P.S. 166 Parents Feel Slighted by Proposed Gifted Program for District 30

By Jeanmarie Evelly on January 16, 2013 7:29pm 

QUEENS — Plans for a proposed new middle school program for gifted students in District 30 are drawing ire from parents who say seats should be guaranteed to kids from Long Island City's P.S. 166, who currently have no designated placement after fifth grade.

Of the district's three gifted and talented elementary school programs, P.S. 166 students are the only ones who have not been given an automatic middle school transfer. Current students at the two other district G&T schools, P.S. 122 in Astoria and P.S. 150 in Sunnyside, have been promised spots at a popular and highly-coveted existing G&T middle school Academy at P.S. 122, where they historically matriculated.

Gifted P.S. 166 students, however — as well as future G&T classes at P.S. 150 — will have to reapply to the gifted program once they hit fifth grade, with their admission based on fourth grade math and English state test scores, a policy P.S. 166 parents deride as inequitable.

"We feel that all qualified children should have equal access to an appropriate middle school gifted and talented education," P.S. 166 parent Melissa Lee said at a Community Board 1 meeting Tuesday night.

P.S. 166, which started in 2010, is the newest of the three District 30 programs. But parents say they were promised their kids would be found somewhere to go after fifth grade.

"The first class to start at P.S. 166 were told that they would be given middle school placement," said mom Anya Hoffman, whose daughter, Ruby, is in kindergarten at the school. She said P.S. 166 has the most diverse G&T program, with many minority students and children of immigrants enrolled, and that the DOE should be committed to protecting that diversity.

The Department of Education is attempting to address a shortage of gifted middle school seats in District 30, along with a boom in the number of children who qualify. The new G&T middle school program the city is proposing would be at I.S. 126 in Long Island City and would be modeled after the P.S. 122 Academy. It would open in September 2013 and would would accommodate 60 students.

P.S. 166 parents say those seats should be saved for their children. Dozens of parents showed up Monday night at a Community Education Council District 30 town hall meeting with Chancellor Walcott, wearing red in solidarity and holding up posters that read things like, "166 kids are not second class."

"We're still having ongoing discussions and we're trying to find the right balance in responding to the needs and concerns of not just 166, but the whole district," Walcott told the crowd. He said the DOE would report back with a finalized policy at the District 30 CEC meeting on Feb. 21.

"In the interim, we will have continuous meetings with the parent representatives and the elected officials and the members of the CEC," he said.

Hernan Lozano said he worries his son Eduardo, a second grader in the G&T program at P.S. 166, won't get into a gifted middle school program if the city doesn't guarantee him a spot. Even though Eduardo scored in the 99th percentile on the city's admissions test, the shortage of middle school seats in District 30 makes securing one a long shot if Eduardo is forced to reapply.

"There is no chance for him," Lozano said.

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