March 19, 2009
When results of the Department of Education’s screening for gifted and talented programs came out last year, parents of qualifying children had two major complaints: that the ultra-elite programs were all located in Manhattan, and that some districts didn’t have gifted kindergarten classes.
Today, the department revealed the locations of three new programs reserved for the highest-scoring children throughout the city; All three are in Brooklyn and Queens. And back in October, before screening for the programs even started, the DOE announced that all district gifted programs would now begin in kindergarten.
I became familiar with parents’ complaints last year because I was then blogging at Insideschools.org, the site that many parents use to research schools. My posts about gifted and talented admissions got hundreds of comments, such as this one:
The three programs announced today could double the number of seats in citywide gifted programs, depending on whether families choose to enroll in them. But that would still mean that fewer than half of the children qualifying for the programs last year could be accommodated.
To be eligible for a citywide program, children must score at the 97th percentile or higher on two nationally normed assessments, called the Bracken and the OLSAT. Last year, 978 children had scores that made them eligible for the three programs, located on the Lower East Side, on the Upper West Side, and in East Harlem. But the programs only had about 200 seats to offer.
Unlike the existing citywide schools, two of the new programs won’t have principals of their own. Instead, they are going to replace district programs operating out of two elementary schools, PS 20 in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn and PS 85 in Astoria, Queens. The third new citywide program, the Brooklyn School of Inquiry, will have its own principal and will open in a brand-new building in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
The locations were chosen because the schools have room for new programs and because they are near public transportation, according to DOE spokesman Andrew Jacob. “We wanted them to be convenient for as many families as possible,” he said. In fact, Insideschools notes that the worst thing about PS 85 is that the elevated N and W trains run outside its windows.
In 2010, the DOE plans to open additional citywide gifted programs in the Bronx and Staten Island. This fall, high-scoring children in those boroughs will still have to commute if their families want them to attend a citywide program.