By Olivia Scheck
MANHATTAN — The city is looking to roll out a new gifted program admissions test for the 2012-2013 school year, and it could be administered to children as young as 3 years old, the New York Times reported.
Under the current testing guidelines, admission tests are only given to students age 4 and older. But education officials have said they're considering pushing back the starting age to speed up the admissions process.
They're also focusing on a new test that would address concerns about gender and racial disparity in the gifted population, according to the paper.
The current admission tests for the city’s gifted programs have come under attack because of the disproportionately low percentages of minority students and male students accepted as a result.
Right now, white students account for 44 percent of participants in New York City's gifted programs, though they account for only 15 percent of students in city public schools overall, according to the paper.
Female students make up 56 percent of the city’s gifted kindergartners, although they comprise only 49 percent of the public school population.
Many experts say that intelligence tests are more accurate after children are already enrolled in school, when their environments are more uniform, the Times noted.
One of the original motivations for finding a new admissions test was to prevent middle and upper-class parents from gaming the system by having their kids tutored for the test, an earlier Times article said.
Affluent parents are able to spend thousands of dollars on test preparation, giving them a leg up on poor and minority students also vying for a spot in the programs, the Times said.
The fact that the new tests could be administered earlier than age 4 could be a bright spot for wealthy parents who would otherwise have to put down a private school deposit while they wait to learn whether their children are accepted into gifted programs at public schools, according to the Times.
The city is under contractual obligation to use the current test through the coming school year. Competitive bidding for the city's upcoming contract will be opened to publishers in the fall, the Times reported.