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Think Your Child Is Gifted? Here's What You Need to Know About G&T Testing

By Amy Zimmer | November 10, 2015 7:40am
 An image from a G&T Open House this year.
An image from a G&T Open House this year.
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Willow Lawson

MANHATTAN — If you’re hoping to score a coveted seat in one of the city’s roughly 100 gifted and talented programs next school year, brace yourself — the competition's fierce.

The deadline to register for the G&T test is Thursday, Nov. 12.

The test for students entering kindergarten through third grade will be administered every weekend in January at schools and sites across the boroughs.

Nearly 15,000 4-year-olds took the exam last year. Of these, 29 percent — or roughly 4,300 — qualified for seats.

Here are some other things to consider if you're thinking about G&T programs:

1. What are some signs of giftedness?

This 5-question quiz to help parents determine whether their child is gifted, recently launched by TestingMom.com, lists some possible signs including: excellent memory, great sense of humor, morally sensitive, perfectionist, questions authority and good at jigsaw puzzles.

Asking whether their child is gifted is one of the most popular questions they field, said Michael McCurdy of the test prep site, which has an ongoing free webinar called "bring out the giftedness in your child and signs of a gifted child."

2. Should you do test prep?

While the test is free of charge, many parents pay to prepare. 

More affluent and savvy parents are often motivated to give their kids a leg up, advocates say, with the downside of perpetuating the racial segregation in the city’s G&T programs, where 70 percent of students are white or Asian, compared to a public school system that is roughly 30 percent white or Asian overall, according to a DNAinfo New York analysis of 2014 DOE data.

“It is not essential to prep,” said Brooklyn schools consultant Joyce Szuflita, who runs NYC School Help.

“But it isn't fair for some kids to be more prepared than others. While it is good for the kids to understand what to expect, this is a test of concentration and willingness to cooperate, and it's difficult to control in a 4-year-old.”

Many parents aren’t thrilled about test prep, McCurdy acknowledged, but his company encourages parents to focus not on questions themselves, but on skills kids need to be successful test takers.

“We tell parents to work on test-taking skills with their child, like listening before they answer the question, test stamina to get the child to sit for long periods of time and pointing to the answer — and not moving their finger after they point,” he said.

Focus is a big issue since the tester giving the hourlong exam, one-on-one, will ask each question only once. If a child's attention wanders for just a moment, it can mean the difference between qualifying or not.

3. What does testing 4-year-olds tell us about their giftedness?

Many education experts have criticized testing for giftedness at such a young age.

In fact, most gifted programs across the country and around the world don’t test until kids are in third grade or in middle school, Szuflita pointed out.

“Four-year-olds are famously random,” she said. “They do not understand testing and the brightest 4-year-olds are as likely as any other old toddler to be grumpy, sleepy or dopey at the time of the test.”

This can be a problem for the “true outliers who may not do well in a [general education] class because they are truly marching to their own drummer,” said Szuflita, who has seen kids who really need gifted programs miss out “because of their random 4-year-old behavior in the moment or because there are not enough seats available in the programs that they qualify for.”

4. What does a G&T curriculum look like in NYC schools?

There is no standard curriculum for the city’s G&T programs. In some districts, teachers use the same curriculum as the general education classes but move at a faster pace, while others might use an entirely different one, perhaps even a grade level higher.

"G&T programs aim to deliver accelerated, rigorous and specialized instruction aligned to Common Core Learning Standards," the DOE says on its website.

Brooklyn’s District 20, which includes Bay Ridge, Sunset Park and Borough Park, and Manhattan’s District 2, which includes TriBeCa, Greenwich Village and the Upper East Side (and generally has the highest number of eligible students) have eight or more gifted programs. While the South Bronx's District 7, Crotona Park's District 12, Bedford-Stuyvesant's District 16 and Ocean Hill/Brownsville's District 23 had none because too few kids qualified to make a class, according to DOE data.

5. What are some pluses of gifted programs?

Families unhappy with their local schools often strive for G&T programs.

"It provides a choice outside of your zoned school,” Szuflita said.

Student engagement tends to be high in G&T classes and “these kids love to learn,” McCurdy said.

That allows classes to move at a fast pace and it can leave more time for enrichment and experiential learning, he said.

Also, many parents and experts note that parent involvement tends to be high for G&T programs.

6. What are some minuses for gifted programs?

Some parents are unhappy about how G&T programs segregate students within schools.

Also, since some schools may only have one G&T class per grade, it means your child will be with the same students throughout their elementary school years, Szuflita said.

Plus, since students aren’t local to the school, it may be difficult to coordinate play dates on weekends or school breaks, McCurdy said.

And getting to and from school can be a “logistical nightmare,” he added.

7. When will you find out about getting a seat?

The timeline for gifted programs is different from the timeline for general education programs — which can cause some issues for parents trying to figure out what to do about kindergarten waitlists and registration.

While kindergarten offers will be made a month earlier this year, with families applying from Dec. 7 and receiving offers in mid-March, the G&T timeline remains unchanged, DOE officials said.

That means families are expected to learn their scores in April and offers for kindergarten G&T seats won't arrive until the end of May.

8. Where can you get more info on the test?

Families should review the DOE’s handbook online, which is available in 10 languages.

For non-native English speakers, the G&T test can be administered in a student’s native language.