cutoff scores?

Anonymous said...

The entire G & T test was a good attempt in centralizing the process, however, the removal of existing programs in various schools were unfair, ESPECIALLY in D22. Parents were not asked to rank school choices in the G & T application they were only asked to fill out an application to take the test and in a specific language. The arbitrary removal of existing G & T programs in schools is UNFAIR. The DOE's response that there were not enough demand for a school is nonsense.

In your article, you stated that there were some schools that were not slated to have the G & T program has been reinstated? Can you post a new list?

Anonymous said...

To 9:46am: what is your source of information? I am very sure that many programs had to close because not enough children qualified. Is it fair? From an individual point of view it is not but considering the bigger picture there is no way to justify programs with only a handful children.

helen said...

Am working on getting these new questions organized and answered by the DOE; in the interim, some thoughts on the comments that have been posted. In terms of re-testing, we know the DOE will permit it, but don't know whether they'll take the highest score or go with the most recent score (will find out). On the sib vs non-sib g+t question, it's clear that sibs with relatively lower scores were accepted, before higher-scoring non-sibs were made offers. Two caveats: All of these kids are blisteringly bright and deserve seats -- as do the nearly 800 kids who scored at 97+ who didn't get in. On District 22, DOE says that test scores were too weak to keep the programs open -- they say that more than half of kids already enrolled in D 22 g+t's in 2007 scored about 80%ile, which is well below the 90% cut. And as to that number, we believe that's the cut-mark that's planned for next year, but will confirm with the powers that be and let everyone know. Thanks again for the close reading and good questions; we appreciate your participation and support.

Anonymous said...

First we were told that our child didn't get a seat in a City-wide G&T (although her score was in the 97th to 99th range). So we made other plans. Now, we get a letter offering her a seat at TAG (I think it was our third choice as there is no K G&T in our District). What gives? What's going on at TAG - we didn't have time to tour it. Help!?