Opinion: Five Ways to Improve Gifted Programs in NYC Schools

Friday, April 11, 2014 - 04:00 AM

Middle school students at J.H.S. 088 Peter Rouget in Park Slope. Middle school students at J.H.S. 088 Peter Rouget in Park Slope. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

The New York City Department of Education last week released the results of the 2014 admissions test for gifted and talented programs. Once again, far more students qualified than there were seats.

The disparity was even larger at the popular “citywide” schools, where this year 1,908 children were deemed eligible to apply for only 300 kindergarten slots, meaning almost 85 percent of the four- and five-year-olds who merited entry will be turned away.

How can this be allowed to happen?

For starters, there are  only five programs open to qualifying students from across the city: The Anderson School, NEST+M and TAG Young Scholars in Manhattan; Brooklyn School of Inquiry in Brooklyn; and STEM/P.S. 85 in Queens. Each offer a highly distinctive program, and help their students get into top high schools. This year, 63 percent of applicants from NEST+M, Anderson and TAG Academy received an offer of admission to one of the nine specialized high schools.

Indeed, given such success, demand for citywide spots has skyrocketed in recent years. Yet the number of seats has barely increased since 2008. This has left families from the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island greatly underserved. Outer-borough families often commute incredible distances to meet their children’s educational needs.

Which raises a more troubling issue: underrepresentation of low-income families in the city’s most selective public schools. Throughout New York City, and not just in affluent neighborhoods, awareness of charter schools as an alternative is widespread and growing, but the same cannot be said of gifted and talented schools.

All parents, regardless of income level, should be encouraged to apply to the gifted and talented system. But first things need to improve. We encourage the new, more parent-friendly D.O.E. to adopt the following measures:


  1. Create an office for Gifted & Talented programs at the D.O.E. to better serve parents.
  2. Establish a new citywide school in the Bronx.
  3. Consider adding citywide schools in areas of Brooklyn and Queens where concentrations of qualifying children exist.
  4. Implement G&T screening as part of the evaluation process in D.O.E. pre-kindergarten programs.
  5. Create a widespread publicity campaign for G&T testing in low-income neighborhoods.


The advocates of citywide G&T have written to Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña and eagerly await a dialogue with the new administration.  It's the smart thing to do.


Joli Golden and Gabrielle Howe


Comments [5]

G from Harlem

Evaluation, not testing. Evaluation by looking at the whole child over a period of time, such as during the school year. Even boys who are gifted, can be identified without an 84 question test. This was how my granddaughter was identified. Her current headstart has an evaluation process that does not require a sit down 85 question test to identify t&g children. In her school this year 7 children were identified and all 7 passed the with scores over 95, there were 3 girls and 4 boys.

All children do not test well, I agree, especially boys, but remember that there are other ways in which the DOE identifies t&g children and much of that identification has to do with teachers. At any age a child can be identified as g&t. The problem still remains though about seats for these children and special programs for them as well. I clearly believe that the BOE does not see the value in expanding TAG schools, programs and opening new TAG schools as a high priority. The focus is currently satisfying the demand for charter school space. Although I am a strong advocate for charter schools, there has never been an equal balance for TAG schools and programs in the BOE even before the initiation of charter schools. With the building of new TAG Only schools and even allowing TAG schools to coexist within a given school building may be another option added to all the other great options suggested here. The outer boroughs, Queens, Staten Island and The Bronx, not excluding Brooklyn, need to have citywide and district TAG programs to accommodate the students who qualify for these programs. It takes parents to organize and demand that these changes to occur. It can be done, look at the rally for charter schools that occurred when the mayor slighted to close three Success Academy schools. This rally does not have to be limited to NYC parents only.

Something must be done and that something is in the minds,hearts and hands of every TAG parent and supporter.

Jun. 10 2014 08:38 AM
Ilona from NYC

I have an idea, how about we introduce SP classes (Special Progress Classes to challenge students academically) into all schools - again (it worked!). Keep the large full scale G&T schools and DISSOLVE the smaller (segregated) G&T schools that have moved into (mostly underprivileged) neighborhood public schools. Redistribute the funds (think of all the money you can save from administration) and introduce more music, art and physical education classes to ALL children (more teachers - smaller classes, proven to have greater positive academic and social impact). Then children can be evaluated based on their long term progress, not just a test. Image all the thoughtful discussions between parents/guardians and educators regarding what is best for the individual child. Invest in ALL public schools and the city will change for the better.

Jun. 10 2014 12:04 AM
G from Harlem from Harlem NY

I do not agree with testing too early, but I do believe that an evaluation process should be implemented into primary schools' curriculum that will identify TAG students. I also strongly believe that a TAG school should be put in The Bronx. It used to be the old PS 33 on the Grand-concourse, Now the school is abandoned, in disrepair and circumvented by scaffolding. I also believe that TAG schools such as Anderson and TAG Young Scholars should have their own buildings in order to accept more students and expand their programs within their own buildings. No child should be cramped in a classroom.

I also strongly believe that there should be additional TAG schools in the outer boroughs to accommodate all of the children who are identified as TAG students. It is far less costly to expand the current city wide TAG schools than to constantly cut their programs and add new schools to a building leaving out countless children who qualify as TAG.

Jun. 03 2014 08:47 PM
lauren from Brooklyn

Strongly disagree with the idea of testing everyone in Pre-k. Many brilliant kids do not yet have the ability to focus for an 84-question test at that age, especially boys. Read Nurture Shock. Standardized tests before the age of 8 mean next to nothing.

Apr. 24 2014 01:03 PM
SMartin from NY

I agree with all of this. Also how about we look at the rigor in the district programs?

Apr. 17 2014 04:10 PM

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