Saturday, December 22, 2007

Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer On Problems with Gifted and Talented Policy

The following letter was issued to Manhattan public school parents following the approval of the G&T policy at the November meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy. Information on the policy can be found at the Department of Ed G&T here.



December 10, 2007

Dear Manhattan Public School Parents:

On November 26, 2007, the Panel for Educational Policy voted on proposed changes to the New York City Department of Education's (DOE) Gifted and Talented (G&T) Program. As some of you may already know, my appointee to the Panel for Educational Policy, Patrick Sullivan, voted against the proposed changes. While I am strongly supportive of increasing equity and access in G&T, I believe this proposal is marred by the same lack of concern for parental input and problems of poor implementation that often plague DOE efforts. The proposal was passed by the Panel and is therefore now policy. I nonetheless want to share with you the reasons that Patrick and I felt it necessary to vote against these changes.

  • The DOE appears to be poorly prepared for the changes in G&T enrollment, despite widely reported failures in the admissions process last year and an expected doubling of applications this year to over 25,000. For example, the department has not analyzed last year's applicant Otis Lennon School Abilities Test (OLSAT) scores to plan where new seats will be required. Given that certified G&T teachers will be hard to find on short notice and facilities are not yet identified, I am concerned there will not be the required programs in place.
  • The proposal by DOE changes the cutoff score for admissions to G&T programs from the top 10 percent of applicants (90th percentile) to the top 5 percent (95th percentile). This higher cutoff score for admissions raises the very real possibility that a number of current programs will not be filled to capacity and will therefore be closed, leaving parents with fewer programming options.
  • Under the new timeline for the admissions process, parents will not be notified of admissions decisions until May 31st. This late notification severely restricts parents' ability to choose between DOE G&T programs and independent, Catholic, and charter schools--many of which require parents to accept offers of admission prior to May 31st. The new G&T policy, therefore, actually undermines parental choice, purportedly a key component of DOE reforms.
  • The Bracken School Readiness Assessment (BSRA) and the OLSAT will be the two assessments that will be used to evaluate students for admission to G&T programs. The OLSAT, which DOE has stated will comprise 75 percent of each student's score, is a test for which students can be prepped, and materials are marketed to parents for this very purpose. There is a real risk, then, that children whose families can afford to purchase prep materials will have an unfair advantage over students whose families cannot afford to do so.
  • The plan offers assessments to all Kindergarten children which will help increase access by allowing an entry point to G&T programs for those families that may be unaware of the opportunity. But I am concerned about the requirement that all children must be tested. Parents who prefer that their child not be subjected to standardized testing at this young age must be allowed to opt out of G&T testing.

Finally, I am well aware that public school parents, as represented by their Community Education Councils (CECs), had little input into these important policy decisions. This lack of community and parent involvement continues to be a key issue under the current system of school governance and needs to be addressed as mayoral control is considered for renewal in 2009. Please be assured that my office will continue to monitor DOE's implementation of the new policy and the effects it has on Gifted and Talented programming. To that end, please keep my office apprised of G&T related issues specific to each of your districts.

Very truly yours,
Scott M. Stringer

Manhattan Borough President

PHONE (212) 669-8300 FAX (212) 669-4305

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