12:02 p.m. | Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the percentages the two tests will account for when evaluating an applicant to a gifted and talented school. The nonverbal component - the Naglieri test - is weighted at approximately two thirds of the total score and the verbal component - the Otis-Lennon test- is weighted at approximately one third. Corrected story below.
One of the two exams the city uses to test children for its gifted and talented programs will change this year, as the Department of Education attempts to create more opportunities for children of different cultures.
The city will stop using the Bracken School Readiness Assessment, which asks four-year olds to distinguish upper and lower-case letters along with patterns and shapes. This test will be replaced with the Naglieri Non Verbal Ability Test.
Data has shown that children from higher income families are more likely than poor children to get into gifted and talented programs. Educators point to the fact that they are more likely to be read to at an early age. They also may have been prepped for the test. The new diagnostic is an attempt to level the playing field.
"We think this is going to create opportunities for kids who speak other languages or haven't had as much preparation to display their strengths," said Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky.
Suransky said he believes it will be harder for parents to prepare their children for the Naglieri test than for the Bracken because the Naglieri test relies more on conceptual and spacial skills which aren't taught in formal settings as opposed to upper and lower-case letters, a subject often taught in pre-kindergarten classes.
The city will continue to use the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test, to assess verbal skills.
Children who score in the top 90th percentile of the two exams are eligible for gifted and talented programs in their local districts. Those who score at or above the 97th percentile are eligible for seats in the most selective citywide programs.
Admissions to gifted and talented programs have been rising. But they've also gotten more competitive.
This year, about 5000 pre-schoolers qualified for kindergarten seats which is an increase of 22 percent over last year. Of these, six students from District 7 in the South Bronx qualified for gifted and talented kindergarten seats, compared to more than 500 in District 2, which covers Lower Manhattan and the Upper East Side.