Sunday, April 15, 2012

Nightline on test prep & the gifted exams: more "choices" for parents or magnifying social inequities?

The results of the Gifted and Talented exams are in, and according to the NY Times, more than half of the children tested in wealthier districts like District 2 and District 3 were found to be "gifted", while only six children made the grade in District 7 in the South Bronx.  Why the disparity?

Are these tests merely a way of sorting children by race and class, as Debbie Meier pointed out in 2007, when Klein first proposed to base all admissions to gifted programs on the basis of high stakes exams, or do the results really reflect children's inherent abilities?  And does the proliferation of G and T programs across the city help or hinder the goal of equity and systemic reform?

We have written often about the severe problems with the way this program has been implemented in NYC, including how we believe it works to magnify inequities, as well as about the continued pro-administration bias of reporting on this issue here.

Check out these segments from a recent Nightline investigation, aired April 14, including interviews with anxious NYC parents enrolling their four-year-olds in arduous test prep programs, because they believe that if they can get their kids into these programs they will be set for life, as well as an interview with Chancellor Walcott, who expresses no concern that some  parents may be paying four or five thousand dollars to prep their children for the test, because he says this gives them more "choices." Walcott also evinces a surprising lack of skepticism, given the extreme racial disparity in the results, that these exams  test actual giftedness rather than economic and social privilege.

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rebel said...

I am so glad that you did this story. Of course it is about SES, parents in the know, and sort and select policies. It will surely result in separate and unequal classes and opportunities. There is no need for this. Each school should have a school-wide Renzulli model of gifted education that develops the gifts and talents of all of NYC students.

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Susan said...

As I comment any time I can when G&T programs run by the current NYC DOE come up -- the tests in use by the DOE do not test for intellectual giftedness the way the Stanford-Binet does. Instead, they test for "school readiness," meaning for how close this child is to reading, writing, doing math, etc. The Bracken School Readiness Assessment in particular SCREENS for verbal learning disabilities. Four out of ten children in the US struggling with learning to read. So use of the BSRA is discriminatory for entrance to programs labeled "gifted," since many children can be gifted and learning disabled at the same time.

Susan Crawford, Director
The Right to Read Project

Khem said...

I have to say, I'm a former parent of NEST and my son was able to test at the school level and got a seat in the 7th grade there. He came from District 22's Hudde and started in PS 251's EAGLE Program. When schools handled there own testing and controlled it it seems that it was more equitable and fair. He didn't compete with the city. I sought it out for him. NYC has corrupted the GT process. Teachers identified the children and recommended them for the programs and those children would be a great fit and it was collaborative with their local school. There's no reason every school can have a class dedicated to this type of opportunity. This would remove the test and the competition for 300 seats at NEST. Too bad NEST doesn't consider becoming a neighborhood school and splitting their program with GT/Gen Education. They probably would know how to educate children who came in struggling. It would be a challenge. Many parents are interested in these programs. Children don't chose these schools. Again, Teachers identifying the children and being recommended is a better system. What about Hunter? They've raised the stakes as well for entry. This school is untouchable and very elite and certainly doesn't represent the diversity of NYC.

Anonymous said...

Many parents are actually doing their children an injustice. So many get into the program because that have been prepped and then can't keep up with the pace when they get to school. In turn, they get frustrated and recognize when their peers, who are academically superior, have natural success. Just because a kid passes the test does NOT mean he or she is gifted.

Ellen B said...

It was bad enough when my kids entered kindergarten, some 16 and 20 years ago, but now the situation is so clearly weighted in favor of families that have the money as well as the ability to prep their kids, that even Walcott recognizes it--though he tries to backtrack on what he says. Do they really believe that only 6 kids in the South Bronx can benefit from a gifted program?

And by the way, there hasn't been any discussion about how testing at such an early age discriminates against children born toward the end of the year. Several months can make a big difference in maturity at that age, and even if the test supposedly corrects for the child's age in months, it affects their willingness to go with strangers and to focus on a task for that long.

I have told this story many times, but both my children failed their initial screening for the D22 gifted program, yet both were top students in the D22 CIG program, went to Stuyvesant, and Ivy League schools (their choices, not mine). How many children who could benefit from a "gifted" education--which I believe is virtually all children-- are being screened out by these tests?

Only when kids have been brought up to the same level, after a year or two in a mixed kindergarten or first grade class with appropriate attention from a good early childhood educator, might it then be fair to test them. Better still would be to give all the schools the kinds of programs parents will pay thousands to try to get their kids into.