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More Students in Queens' District 30 Qualify for G&T, Despite Harder Test

QUEENS — The number of students in Western Queens who qualify for the city's Gifted and Talented programs rose slightly this year despite a harder admissions test, bucking a citywide trend that saw a small decline in the number of eligible students.

Queens School District 30 — which includes Astoria, Long Island City, Woodside, Sunnyside, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights — had 23 percent of its test-takers, from Pre-K to second grade, qualify for gifted seats, scoring in the 90th percentile and up. Last year, 21 percent of those tested in the district made the cut.

Parents say competition for a gifted spot will be tough this year since more children in the district qualified, and also because the city is no longer guaranteeing a seat for those who scored above the 90th percentile, as it did in previous years.

"I'm very curious to see who they actually place," said Deborah Alexander, whose son is in the gifted program at P.S. 150. "Now they have more kids than last year."

Though the overall number of those who qualify went up, the number of District 30 students who got the highest scores on the test dropped slightly this year, as it did citywide.

This year, seven percent of those who took the test in the district scored high enough to qualify for the five elite citywide gifted programs — landing in the 97th percentile and up — compared to eight percent who did in 2012.

Only two percent of Western Queens test-takers scored in the 99th percentile this year, compared to four percent last year.

“Our strategy is simple: Maintain a high bar for gifted and talented programs while expanding access to cognitively challenging experiences in early childhood," DOE spokesman Devon Puglia said in an e-mailed statement.

Gifted and Talented programs are a big draw for parents who live or move to District 30, and parents have been calling on the DOE in recent years to open more Gifted and Talented programs in the district to keep up with a growing population and a rise in the number of children who qualify.

Currently, three elementary schools in the district have G&T classes: P.S. 122 in Astoria, P.S. 166 in Long Island City and P.S. 150 in Sunnyside. Astoria's P.S. 85 is home to a citywide STEM program, and requires a higher test score than the district programs.

The city announced this year that it will be opening a new gifted middle school at I.S. 126 in Long Island City, joining the district's only other G&T middle school at P.S. 122's The Academy.

District 30 Community Education Council president Jeffrey Guyton said he often reminds disappointed parents, whose child didn't get a G&T spot, that the gifted classes are not the only quality option in the area.

"We have really high performing schools," he said.

Families have to rank school choices and submit applications by April 19. The Department of Education is expected to inform families of G&T offers the week of May 20. Families will have until the week of June 3 to accept or decline offers.