January is a busy month for the DOE, as they begin testing thousands of 4-year-olds for possible placement in city-wide gifted and talented Kindergarten classrooms. For reasons unknown, 2012 was a record-breaking year in terms of the number of students who scored at the highest percentile on the exam. Rarely is there ever such a difference between scoring a 98% and a 99% on an exam, but in the NYC public school system, when it comes to G&T, a measly 98% may not get your kid a spot in one of the five coveted citywide G&T schools when there are limited spots available and too many other kids who scored a 99%. It’s in this particular situation that a sibling policy is especially important…and often times controversial.
In the past several years, parents have complained that their children were not offered a seat in one of these five programs, despite having higher scores on the exam, because of the existing policy regarding siblings. Previously, once a family had a child enrolled in a G&T program, a younger sibling needed only to score a 90% on the exam to be offered a Kindergarten seat in the upcoming school year at the same school. However, due to the massive shortage of seats available last year (as a result of the overwhelming number of children scoring in the 99th percentile on the exam), the DOE announced that the sibling policy would no longer be in effect. While this seems like a fair decision to many, apparently there are more parents and supporters of the sibling policy in the public at large than against it, because as of this past December, the DOE reversed this decision and decided to keep the sibling policy in place.
So what is being done to change the current testing curriculum to make the results more equitable? After all, if there are a very limited number of seats, not everyone can score at the top of the scale. Of course we all feel that our 4-year-old is gifted and talented in many ways, but at the end of the day, there has to be a way to better differentiate the truly “gifted” from the rest of us “average” folks. We’ll, it seems that this year the DOE is administering a new assessment ,which will include the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Tst (NNAT) counting for 2/3 of the score and the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT) counting for only 1/3. Because the NNAT does not rely on verbal skills, it is expected that diversity among the top scores will increase. If it works as expected, the shortage of seats for students scoring at the highest percentile should decrease.
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