Finally, G&T admissions letters go out, but good news is scarcer

A smaller proportion of applicants to city gifted programs this year will get good news in placement letters that the city mailed today, nearly a month after it was originally supposed to notify families.

After the city changed its policy so that eligible applicants are no longer guaranteed seats in gifted programs, just 68.5 percent of applicants were given one, according to data that the Department of Education released today.

Last year, 82.7 percent of applicants were given with seats, down from 87.2 percent in 2011. (Applicants were only guaranteed seats in the past if they ranked every gifted program in their district, which is why not every applicant ended up with an offer.)

The lower placement rate means that fewer children were offered spots in gifted programs this year than last year, even though the number of students meeting the city’s standards was significantly higher. The tally of eligible children rose sharply after Pearson, the company that administered the screening tests, revealed that it had made major errors in calculating the scores.

The errors delayed the admissions process by weeks and could cost Pearson its contract with the city. A legal challenge to the city’s methodology for calculating giftedness further delayed the admissions decisions.

Department officials said they had made fewer offers in part because less than 60 percent of families offered seats last year ended up taking them.

Officials also cautioned that gifted programs should not be viewed as the only way to get a high-quality education in the city.

“We try to make offers to as many families as possible, but our gifted and talented programs are just one part of the wide menu of school options we’ve created for parents,” said a Department of Education spokesman, Devon Puglia. “A great neighborhood school or program can deliver instruction that is just as good as any gifted and talented program.”