Determining Who's "Gifted and Talented"

Monday, August 16, 2010

Graduating student Justin Hudson gave the commencement speech at Hunter College High School's recent graduation ceremony, and spoke about the lack of diversity at the school, which he believes stems from the admissions process for the gifted and talented program.  Then, Dr. Jean Gubbins, associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Connecticut, and New York Times reporter Elissa Gootman  talk about how eligibility for the city's gifted and talented program and for Hunter High School is determined.


Elissa Gootman, Dr. Jean Gubbins and Justin Hudson

Comments [39]

mom from queens

Re dumbing down the admissions test.
I don't think it is a matter of making the test easier but rather less culturally biased. The test if full of images like tennis rackets or ties that are not as well known to working class families. My daughter had no idea what a tie was because her father does not wear one and very few of the men in our neighborhood are going to work in suits. There is also use of language such as neither nor - Really? Four year olds are walking around using neither/nor? I may use it in writing but rarely in verbalising an idea. What are we speaking Kings English?

Nov. 04 2010 10:49 AM
Claire from New York

I'm a 2010 Hunter grad, and while I agree that there is an issue across the board with educational inequality, the problem i took with Justin's speech was that it addressed the symptoms, not the problem. The fact that schools like Hunter are growing less diverse is just one symptom of our educational crisis. As education in this country declines, of course the parents who can't pay for private school or tutoring and who don't have the education themselves to supplement a broken system are going to have disadvantaged kids. I got into Hunter because I grew up in a family that valued education and that had been well educated for generations. But if your grandparents were systematically denied the right to a good education as little as fifty years ago, then the likelihood is your parents weren't read to growing up and therefore suffered, and therefore the same will happen to's a vicious circle. If our local public schools were better, then maybe it wouldn't matter as much to your future that your parents didn't have the same educational opportunities as other kids' parents, that they don't know when to push and prod. But because public education is declining, and the only hope of a good education is to live in a district with a good school, get into a magnet school like Hunter, or pay or get a scholarship for private school, the socio-economic inequalities are magnified.

The high schools can't be counted on to solve the problem. Hunter can't worsen its expectations; that's not going to fix anything. This has to be fixed in elementary school--and even before that. Kids who are read to from the age of six months have a much better chance in the next 18 years of education than those who weren't. We need outreach at the earliest ages, so that by the time they are in sixth grade these kids can pass the Hunter test at the exact same difficulty it is now. We need to recognize that immigration, segregation, all these things that lead to socio-economic inequality--they are what's causing the disparity in the statistics, and we need to repair those problems and eliminate the unbalance, so that all kids are born on an equal footing, so that all kids get an equally good education instead of an equally medicre one.

Aug. 17 2010 12:17 AM

Gifted and Talented is far from PC. My God! Is your child in the program? No he is in the ungifted and untalented group. If they only had a special program for Bill Gates, he could have been a success today. What a bunch of nonsense.

Aug. 16 2010 09:12 PM
DAT from Nathan Straus Projects

Could it be that there are just some races,
ethnic groups, that are just smarter than others?

It can be as simple as that.

Some groups consistently score higher
on SAT, I.Q. Test and other groups consistently
score lower than other groups.

Why dumb down the admissions test
to accommodate those that can't cut
the mustard?

Why have a school for Gifted & Talented
Kids if you're not going to have G&T in it?

Aug. 16 2010 02:28 PM
Omutunde from Bed Stuy

Reminds me of the NY fireman scandal.

Let's dumb down the test or the admission requirements so so black and Hispanic people can get accepted, too.

This patronizing silliness must stop.
As an African, I personally suffer when people assume I'm only where I am due to Affirmative Action.

This has really go to stop. You can't take any real of life, determine numerically if some group is under-represented and then cry "RACISM!"

