Gifted and talented offer rate rises, while sharp disparities remain

The share of eligible students offered seats in the city’s gifted and talented programs increased for a second year, following a steep drop before that when the city stopped guaranteeing spots to all applicants who earned top scores on an admissions test.

This year, the city offered seats in its accelerated programs to 66 percent of eligible students in kindergarten through third grade who applied for a spot, up from 60 percent last year. Before the 2013 policy change, the city made offers to 72.5 percent of students who earned qualifying test scores and applied for spots.

Stark disparities in the system persist, as the city’s affluent districts continued to have far more students take the admissions test and receive offers than the poorest districts, according to a Chalkbeat analysis of education department data released Wednesday.

For instance, Districts 2 and 3, which include some of Manhattan’s wealthiest enclaves, together had more than three times the number of kindergarten students receive gifted and talented placements this year than the city’s 10 poorest districts combined. Eight of those districts had fewer than 25 students receive offers, making it possible that they will have too few qualifying students to support any accelerated programs.

Citywide, the total number of applicants and offers are both down, after nearly 1,600 fewer students took the screening test this winter. A total of 4,792 students were offered spots this year, compared to 4,832 last year.

Students must score in the 90th percentile on that test to apply for a spot in an accelerated program in their district, and in the 97th percentile to apply for a handful of spots in elite citywide programs. This year, one-quarter of test-takers reached that bar, a share that fell after the city overhauled the test a few years ago to make it less susceptible to tutoring and more accessible to non-native English speakers.

Beginning in 2013, the city no longer guaranteed eligible applicants a spot, even if they indicated that they would attend any accelerated program in their district. Officials said at the time that the rule change was meant to account for the fact that a significant number of families do not accept their offers. Last year, about 61 percent of families took the spots they were offered.

Education department officials on Wednesday acknowledged the lingering disparities in the gifted and talented system, but said the city has made efforts to address them.

The city sent postcards to families in districts that have traditionally had the fewest students take the admissions test, and provided directories of the accelerated programs to every pre-kindergarten site, officials said. They also noted that certain low-income areas, such as Districts 6, 16, and 23, had more test-takers this year.

“Every student – no matter what zip code they live in – deserves a fair shot at these unique programs,” Chancellor Carmen Fariña said in a statement, “and it’s critical that we are making the test accessible to all our students and families while maintaining the same high standards.”

The city sent offer letters to families on Wednesday. To accept the offers, families must pre-register at the schools by June 11.

NYC Department of Education