New gifted programs add outer-borough options for high scorers

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, 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.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.