What about anti-White racism in the NBA???
What about racism in the music industry against white rappers?? (Oh, I forgot, that's still white racism cause it's "cultural colonialism", lol)

seriously, white guilt & black supremacy are a very caustic combination and I came to this country cause it's a meritocracy, not a place with an unfair field. We need to make sure those American values are upheld vs. what the professional left is trying to arrogantly impose on the rest on us...

Aug. 16 2010 01:03 PM
Laurie from The Upper West Side

Why do some people put "gifted and talented" in quote marks as though intellectual giftedness is not real or measurable?

We accept that some adults are really smart and some are not, yet we become uncomfortable when the discussion turns to children. We want to believe that children come into the the world as a blank slate and that given access to a good education every child can soar.

Unfortunately, kids with high IQs often do not soar in traditional classrooms where he or she may be the only really smart kid in the room and the teacher teaches to the middle. Really smart kids in mainstream programs become at-risk kids with a surprisingly high drop-out rate.

Some children are, in fact, intellectually gifted, and they deserve a fair and appropriate education just like all the other kids.

Aug. 16 2010 12:53 PM
Brian from Hoboken

"All children are gifted"?
Really? The teenager working in McDonalds is as gifted or naturally intelligent as the teenager matriculating at an elite college? This is PC BS. Not everyone is created equally. The public school systems in this country spends massive amounts of money on remedial education for low achieving students or those with learning disabilities. The cost to administer programs and schools for the truly elite gifted children is miniscule in comparison. There was a great cover story a year or so ago in Time that reported on the lack of resources available for progrms to nurture these children. These are the kids who could cure cancer etc. We must stop lowering the bar in the name of not hurting feelings. It hurts us all.

Aug. 16 2010 12:37 PM
carolita from ny, ny

The more I listened to this show, the more I appreciate that the level of schooling in public schools overall has gotten so bad that there are more and more children who are capable and in need of a higher level of teaching and learning. I think it's the regular schools that need improving. I recall that the education even in Advanced Placement courses was not all that hard, and thinking that my little brothers, if they'd only done better in the 5th grade, could have been in the so-called SP (Special Progress) and, later, AP classes just like me, benefitting from the better teachers and ultimately a better education.

Aug. 16 2010 12:26 PM
john from office

There should be a rap, or dance or flow exam. Things that really matter in business

Aug. 16 2010 12:18 PM
Grace Park from Queens

Every school that determines admission based solely on a test has this problem with a lack of racial diversity. How to solve this problem? There have been examples (e.g. City College; British elite public schools) where changing the admissions process have resulted in greater racial diversity at the loss of high achievement (as evidenced by more remediation; lower outgoing test scores; less elite institution matriculation). However it doesn't make sense to have a society where the one institution, which is supposed to help correct disparities of opportunity--namely public schools, instead normalize racial and economic inequality. Admission officers, administrators, and city officials need to rise to this challenge of creating high standards AND (racially and socio-economically) diverse student populations. If elite colleges like Harvard and Yale can pour money into their admissions teams to "curate" a diverse and high-achieving student body, perhaps a functioning democracy should fund NYC public schools to do the same.

Aug. 16 2010 12:15 PM

Instead of complaining about Hunter being difficult to get into, how about asking for the rest of the city's "regular" schools to raise their standards?

Why doesn't the city implement the Hunter/Stuyvesant/Bronx Sci/Brooklyn Tech curriculum for all schools across the city? Same standards across the board---that'll be fair right?

Aug. 16 2010 12:14 PM
Jonathan Sicherman from Warwick, New York

Clearly, the Hunter admissions process should include something beyond a single test, but the text of Justin's speech suggests that he doesn't understand the complexity of the issue. He says that many students are denied access to a college education because "someone didn't teach them their colors or long division." Is he suggesting that teachers are lazy or incompetent? For the most part, that's simply not the case. The teachers I know are dedicated professionals struggling to educate woefully neglected children with little or no support from parents or administrators. Justin is correct: more resources and support must be given to our struggling children, but blaming teachers is way off the mark.

