the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) submitted an amicus brief to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Boston Parent Coalition for Academic Excellence Corp. v. School Committee of the City of Boston. In its brief, the Association presented published position statements, articles, and policy positions in support of the Boston School Committee’s efforts to remove barriers of access and ensure greater equity for all students in the admissions process for its three exam schools.
Integration researchers and advocates like us have been recommending for years that all students in all classrooms deserve access to opportunities to challenge and stimulate their learning and creativity. Rather than telling kids that they’re in G&T or they’re out, the city should implement a gifted-for-all approach, shifting to a system focused on differentiation within mixed-ability classrooms, equipping teachers to provide high-quality instruction that includes project-based learning and challenge, and ensuring that there are entry points for all students.
In fall 2020, when an admission test was used, just 4 percent of offers went to Black pre-K students, according to data from the Department of Education. That percentage rose to 11 percent when a universal screen was used in fall 2021. Seven percent of offers went to Hispanic students in 2020, compared with 13 percent in 2021.
Asian and white students comprised more than three-quarters of students across all Gifted & Talented programs in 2018-2019, despite being about a third of the overall kindergarten cohort.
Conversely, Black and Hispanic kindergarteners comprised 63 percent of the kindergarten population but only 16 percent of students in Gifted & Talented programs.
The disparity was particularly acute for Hispanic students. Despite being much more numerous across all kindergarten programs (40.1 percent) than Black students (22.9 percent), Hispanic students were only moderately ahead of Black students with respect to participation in Gifted & Talented programs (9.3 percent versus 6.7 percent).
How does the process work? Four-year-olds take a nationally normed standardized test (actually, two tests, the NNAT and the OLSAT, which are supposed to measure reasoning ability and general intellectual aptitude). No bubble sheets: It’s administered in person by an adult. Those above 90th percentile qualify for district programs. Those above 97th percentile qualify for citywide programs.
Those are the technical qualification thresholds. In practice, you need a 99 to qualify for a citywide school and usually something like a 95 to qualify for a districtwide program, though it depends on the district.
Below are some excerpts from Dr. Roda’s paper on SHSAT, gifted and talented, and tracking in NYC.
In particular, our research-based recommendations, described below, call on the Chancellor and Mayor to phase out G&T programs and replace them with equitable and integrated desegregated schools and classroom settings with culturally responsive and sustaining curriculum. We also strongly recommend that the city eliminate test-based enrollment screens at the elementary, middle, and high schools across the city and replace them with a more holistic approach that includes diversity targets.
Equal access to educational opportunity and racially and economically integrated public schools are central goals of the SDAG and the larger civil-rights community. These goals cannot be achieved unless the New York City Department of Education eliminates competitive admissions to its elementary- and middle-school programs and schools.
In the elementary-school context, New York City provides separate Gifted & Talented (“G&T”) schools and in-school programs for young children who score above a certain level on what is known as the “G&T test.”
Recently at the district 4 education townhall, Chancellor Carranza was asked a fairly complex question on Gifted and Talented programs.
Parents wanted to know what your vision for G&T education is? Can you commit that G&T education will always be a part of the DOE? What are your positions in terms of access to G&T education both at the kindergarten level, changing the entry points for that, and also possibly changing the SHSAT and the access to the specialized high schools?…
A new reform movement was launched in 1996 when a report issued by the community-activist organization ACORN branded the high-stake one-shot admissions test a form of educational apartheid. They were supported by Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew, but once again the campaign failed because of deeply entrenched political opposition.
In 1995 the city opened a Specialized High Schools Institute (SHSI), city-run preparatory program that was supposed to even out performance on the SHSAT and make admissions to the specialized high schools fairer, however with the plethora of private tutoring agencies it failed to improve ethnic balance at the schools.
“We’re working to raise the bar for all kids,” Carranza said in a statement to Chalkbeat. “We also have to think about access and barriers to entry, and that includes whether we’re creating unnecessary barriers by tracking students at the age of 4 or 5 years old based on a single test.”