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How to Get Your 4-Year-Old Ready for Gifted and Talented Admissions

By Amy Zimmer | October 17, 2014 7:40am
 A teacher helps a student in the new computer classroom at the Upper West Side's Anderson School, one of five of the coveted citywide gifted and talented programs across the boroughs.
A teacher helps a student in the new computer classroom at the Upper West Side's Anderson School, one of five of the coveted citywide gifted and talented programs across the boroughs.
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DNAinfo/Emily Frost

MANHATTAN — Get ready for gifted and talented admissions.

Families hoping to send their kids to the city's sought-after G&T programs next fall need to apply within the next few weeks for their child to be tested.

More than 14,600 preschoolers took the test last year, but only roughly 30 percent earned scores of 90 and above, qualifying them for gifted programs.

And even among the 4-year-olds who qualified, about a quarter wound up without a seat because there weren't enough spots to go around.

Here's what families need to know about this year's process:

1. Sign up as soon as possible.

Parents can apply for their child to take the gifted test from now through Nov. 7, either online or in person at an enrollment office or at a public school. The test is given from early January through early February.

To get your preferred testing date, time and location, it's best to register early, said Robin Aronow, a schools consultant and founder of School Search NYC.

"While you have until the deadline of Nov. 7 to guarantee your child will be tested, test sites do fill up and disappear from the online Request for Testing," Aronow said.

2. Learn about the two-part gifted qualifying test.

The tests for 4-year-old are administered one-on-one and have two parts.

The Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test examines kids on their spatial reasoning skills, asking them to analyze complex geometrical patterns. With these visual riddles, 4-year-olds have to pay close attention to shapes, including their size, orientation, color and how they relate to each other.

The Otis-Lennon School Ability Test examines a student's logic skills, with an adult proctor reading a question aloud to a child once and then asking for an answer.

Both sections of last year's test carried equal weight — 50 percent of a child's score was based on the verbal section and 50 percent on the nonverbal section — unlike the year before, when the nonverbal accounted for 65 percent of a child's overall score and the verbal counted for 35 percent. Some experts said the 50-50 split disadvantaged children who speak multiple languages and may have had a tougher time on the verbal section. The 50-50 scoring will be the same this year.

3. Make studying fun and don't over-prep your child.

It's harder for children to focus on test day if they're already burned out from too much test prep, Aronow said.

"You want your child to be familiar with the types of questions but for them to remain at least somewhat novel," she said. "You do not want your child to burn out and enter the testing situation saying, 'Oh, no.  Not those type of questions again!'"

Improving kids' listening skills and their ability to follow directions is critical for testing success, said Michael McCurdy, co-founder of test prep website Testing Mom.

But McCurdy suggested that it's just as important to turn testing practice into a game. He's heard from one parent who pretended to be stumped by a question so the child could explain things, and another who would sometimes "play against" the child, in which right answers each got a point and the parent made sure to get some questions wrong.

4. Be aware: The most selective schools only accept the top 1 percent.

There are five citywide G&T programs that run from kindergarten through eighth grade, including the Upper West Side's Anderson School, Bensonhurst's Brooklyn School of Inquiry and Astoria's STEM Academy. The Lower East Side's NEST+m runs from kindergarten through high school. Only children who score in the 97th percentile or above are eligible for these programs, but because they have so few seats, they often only accept those who score in the 99th percentile. 

Test-takers who score in the 90th percentile or above are eligible for the nearly 90 district-based programs, which are slightly less selective. These programs tend to have one G&T class in each grade, so children remain with the same kids each year.

The city prioritizes gifted students' applications based on whether they have a sibling at the school, followed by the children's test scores and the district where they are zoned.

5. Pay attention to dates since the G&T process is different from general education.

Families apply for general education kindergarten and gifted kindergarten programs through two separate processes, with different deadlines. 

Children apply to general education elementary schools in the winter, receive offers in mid-April and have until the end of May to make their decision.

The gifted admissions process takes place later, with families finding out their child's score in early April and eligible students applying to gifted programs by April 23, 2015. The city will send out decision letters during the week of May 25, 2015, and then families will have until June 11, 2015 to accept or decline the offers, according to the DOE's G&T handbook.

6. Figure out how your child will get to school.

If you apply to gifted programs far from home, be aware that the Department of Education does not provide kids with school bus transportation outside of their district, but children will get a MetroCard.

Kindergartners who go to programs in their district but live half a mile or more from their school may be eligible for a yellow bus or MetroCard. Those under half a mile get a half-fare MTA bus pass.

Kids who get into one of the citywide programs are eligible to receive bus transportation as long as they live in the same borough.

7. Be prepared for changes on the horizon.

For families with younger kids who will apply to gifted programs in future years, a new test may be in the works.

Following a rash of scoring problems at testing giant Pearson two years ago, the DOE called for submissions from companies to create a new exam.  The deadline, however, was extended when the de Blasio administration took over and the city is not changing test companies this year, officials said.

"There's been talk from parents of what changes, if any, the new mayor and chancellor will make to the G&T program in the future," said McCurdy. "There was a big sigh of relief from parents this year when the G&T handbooks were released and there were no major changes."