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Gifted Programs in the City Are Less Diverse

When New York City set a uniform threshold for admission to public school gifted programs last fall, it was a crucial step in a prolonged effort to equalize access to programs that critics complained were dominated by white middle-class children whose parents knew how to navigate the system. The move was controversial, with experts warning that standardized tests given to young children were heavily influenced by their upbringing and preschool education, and therefore biased toward the affluent.

Now, an analysis by The New York Times shows that under the new policy, children from the city’s poorest districts were offered a smaller percentage than last year of the entry-grade gifted slots in elementary schools. Children in the city’s wealthiest districts captured a greater share of the slots.

The disparity is so stark that some gifted programs opened by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in an effort to increase opportunities in poor and predominantly minority districts will not fill new classes next year. In three districts, there were too few qualifiers to fill a single class. The results reflect a head-on collision of two key themes in the Bloomberg administration’s overhaul of the school system. The city has centralized and standardized admissions procedures, including those for pre-kindergarten and high school, to even the playing field and eliminate any advantage held by certain parents.

 “Clearly nobody in the Department of Education wanted this to happen, but they should have known that it would,” said James H. Borland, a professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College who studies gifted education. “The idea that somehow making this totally reliant on tests would be an improvement, it’s mind-boggling.”

The article “Gifted Programs in the City Are Less Diverse” appeared at June 19th at the “New York Times” http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/19/nyregion/19gifted.html?hp

 

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