Aug. 16 2010 12:11 PM
windter from New York, NY

For a look at the challenges of privilege and diversity check out this documentary, "The Prep School Negro":

André Robert Lee and his sister grew up in the ghettos of Philadelphia. Their mother struggled to support them by putting strings in the waistbands of track pants and swimsuits in a local factory. When Andre was 14 years old, he received what his family believed to be a golden ticket – a full scholarship to attend one of the most prestigious prep schools in the country. Elite education was Andre’s way up and out, but at what price? Yes, the exorbitant tuition was covered, but this new world cost him and his family much more than anyone could have anticipated.

In The Prep School Negro, André takes a journey back in time to revisit the events of his adolescence while also spending time with current day prep school students of color and their classmates to see how much has really changed inside the ivory tower. What he discovers along the way is the poignant and unapologetic truth about who really pays the consequences for yesterday’s accelerated desegregation and today’s racial naiveté.

Aug. 16 2010 12:10 PM
Andrea from Philadelphia

To those who immediately assume that a more racially diverse enrollment would require the lowering of standards, I would like to point to the importance of recruitment efforts. I am Puerto Rican and went to Hunter in the 1970s. Neither or nor my parents had ever heard of Hunter High until my sixth grade teacher told the students in the class who had "A" averages about it and told us that she would help us prepare for the test. (And my parents did care about my getting a good education--they sent me to a Montessori kindergarten and took me to get my own library card when I was 5.) My understanding at the time was that this was a new development because Hunter had approached my school (a Catholic school in Williamsburg before it was hip) about encouraging students to apply. We had special prep sessions before and after school to help us prepare. I took the test and got in. It changed my life. I did well and went on to an Ivy League college. (Brown--which I had never heard of before going to Hunter.)

I'm not opposed to rethinking the test or admissions criteria, but first, let's address recruitment in black and Latino neighborhoods. And don't focus just on the public schools--reach out to parochial and charter schools and to churches, community centers and community organizations. Not every family knows about Hunter or how to apply or prepare their kid.

Aug. 16 2010 11:58 AM
Lisa from Brooklyn

Why don't they just administer the test to everyone? I think we'd find that most kids are pretty smart. Then they'd have to raise the standards globally. My son is a 3rd Grader in the program and the other parents and I often sit around and wonder. Are our children really that much smarter than the other kids? Or is it that they are from well educated households? I know plenty of kids who are very bright and have not gotten in. Of course I like to think my son is smart but I know that plenty of other kids are also and that many of those kids have not gotten in the program and I have to wonder why. Something isn't right.

Aug. 16 2010 11:55 AM

Instead of looking at the beginning, if we look at the end result, it's clear the tests work in a way. Hunter graduates some of the best students in the city, who go to some of the best universities in the country---relative to the rest of the city's student body.

Aug. 16 2010 11:54 AM
Logan from Crown Hieghts

While Justin's recgnition of the interplay of race and education is valuable, he seems to neglect to point out the culture, practice, and value of gifted and talented programs and the value of institutionalized education in the black and hispanic communities. This is intergral to a real discussion about this issue and to make more sense of the demographics of G and T programs, but placing it in racial terms needs to be coupled with class terms, which is a talking point that Justin did not really entertain, but seemed to just use interchangably with race.

Aug. 16 2010 11:53 AM

I can't wait for Liam to be introduced to the real world where real, non-gifted people live. The homogeneity of his education is going to set him up for a huge fall.

Aug. 16 2010 11:51 AM
The Truth from Becky

No such thing - just another ridiculous label.

Aug. 16 2010 11:51 AM
Anna from Brooklyn

The idea that there are gifted and talented children and then there's just the rest of them is an absurd idea. All children are intelligent and all children are gifted. It is only these labels that we put on them, boosting the confidence of some and degrading others that makes them either one thing or another. To feed a child the idea at such a young age that they are good enough or not good enough for such a program feels wrong. What path are we setting children not accepted to these programs on?

