By the numbers

More gifted programs join New York City’s school diversity efforts

PHOTO: Christina Veiga

New York City will expand its efforts to diversify its starkly segregated Gifted and Talented programs, education department officials announced Tuesday.

Starting next year, two more gifted programs will join 42 other schools that have already changed their admissions policies in an attempt to enroll a more diverse group of students.

P.S. 11 the William T. Harris School in Chelsea will reserve 30 percent of its open gifted seats for kindergarten and first-grade students who qualify for free- or reduced-price lunch based on their family income, are homeless or live in public housing. At TAG Young Scholars Academy, 40 percent of seats will be set-aside for kindergarten students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

The addition of TAG is significant: As one of only five citywide gifted schools, students need a higher score to qualify for admissions, making those schools even more coveted. It joins Brooklyn School of Inquiry, another citywide gifted program that recently became a part of the city’s diversity efforts.

Diversity in the city’s gifted programs has been a challenge in New York City. Enrollment in gifted programs is almost the reverse of the overall demographics in the school system: Black and Hispanic students make up only 27 percent of students in gifted classes, though they comprise close to 70 percent of students citywide.

The city is also increasing the number of school districts that have gifted programs starting in third grade, rather than kindergarten, and use criteria other than test scores for admissions. The new districts are: 9 in South Bronx, 19 in East New York and 29 in northeast Queens. Experts say those changes are likely to make admissions more fair, since test scores for incoming kindergartners are more likely to reflect advantages in their childhood — such as their parents’ ability to pay for test prep.

But advocates who see gifted programs as crucial pipeline to the city’s specialized schools — crown jewels of the high school system that are themselves highly segregated — have questioned the wisdom of waiting to enroll some students in gifted program, while others get an earlier start.

“Why deprive all gifted students of a chance at early advanced coursework?” asked a recent report by a taskforce convened by the Brooklyn and Bronx borough presidents. “Couldn’t additional services lessen the gap between ability and achievement at a young age?”

The department also released figures that show the number of students taking entrance exams for the coveted programs remained about steady, along with the number of kids who earned a qualifying score. About 28 percent of test-takers scored high enough to apply for a seat, down just one percentage point from the previous year.

Overall, city figures show that more than 32,500 children took the gifted tests this year. That is a slight decrease compared to last year, when about 35,000 were tested. Officials attribute the decline to an overall lower number of incoming kindergarteners.

Once again, more affluent districts saw a greater number of test takers. In District 32 in Bushwick, only 159 students took the exams and 23 earned a qualifying score. (There are more than 12,000 students overall in the district.) Meanwhile, District 3, which includes the Upper West Side, had almost 1,400 test-takers. Almost 600 qualified for gifted, and the district enrolls a total of almost 23,000 students.

yeshiva findings

After 3-year probe into yeshivas, city admits it was blocked from visiting many schools, found little instruction in math and English

PHOTO: Jackie Schechter
Mayor Bill de Blasio has been accused of delaying an investigation into whether yeshivas provide an adequate secular education.

At some of New York City’s yeshivas, attendance was voluntary when it came time to learn secular subjects like math and English. Students said they didn’t learn math beyond basic division and fractions. None of the students reported receiving steady lessons in science. 

That’s according to a long-delayed probe by the New York City education department into whether some of the city’s private Jewish schools are providing an adequate secular education for students. But even as the city released findings on Thursday, it admitted that it was never able to go inside any high schools and never received a full set of curriculum materials to evaluate — significant gaps for a report that took three years to be released.

In a letter sent to the state education commissioner on Aug. 15, schools Chancellor Richard Carranza asked the state for guidance on how to proceed after a recent change in law that put the state education commissioner in charge of evaluating the schools. The Wall Street Journal first reported on the letter. 

“We deeply believe that all students — regardless of where they attend school — deserve a high-quality education. We will ensure appropriate follow up action is taken based on guidance provided,” Carranza said in a statement.

The letter marks a new phase of an investigation sparked by current and former students and parents who complained they received little instruction in math or English while attending the schools. The city has been accused of delaying the investigation to avoid angering a politically powerful community.

New York requires private schools to provide instruction that is “substantially equivalent” to public schools, and that allows the schools to access public money for things like school security. Students and parents who were interviewed for the probe said they received instruction in math and English for only 90 minutes for four days out of the week, and all but two said they received “little to no” history lessons, according to the city’s letter.

The report finds that some schools have adopted new curriculums in English and math, but officials have not been able to evaluate the new materials because they haven’t received a complete set.

The city also said that officials at eight of the schools they were unable to visit recently gave word that they would schedule meetings.

Read Carranza’s full letter here.

Find your school

How many students apply to Chicago’s most competitive high school programs? Search by school.

PHOTO: Hero Images / Getty Images
CPS released school-by-school results from its new GoCPS high school application system

How many students ranked each public high school program among their top three choices for the 2018-2019 school year? Below, search the first-of-its-kind data, drawn from Chicago Public Schools’ new high school application portal, GoCPS.

The database also shows how many ninth grade seats each program had available, the number of offers each program made, and the number of students that accepted offers at each program.

The district deployed the GoCPS system for the first time in advance of the 2018-2019 school year. The system had students rank up to 20 choices from among 250 programs in 132 high schools. Through the portal, applicants had the choice to apply separately to, and rank, the city’s 11 in-demand, selective enrollment programs. Before the GoCPS system streamlined the high school application process, students lacked a common deadline or a single place to submit applications.

A report released Thursday by the University of Chicago Consortium of School Research and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found that the system is mostly working as intended. The majority of students who used GoCPS ultimately got one of their top three choices. But the study also disclosed problems that the district now faces: There are too many empty seats in high schools. Main findings of the report are here.