NYC parents scramble for kindergarten Gifted & Talented entry

Mayor Adams is sticking to his promise to keep the city’s Gifted & Talented program alive, but vague entry standards and shifting rules have left some parents of soon-to-be kindergartners frustrated, The Post has found.

“I’m concerned that the rules keep changing,” said Sumayya Ahmad of the Upper East Side, who hopes to enroll her pre-K son in a G&T classroom next year. “They have to go through an interview process. There’s no information on what that would mean.”

For more than a decade, the G&T entry routine was clear-cut. Parents of 4-year-olds would request a standardized intelligence test to be given to their children. Children who scored above the 90th percentile were eligible to apply for seats in district G&T classrooms — if available.

Last year, the city Department of Education dropped the test, mainly to end racial inequities. The city’s Independent Budget Office found that Asian and white kids made up more than three-quarters of G&T students in 2018-19, but only one-third of all kindergartners.

Parents are frustrated by the lack of clarity in the Gifted & Talented process.
Parents are frustrated by the lack of clarity in the Gifted & Talented process.

Instead, teachers were asked to evaluate all pre-K students and nominate those they thought were the brightest. Those students were entered into a lottery for 2,400 G&T seats citywide.

This year, every student in public or private pre-K can apply to all G&T programs in their district or a citywide program — with the teacher’s evaluation of whether a child is eligible coming afterward.

“Now you’re flying blind,” said Alina Adams, author of “Getting into NYC Kindergarten,” who added that “dozens” of puzzled parents have asked her to help navigate the new system. Applications opened Dec. 7th and are due Jan. 20.

“Families will need to rank G&T schools before they know whether their child even qualifies,” Adams said. “If not, all of the G&T programs listed on their application will be wasted slots that could have been filled with other options.”

The DOE has added 100 kindergarten G&T seats system-wide for a total of 2,500 in 85 elementary schools, but they may fall short. That’s only 3.5 percent of the 70,552 children who attended kindergarten in 2020-2021.

“Every student in the system can apply. It’s great that they’re giving families an opportunity to apply without a test,” said Captain Bentley, a kindergarten consultant at NYC Admission Solutions.

The DOE has added 100 kindergarten G&T seats system-wide for a total of 2,500 in 85 elementary schools, but they may fall short.  That's only 3.5 percent of the 70,552 children who attended kindergarten in 2020-2021.
The DOE has added 100 kindergarten G&T seats system-wide for a total of 2,500 in 85 elementary schools, but they may fall short. That’s only 3.5 percent of the 70,552 children who attended kindergarten in 2020-2021.
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But he added, “They don’t have enough seats to meet the demand. You’re going to have some angry, bitter parents of kids who don’t get in.”

In another major change, parents can only apply to just 12 kindergarten programs in order of preference – including G&T, dual-language, and magnet schools. Previously, they could seek seats up to 24.

The standards that teachers were told to use last year were broad and subjective, Adams said, including factors like a child’s curiosity, problem-solving skills, and creativity.

“I have never met any human child who does not meet the criteria,” Adams said.

No standards for 2023-24 have yet been announced.

Some parents want “an objective measure” for admissions to ensure fairness, said Staten Island mom Venus Sze-Tsang, a member of the District 31 Community Education Council.

“A test can’t tell the color of your skin,” she said. “How can you tell if a student is or isn’t selected on the basis of color if the choice is so subjective?”

Teachers may also favor kids they like, no matter their color, or turn thumbs down on those they don’t get along with.

“One mom told me, ‘Well, the teacher hates my child, so obviously they’re not getting a nomination,’” Adams said.

Other staffers may be philosophically opposed to G&T as a form of segregation.

“Last year, a pre-K teacher informed parents, ‘I don’t believe in G&T, so I am not nominating anyone,’” Adams said.

Some parents may “lobby” pre-K teachers to win the all-important recommendations .

“Oh, absolutely,” Adams said. “I’ve also had pre-K teachers tell me, ‘I haven’t been trained to assess whether or not a child is gifted. If a parent asks me for a nomination, I am going to give it.’”