Aug. 16 2010 11:50 AM
Marilyn from New Jersey

So why do we always suggest throwing out the test when the test does not reflect 'diversity?'
Brian, how would you have felt if your kid had been turned down for Hunter in order to promote more 'diversity?'

Aug. 16 2010 11:49 AM
Richard Williams

I have only known this as "Talented and Gifted"- TAG

Aug. 16 2010 11:49 AM
Julie from Brooklyn

NYC test kids before they are even in kindergarten. This is FAR too young to know who is truly gifted. My son tested into the program but I never for a minute believe that he is "gifted" nor "talented" he's just had a head start on some things. This does not mean he is forever going to be ahead. Testing is done FAR FAR FAR too young.

Furthermore, the school that my son is enrolled – the curriculum for the mainstream class is no different than the G&T class. How can this be so? Looks like a school found a way to boost their scores.

Aug. 16 2010 11:49 AM
Nathanael from Somerset County

It seems to me that the issue is less with the highest tier of high schoolers and more with the lowest group of preschoolers. The problem seems to be that school systems across the country focus not on letting kids learn new things, but in teaching them so that they can get a piece of paper. I, apparently like many of your listeners, was identified as 'gifted', but if the point of school is to graduate, what is the point of being gifted?

Aug. 16 2010 11:48 AM
john from office

If people bothered to worry about theor kids, like Jews and Asians, you would see more of these group in these school. A lack of reading and concern of education are the result of the PARENTS. READ TO YOUR KIDS. STOP WORRING ABOUT FASHION and MUSIC AND NONSENCE AND WORRY ABOUT YOUR KIDS.

Brian, would be happy if your kid got bumped to allow a lesser student in???

Aug. 16 2010 11:48 AM
Sylvia from Manhattan

Another lind of diversity.

My son graduated from HCHS about 8 years ago. We are white Catholics. At the time the school was 49% Asian and 49% Jewish Similar to Justin, I woindered if it were really possible that the number of gifted Catholic children was so miniscule compared to the other groups. Most of my son's friends were minority. They wanted to found a 1% club.

Aug. 16 2010 11:46 AM
andy from Brooklyn

John, you may not be gifted, but you are something.... I'm searching for the right word.... special?

Aug. 16 2010 11:45 AM
john from office

It is the parents. I grew up in Bayside am Hispanic and went to Brooklyn Tech. Blacks from the Fort Green were allowed in to balance the school without a test. We were afraid to go the the bathrooms, it was a hostile environment. If you do this you will ruin these schools. I passed the test because my parents pushed me. It is an insult to blacks and hispanics that standards have to be lowered to fill seats.

Maybe if blacks read to their kids and worried about education, they would be in those schools too.

Aug. 16 2010 11:41 AM

Carolita: I have said the same myself!

Aug. 16 2010 11:41 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

Well said Carolita! I couldn't agree more.

Aug. 16 2010 11:40 AM
carolita from ny, ny

More seriously, I don't think just doing very well in school makes you a gifted student. Schools for gifted students have become schools for the elite, for people who want their kids to get into good colleges, more than people who support their child in their giftedness, or their children with true vocations. People of all colors have vocations and should be helped to cultivate them.
I was one of those students singled out as "gifted" in elementary school but I resisted the label. I happened to perceive a difference between being gifted and having a vocation. I had no vocation to be a competitive student (so I let my parents think it would cost them extra to send me to Hunter College, or whatever school it was at the time).

Aug. 16 2010 11:39 AM

I think the problem starts with calling students "gifted." What educators really test for is students who are receptive to being taught. As a child, I was tested for gifted programs with IQ tests --- that hardly seems like a good gauge. Then I was measured by my grades. Considering I never did HW because it was at too low a level, the school told my mother I'm either gifted or should be left back a grade. The fact that they couldn't tell the difference is silly.

I went to school with many students who were deemed gifted by the district, who went on to top colleges, but then wasted any intelligence they might have had becoming doctors, lawyers, and businessmen. We should be more concerned with the academic goal of students, then with their aptitude at a certain point in their life. And we should leave the door open to change education levels whenever a student blossoms.

