Gifted and Talented – but only if you have connections

A few days ago I mentioned sitting with a couple of mothers from our building at our holiday party and hearing about the Gifted and Talented programs available in NYC public schools.  I didn’t go into a full description of the conversation, but I’ve been thinking a lot about what I was told and am  troubled by it.   There are many issues with these so-called Gifted and Talented programs.  I have a problem with them because just by virtue of their existence, they create an ‘other’.    If you are not in the G&T programs, you are ‘other’.  (They don’t call it ‘Ordinary and Talentless’ but they don’t have to – it is implicit.)

In my ignorance,  I thought that perhaps every child entering school was tested – given the same standardized test as every other child entering school, and then the highest percentages were put into the G&T programs.   Why I thought this, I don’t know.  It makes the most sense, and nothing done in public education follows a line of common sense, so why should testing for G&T?   Turns out that you must sign up to be tested for a G&T program outside of any other testing that might be done.  As though perhaps some parents wouldn’t want their child to be given the best the school has to offer.  The deadline for signing up is November 17th, and it must be done on the DOE website.  (I got all of this information from the two mothers to whom I was speaking.  One had asked the other if she’d received her letter with a test date for her child, and then I started asking questions.)    The DOE, however, does not advertise this.    My question was, “But then how do you know about it?”  Well, if you go on the DOE website and look, you could find out.    So then I said, “But doesn’t that put lower income families who may not have internet access at home at a disadvantage?”      The response, told to me in a tone that was slightly indignant, was, “If your child is in any kind of decent pre-school, they let you know.  They send out regular emails about it.”   Which of course didn’t answer my question.   Because if a family can’t afford internet access at home, they probably don’t go to a posh pre-school, or any pre-school, and so do not have the information spoon fed to them.   Maybe their kids stay at a relatives house while the parents work.  But does that mean they don’t have children who could be judged gifted and talented?   Apparently it does.

The more I think about it, the more appalled I am that the DOE seems to do its’ best to keep the G&T programs in the realm of those with money and connections.    Why the bias against those with lower incomes?   Wouldn’t it benefit their image to find G&T candidates among poorer families?   Shouldn’t they do outreach programs about G&T if in fact their motto is, as stated at the top of their website, “Children First.  Always”

I disagree with the existence of G&T at all.   But it does exist, and so it should be available to everyone.

3 comments on “Gifted and Talented – but only if you have connections

  1. webdesign says:

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  2. cheryl says:

    In the district I lived in when I was in MD, only the kids of doctors, dentists and lawyers were in the GT program. Oh, and a token minority. I was in it because when we moved from NY to MD, the books I had were two years behind. My mom had to force them to do a placement test, which put me a year ahead into 8th grade (I would have lost credits to move to 9th. ) Because I did so well, when they started GT classes at the high school I was included. My husband, who is much smarter than I am, was never asked, because his parents were not important people. All the kids in the GT classes looked up to him in classes like Chemistry and Calculus because he could do it better than them. This was before the days of internet, but I doubt that things have changed at all.

    In cash strapped CA, when my daughter was in school (we now homeschool) the parents had to come in to teach to allow the teacher to do GT. Amounted to the same thing – kids who were rich enough to have a stay at home mom got the classes. In schools where everyone worked, well, no enrichment. No music, art or science as far as I could see either. We like going at the pace that works best for us now.

  3. Lynette says:

    There may be the perception that G&T kids are only those who are rich and well connected, but G&T is a REAL designation and those who parent and/or teach G&T students realize that they are a group of kids who have exceptional abilities and talents as well as challenges. In my opinion G&T kids should be identified early and given the same consideration that Special Ed kids get. These kids do not fit in the bell curve and the one-size-fits all model of public education does not work for some of these kids. If they disengage, they tune out and drop out or act out. To lose these kids is a disservice to our country and to the world. Take a look at history, the G&T students of the past include Bill Gates and Einstein. Instead of thinking these kids are an “elite” group, we should take great care to nurture their talents so that they can give back to the world with their God-given talents. These kids come from all socio-economic levels and they should be seen as a national treasure rather than shunned because of the misinformed idea that they think they are “better.” They aren’t better, just different. But where they excel they should be nurtured and just like Special Ed kids, where they are challenged they should be helped.

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