Looking a Gifted Horse in the Mouth
Brooklyn mom Natalie Barratt had a bad feeling when her four-year-old son Luke Serrano emerged from his February testing session for admittance to the city schools' gifted and talented programs. "The teacher who had administered the test wasn't clear if he'd finished the test," she recalls.After weeks of phone calls with the Department of Education, she had Luke retested. His score this time: an 89, one point too low for acceptance into a G&T kindergarten class. For want of a single correct answer, Luke was officially non-gifted.In past years, this would have been just one setback in the tangled swirl of bureaucracy and arm-twisting that is commonplace in navigating the city's Department of Education. This year, however, is different. Last fall, the city announced that in place of the patchwork that had been G&T admissions—where some districts offered gifted classrooms at all their schools and others at none, and each school decided on which kids to accept by its own selection process—beginning in 2008 there would be only one way into city-approved G&T classes: by scoring high enough on standardized tests. The goal, says Department of Education spokesperson Andy Jacob, was to "set a single, rigorous standard" that would level the playing field among all parents—and stop the perception of G&T as a haven for wealthier, whiter kids.
But as schools prepare to welcome the first classes of the new G&T regime this fall, it hasn't quite worked out that way. Some parents are angry at what they see as inequities in the tests themselves; others, that contrary to Department of Education promises, not every kindergartner with a high enough test score has been guaranteed a gifted classroom. (As in past years, most of the Bronx and Queens G&T classes will begin in first grade, not kindergarten.)
Meanwhile, The New York Times revealed that fewer children from poor districts were getting into gifted programs than under the old, un-level playing field...