Guide: The Gifted Child

What if I believe my child is a gifted student?

There are some elementary and middle schools with gifted and talented programs, and there are entire schools that are gifted and talented. Some G&T schools are city-wide, others are open only to those who live in the district.

How do I see whether my child qualifies for a gifted and talented program?

The Education Department administers testing to determine which students are eligible for gifted and talented programs. Testing is available for all Pre-K through grade 2 students who are currently New York City residents and wish to be considered for self-contained gifted and talented programs. The Education Department’s Web site has a section on Gifted and Talented Resources.

What is the process of applying for the city’s Gifted and Talented (G&T) elementary school programs?

If your child is a New York City resident in pre-kindergarten through second grade, the first step of the application process is submitting a Request for Testing Form (R.F.T.) in the fall of the year before your child hopes to participate in a G&T program. You can submit the R.F.T. either online or in writing by completing the form in the appropriate Department of Education handbook and submitting it to your child’s public school or local Borough Enrollment Office. The deadlines for 2013-2014 placement will be posted on the Department of Education’s Web site in the late fall. The city-wide testing usually commences in January; only children who have turned four years old by then can participate.

The city uses two tests to determine G&T classification: The verbal portion of the Otis Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT) and the Naglieri Non Verbal Ability Test.

You will be informed of your child’s scores in the early spring and, if he or she qualified for G&T, you will be sent an application. If your child scored in or above the 90th percentile, he or she will be invited to apply to a district G&T program. If your child scored in or above the 97th percentile, he or she will be invited to apply to a citywide G&T program. Admission to a G&T program is only guaranteed to incoming kindergartners and first graders who rank every district option on their application. There are no guarantees for city-wide spots, as there are more children who score in or above the 97th percentile than there are seats. Placement is based on sibling priority, test score (percentile rank), family preference and available seats. A lottery is held to determine who gets a spot if there are more applicants than spaces.

The completed applications are usually due in late spring, and acceptance notifications are usually sent out in early summer.

The application process for students applying to fourth and fifth grade G&T programs is different. The eligibility of rising fourth and fifth graders is determined by their scores on the standardized New York State English Language Arts and Math tests. The application process takes place over the summer, and spots are limited.

Additional information about G&T programs can be found through Inside Schools, the New York City Department of Education, Gifted and Talented Programs or in Times Topics: Gifted Students.

How likely is it that my child will get into a gifted and talented program if he or she scores well enough on the tests?

Difficult to say. It depends on your child’s score and also on the availability at the particular school you have chosen. A lottery determines some of the placements.

Some important steps to note:

  • Your child takes the test in January, and you receive a score a few months later
  • The important score is the percentile
  • Sometime in the spring, you receive a ranking sheet, where you can rank G&T programs according to your preference
  • If your score is in the 97th percentile or above, you can rank any programs, including city-wide programs (Anderson, NEST, TAG) or those in your district
  • If your score is in the 90th percentile or above, you can rank programs in your district, but not the city-wide
  • If your score is under the 90th percentile, you can’t rank any schools and you are done
  • The D.O.E. starts placing the students with the highest percentile rankings first. It holds a lottery first for those in the 99th percentile, choosing names randomly. When a child’s name is chosen, he or she will be placed in his or her first choice program, if it’s available. If it’s not, then the child is placed in his or her 2nd choice, etc.
  • After all the 99th percentile students are placed, the D.O.E. places the 98s, the 97s, etc., until all the spots are filled.

So it’s possible to score very well, even get a 99, and still not get your first choice school, and it’s possible to score above 97 and not get any of your top choices. There are just too many kids competing for too few spots. The D.O.E. guarantees a spot in some program to anyone who scores above a 90 and ranks all the programs they qualify for. But most people don’t do that because not all the programs are the same quality, and they prefer programs nearer to their homes.

The whole process takes a while, and you will not find out until late spring or early summer what spot your child has been offered.

The exception to all of this are children who already have a sibling in the school. The school does a lottery first for the siblings who qualify, so a sibling who gets above a 97 or 90, as needed, is always offered a spot at that school.

If my child passes the gifted and talented test, will we automatically lose our spot in our zoned school?

No. The timing of applying may be tricky at times, but you don’t lose your spot in your zoned school. And because there are more children who qualify for gifted and talented programs than there are spots, you may need that place in your zoned school.

Can I find out what place my child is in on a school’s wait list?

Call the parent coordinator. He or she might be able to tell you.

This answer was researched, reported and written by Jessica Campbell and Beth Fertig. To correct, improve or enhance an answer, e-mail