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Is Your Child Exceptional?

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Every child born is astonishing and extraordinary in their own unique way, but some also qualify for the New York City public school system’s Gifted and Talented (G&T) programs. G&Ts are designed to immerse exceptional young learners in an enhanced and rich curriculum, taught at an accelerated pace and earmarked by strategic, rigorous instruction. Not all children are eligible to even apply, however, and assessments are utilized in an effort to determine who may qualify. G&T programs are one option parents look to in the hope that their child will get a higher quality, more challenging education than they might in their local public school. If you are considering a Gifted and Talented program for your child, here’s what to expect and how to prepare.

Determining Eligibility – Two assessments are given to students in order to determine eligibility. One measures verbal reasoning, comprehension skills, logical reasoning skills and abstract thinking. The other assessment measures nonverbal skills such as critical thinking, reasoning and problem solving. The non-verbal assessment helps to level the playing field for children who are English-language learners and those who are from varying cultural backgrounds, or who have low levels of exposure to academic content. Assessments can also be taken in other languages. Based on national norms, the assessments are considered to be reliable measurements, but not all children test well under even the best circumstances. Parents should remember that the assessments are not iron-clad indicators of their child’s abilities and should not use them as predictors for future potential or accomplishment.

The Admissions Process – The Department of Education produces updated handbooks each year on the testing and admissions process which includes important deadline dates. The handbooks have varying information based upon year of birth and are available in hard copy as well as online.

The first step is having your child tested in order to determine their eligibility to apply for the program. Parents must submit a Request for Testing form either online, at an enrollment office or at school in order to receive a test date. Special needs children with IEPs are able to apply for the test and often are eligible for testing accommodations.

If your child is found to meet eligibility criteria, they will be given the opportunity to apply to either one or both types of G&T programs. Children in pre-k through second grade who score at or above the 97th percentile are eligible to apply for both citywide and district G&Ts. Children at or above the 90th percentile are eligible to apply for district G&Ts only. District programs give priority to local students. Citywide programs are open to all New York City residents.

Preparing for the Assessments  Opinions vary on the appropriate level of test prep, but the DOE recommends using the multiple choice sample tests in the back of the G&T handbook to help familiarize children with testing procedures. Some parents caution about the stress of over-preparing and others swear by tutoring and test-prep programs. No matter where you fall on the test-prep spectrum, make sure a calm home environment, good night’s sleep and hearty breakfast are part of your child’s game plan.

Test Results and Next Steps – Students receive an overall percentile rank based on their performance on both tests. Families will be notified of the score reports via email and/or regular mail with only those whose child scored at or above the 90th percentile given the opportunity to apply for G&T placement.

The application process allows parents to rank the programs they are hoping for in order of preference. Students will be offered the program ranked highest on their application if they meet the program’s specific placement criteria and there are available seats. District zoning, sibling priority and test scores are all taken into account. Given the number of seats versus the number of applications, there is no guarantee of placement, even if your child meets all of the necessary criteria. When the number of applicants with the same priority and score exceeds the number of seats available, a random assignment process will be used to determine who is accepted into the program.

Families will be informed in the event that no placement was available or that their child was placed and if so, into which program.

Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.