All Gifted and Talented Programs To Use Same Application Tests
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Starting this year, all city schools will be using the same standardized tests for children applying for Gifted and Talented programs.
Previously, districts could choose which tests to administer. This year, all schools will have to use the same two tests, the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test and the Gifted Rating Scale, which have already been in use in some districts. Otis-Lennon tests cognitive ability and the Gifted Rating Scale rates a child’s behavior.
The new policy announced yesterday by the Department of Education follows a promise made by the schools chancellor last year to reform the testing process after complaints from parents that it was unfair.
“There haven’t been reliable standards,” the chancellor, Joel Klein, said in a statement. “Our Citywide system will give every child a fair chance to demonstrate ability and allow DOE to add coherence to the selection process.”
Some parents on the Upper West Side, where the Gifted Rating Scale was used last year, are skeptical, however. Karen Ticktin, 48, said her 5-year-old daughter, Lacie, took the Gifted Rating Scale last year and passed — as did everyone else in her class — but none scored high enough to get into a Gifted and Talented program in their district. Parents in the district, most of them white and middle class, argued that the test was used to discriminate against their children.
“It’s so subjective,” Ms. Ticktin said, referring to the Gifted Rating Scale. “I would hope there’s some oversight of this test.”
A spokesman for the department, David Cantor, said having the same two tests at every school would help the department monitor results for inequities in the testing process. He added that the testing contract had been given out on the condition that the company administering the tests, Harcourt Assessment, would keep close tabs on results.
The tests will also be given in other languages citywide, including Spanish, Urdu, Haitian Creole, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Bengali, and Korean, and notices about the tests will be sent out to parents in these languages.
Clara Hemphill, the director of the Web site Insideschools.org, run by Advocates for Children, said the decision to administer the test in different languages would allow for a more diverse group of students to gain access to Gifted and Talented programs.
“This seems like a better way to go,” she said.
Ms. Hemphill did say she was worried that the new system would not address inequalities she said were inherent in the testing process. She said the tests favor students who have attended private nursery schools over students who have attended public nursery schools or no nursery school at all.
“That’s still a problem for me,” she said. “Just the idea of having to tests kids for kindergarten is alien to most parents.”