Education Opinion

With New Rules for Gifted Programs, NYC’s Poor and Minority Students Lose Out

By Eduwonkette — June 19, 2008 2 min read

If you’d ever bumped your head up against test score distributions for entering kindergarteners, you already knew that NYC’s shift to a uniform cutoff for gifted admissions - the 90th percentile - could only hurt poor and minority kids’ access to gifted programs. So many of you were unsurprised in April when I analyzed the new gifted and talented data, and found that poor and minority kids’ access to gifted and talented programs had been seriously diminished. (See maps here.)

Kudos to Elissa Gootman and Robert Gebeloff at the New York Times, who pushed the G&T issue out onto center stage this morning (Gifted Programs in the City are Less Diverse):

An analysis by The New York Times shows that under the new policy, children from the city’s poorest districts were offered a smaller percentage than last year of the entry-grade gifted slots in elementary schools. Children in the city’s wealthiest districts captured a greater share of the slots.

Considered alongside Fordham’s report on high achieving students and Stanford prof Sean Reardon’s finding that the black-white grows faster among the highest achieving students, these losses in G&T seats should not be taken lightly. Because of NYC’s stark residential segregation, high achieving minority students are more likely to attend schools populated by low-achieving students than are high achieving white students. Robert Pondiscio has done a great job educating us about how this unfolds in New York City classrooms, “The ‘not your problem’ kids walk in smart and walk out smart, largely by accident of birth. While they’re in school, they are nearly completely neglected, and as a result achieve not nearly as much as they would have (while still testing at or above grade level on dumbed-down state tests) had they not been starved for oxygen in an underperforming school, where they were constantly praised for being bright, but had few demands placed upon them, and where opportunities for enrichment, in or out of school, were non-existent.”

Let’s hope that those concerned with “educational equity” revise the admissions policy for next year. Here’s what I’d like to see: If we want to increase access to advanced instruction for disadvantaged kids who are more advanced than their peers, we might consider offering gifted slots to the top 5% of students in each community school district, while also guaranteeing a seat for any student who scores in the 90th percentile or above of the national distribution. This is analogous to states’ top 4% (California) or top 10% (Texas) plans for college admissions, which guarantee college admission to students who have excelled in their own high schools. Thoughts?

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