Beth Fertig is the contributing editor for education, covering the New York City public school system for WNYC on air and online at SchoolBook.org. She has covered education in the city for more than 15 ...
Judge Allows G&T Testing Suit to Proceed
Saturday, May 18, 2013 - 08:36 AM
A lawsuit over the city's gifted and talented testing system can proceed, following a court hearing Friday.
The suit was brought by four parents who claim New York City used a faulty methodology for determining which children are eligible. The families also claimed the city gives an unfair advantage to siblings of children currently in the gifted and talented programs.
They were hoping to immediately block the city from using its existing criteria in determining which children get seats in the highly competitive programs this fall, but instead State Supreme Court Justice Alice Schlesinger ordered a hearing for June 7.
Applications for gifted and talented programs were due on May 17.
City attorney Carolyn Kruk issued the following statement:
"We appreciate the opportunity to present our arguments and are pleased that the Court declined to issue a temporary restraining order. As a result, the Department of Education can continue its work in the admissions process and begin matching students to programs as planned.
"DOE has a mathematically sound and even-handed system for assessing gifted and talented students, and we will continue to assert that the claims raised lack merit."
The families who brought the lawsuit include Alexey Kuptsov, an adjunct professor of mathematics at New York University who also works at JP Morgan. His four-year-old daughter got a perfect score on each of the two exams used to determine eligibility. But all children who score in the 99th percentile must compete in lotteries for a few hundred seats in the five most sought after citywide gifted and talented programs.
Kuptsov said he figured something was wrong when he saw that 1480 incoming kindergarten students wound up in the 99th percentile.
"You might expect, for example, New York City children are brighter than their peers and instead of 1 percent in the 99th percentile you would get 2 percent or 3 percent, but here you had 11 percent."
The D.O.E. based the 99th percentile on national samples of children who took two different exams; Kuptsov said there was no legitimate sample to draw from because this is the first year the city has relied on these two exams, so there are no national samples of children who have taken both exams in a single sitting.
The parents also claim the city misled them by initially saying it would determine eligibility based on actual scores instead of percentiles, but then changed its mind. The city argued that this percentile system - which it used in previous years - made more sense because there would be so little difference between the scores of young children.
In addition, the families argue that it's unfair for the city to give priority to siblings of children who are already in G&T.;
"It's quite unfair to someone who has a single child," said Attorney Stewart Karlin. He argued that was a denial of equal protection, and similar to an Ivy league college giving priority to legacy students.
The G&T; tests also came under scrutiny this year when the testing company, Pearson, acknowledged mistakes in scoring them and more students became eligible for the highly competitive seats.