sorting the students

Fewer children make gifted cut for a second year, while inequities persist

The share of children qualifying for seats in the city’s gifted programs fell slightly for a second year following a change meant to both reduce the influence on test preparation in gifted admissions and improve the diversity of admitted students.

But most of the eligible children continued to come from affluent school districts compared to the city’s poorest districts, according to data that the Department of Education released on Monday.

City officials informed the families of 9,099 children that they are eligible to apply to one of the city’s district or citywide gifted and talented programs. That’s just under 25 percent of all students who took screening exams this winter seeking entry into the advanced classes, which admits students in kindergarten through third grade.

The passing rate is down from 32 percent two years ago, when the city added a new non-verbal test and decreased the weight of a verbal test that had previously counted for a majority of a student’s score. Last year’s screening weighed a student’s verbal and non-verbal skills equally, and just 26 percent of children were eligible. This year, no changes were made.

As usual, the most test-takers and the best passing rates came from school districts with more affluent enclaves. In Districts 2 and 3, which includes the Upper East and West Sides and much of Manhattan below 59th Street, 2,122 children — or 43 percent of those screened — hit the eligibility bar. Both districts have among the smallest shares of low-income students than any of the city’s 32 districts.

Conversely, a total of 357 students living in the city’s eight poorest districts — which include neighborhoods in Bushwick, South Bronx, Brownsville, East Harlem, and East New York — met the standards.  That represented just 11 percent of all students who took the exam, two and a half times under the city average.

“It’s critical that every student gets a fair shot at these unique programs, and that the Gifted and Talented test is accessible to all our students and their families while maintaining the same high standards,” said Department of Education spokesman Harry Hartfield.

The slight decline could have been in part because fewer students, particularly from some of the higher income districts, took the exam than in previous years.

The results came as education officials said the department would retain Pearson as its testing vendor for the gifted exams for at least another year. The testing company had a $5.5 million contract that runs until the end of this school year and officials had indicated they were looking to end the relationship after it botched scoring of the city’s 2013 gifted exams.

Families whose children are eligible now have until April 23 to apply for a slot, officials said. More than 2,000 students scored in the 97th percentile, meaning they can apply to one of six elite citywide gifted and talented programs; the remaining children can apply to less competitive programs in their home districts.

Meeting the eligibility bar is no guarantee of admission, however. Last year, only 60 percent of eligible students were offered a gifted seat.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Carmen Fariña has sought to downplay the allure of the city’s gifted programs during her tenure, saying that she hopes to make local neighborhood schools more attractive for parents to attend. The department’s spokesman emphasized that message again on Monday.

“Gifted and Talented Programs are just one of many high-quality elementary school options available to families across the City,” Harfield said.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.