2008-04-11 / School News

Chancellor: Change 'G And T' Admission Requirements

Chancellor Joel I. Klein has proposed revising the new citywide standard for admission to gifted and talented programs to accommodate the overwhelming increase in the number of students testing for admission.

The revision would afford more students the opportunity to enroll in gifted programs while preserving the increased rigor and equity created by the new citywide admissions standards adopted in November. Students applying to the entry grades of these programs- kindergarten or first grade, depending on the school district- would now qualify for admission if they scored at or above the 90th percentile on the comprehensive assessments administered earlier this school year. Rising first grade students in districts with kindergarten as the entry grade are also guaranteed seats if they scored at or above the 90th percentile. Students applying for admission in second and third grades will be ranked by test score. Given the small number of seats that may open up in existing programs, it is anticipated that seats will be taken by students scoring above the 90th percentile. The Department of Education's original plan, which was approved by the Panel for Educational Policy in November, required students to score at or above the 95th percentile.

The number of students applying to the gifted and talented entry grades more than doubled this year, reflecting the Department of Education's commitment to expand access to these programs. More than 16,000 children applied for admission to the entry grade of a gifted program, an increase of more than 10,000 applicants since last year. Overall, more than 50,000 students in kindergarten through the third grade applied for gifted programs, compared to 13,000 last year. The number of test-takers increased in every school district, a result of the DOE's extensive outreach to families and changes to the testing process this year that allowed public school students to take the required assessments at their schools rather than at central testing locations. While the proposed citywide standard is lower than the citywide standard approved in November, it is still more rigorous than it has traditionally been. Last year, to fill existing gifted programs, 42% of offers went to students who scored below the 80th percentile.

"We've created new opportunities for more than 10,000 children this year by dramatically increasing the number of students testing for entry into gifted and talented programs. All students scoring at the 90th percentile or above at the entry grades will be guaranteed a seat," Chancellor Klein said. "We believe students who meet this rigorous standard will be able to thrive in a self-contained gifted class. Because this is the first year we have set a citywide standard for gifted programs, we will closely monitor students' progress as we decide whether to adjust the standard next year."

The proposed change will give nearly twice as many students the opportunity to participate in gifted and talented programs as would have qualified under the originally approved citywide standard. This means the department will offer admission to nearly the same number of children who were admitted to the gifted entry grades last year. About 2,400 students are currently enrolled in the entry grades and more than 2,300 students are expected to receive offers into the entry grades for the 2008-09 school year.

The Chancellor has also proposed revising the new policy to allow for gifted and talented programs in every district where at least eight students qualify, maximizing access for families. The original plan required 10 eligible students per district to qualify for a program. The Panel will also vote on this change at tomorrow's meeting.

Parents will receive the results of the gifted assessments by mail later this month. If a child scored at or above the 90th percentile, the family will also receive an application and instructions to rank available programs according to their preference. Applications must be postmarked by May 9. In order to be guaranteed a seat in one of the district programs, families must rank their preferences for all the programs in their districts. If a child scored at or above the 97th percentile, the family can also apply to one of the three citywide programs. Families that live in districts without sufficient numbers of qualified students will be asked to rank programs in nearby districts. The DOE will match students to programs based on their test scores, their preferences, and seat availability. If students meet the eligibility criteria, they will receive preference at the gifted program that their siblings attend. Families will receive their children's placement information in early June.

Final locations for 2008-09 gifted programs will depend on the complete test results, the demand for particular programs among eligible students, and feedback from principals, Community Education Councils, and parent leaders.

All students will be able to complete gifted and talented programs in which they are currently enrolled, even if their programs do not accept new students into the entry grade for the 2008-09 school year.

This year's improvements to the gifted and talented admissions process build on progress in recent years that has brought more consistency and quality to programs for gifted and talented students. In 2004, DOE announced an expansion of gifted and talented programs citywide, with a focus on greater rigor and equity. Last year, admission to K-3 programs was determined for the first time by the results of two citywide assessments.

This year, admission to all K-3 selfcontained gifted and talented programs is based on the results of a twopart assessment that measures a wide range of intellectual abilities. Like last year, the assessment includes the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT), which uses verbal and nonverbal items to measure verbal, quantitative, and spatial reasoning skills related to scholastic achievement. Students also took the Bracken School Readiness Assessment (BSRA), which assesses children's academic readiness by evaluating their understanding of fundamental concepts of colors, letters, numbers, sizes, comparisons, and shapes. Students whose parents submitted a "request for testing" form took both parts of the assessment in January.

The DOE intends to continue expanding access to these programs in the future. To that end- and to ensure that all students are prepared for Kindergarten and first grade, whether they attend gifted programs or not- the DOE is expanding pre-Kindergarten programs, providing more targeted instructional support to community based organizations that provide pre-K services, and identifying best practices in early childhood education. This work supplements what private partners and other City agencies are doing to support and prepare the City's youngest children for Kindergarten and first grade.

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