Aug. 16 2010 11:39 AM
Merrill Clark from New York

About 21 years ago, our daughter was interviewed for being gifted and talented in Brooklyn. She was accepted. However, what was sad, I thought, was the criteria of the 1/5 page of the written decision of the interview: bright clothing and a spunky personality. I thought as I read the description about how would poor kids perform in the interviews who might not have colorful clothing or who were depressed at interview time but were nevertheless geniuses. Seemed way too subjective and based upon non-applicable criteria. (Despite the colorful clothing and spunky personality, my daughter has done very well.)

Aug. 16 2010 11:11 AM
Andy from Brooklyn

Tom from Manhattan, your analysis is a bit naive. There are, practically speaking, two asian populations in NYC: (A) The very recently immigrated --- not the sons and daughters of immigrants, but immigrants themselves. You will find more of them at Seward Park than you will at Stuyvesant. (B) The (grand)sons and (grand)daughters of immigrants, who have more opportunities. Many in group (B) move here with already-well-off families and don't face the same hardships as others.

When I taught mathematics in a NYC public school, I taught to members of group (A). You can't pigeon hole them by their race. But you can by their economic situation. No matter how good a student one is, he can't learn if he can't stay awake in class because he goes straight to work after school and works late into the night.

Aug. 16 2010 11:09 AM

I have a daughter who will soon turn three. She's very bright. She's been reciting the alphabet for over one year. She speaks in complete sentences, with an expanding vocabulary. She has strong problem solving skills. Her word recognition is solid.

Is she gifted? I don't know. What I do know is this: every child is entitled to the best education possible. If my daughter is gifted, I want her in a gifted program. If she isn't, I don't want her taking space from a child who is gifted. Ethnicity should not factor into this equation. Ability and giftedness should.

Aug. 16 2010 11:05 AM
carolita from ny, ny

These days everyone thinks their child is gifted and talented, no matter how mediocre he or she is. It's amazing. When I was young, it was the rare child who was gifted or talented. We seem to be surrounded by geniuses today! What lucky times we live in! Perhaps it's time that all schools were by default for gifted and talented kids, and the special schools should be reserved for the especially ungifted and untalented, who actually need the extra attention.

Aug. 16 2010 10:38 AM

tom -- i'm guessing that asians have a stronger first move on this topic than hiding behind "the jews."

Aug. 16 2010 10:36 AM
sumukha from Short Hills, NJ

There was an uproar from the Asian Communities all over the United states and from across the world from the Asian diaspora, recently over an article written in Time magazine by Joel Stein,,9171,1999416,00.html
for which he gave a half hearted and clumsy apology. When the economy is stressed, people lash out. It happened during the depression, and it is happening now. Hope we get through this phase sooner that the last time.

Aug. 16 2010 09:45 AM
Tom from Manhattan

Justin Hudson't argument seems to be that blacks and Latinos are poor and therefore don't have an equal chance in getting into schools such as Hunter. However, Asians comprise the largest racial group at Hunter and many of these students are not rich and are, in fact, sons and daughters of immigrants.

Justin Hudson wants more black and Latino students at Hunter, but this would come at the expense of Asian students. How ironic, you have to hurt one minority group in order to help another minority group. That is totally unfair.

Essentially, Justin Hudson wants to place a cap on the number of Asian students who can be at Hunter. Hmmm...this sounds very similar to what happened to Jews in the early and mid 20th Century. Back then, it was called the "Jewish Problem" because there were too many Jews at Harvard, Yale, etc. In the year 2010, Asians are the new Jews and there are those who are trying to cap the number of Asians at elite schools.

If Justin Hudson had called for more religious diversity and had asked that more Muslims be admitted to Hunter and that less Jews be admitted, there would be a huge outcry about anti semitism.

Discrimination against Jews is wrong. Discrimination against Asians is wrong.

Aug. 16 2010 05:28 AM

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