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.