Editorial: Gifted, talented. . . and seatless
Wanted: Some gifted and talented test administrators who can competently select students for the city's most elite academic programs.
At the moment the kings of slapstick seem to be running the show -- and, unfortunately, the joke is on some of the city's brightest children.
Last month the city announced that a processing error mistakenly eliminated 2,700 kids -- some as young as 4 years old -- from consideration for coveted places in New York's citywide gifted-and-talented programs.
So a new application deadline was set. But when that date arrived last Friday, school officials said a new mistake by the test vendor, Pearson, had accidentally knocked out 146 kids. The latest deadline was last Wednesday.
Cross your fingers and hope for the best.
Long-term solutions? The Department of Education should give Pearson the boot. The company is shockingly untalented at running such a fiercely competitive exam in the nation's largest and most complex school system.
But the city must get its act together, too. This year more than 11,700 pupils competed for 300 open spots in New York's five highly coveted citywide programs. Rules say pupils must score in the 97th percentile or above for placement in one of these five schools. But practically speaking, thanks to a scarcity of seats, students must score in the 99th percentile to stand a whisper of a chance.
The bar for districtwide gifted and talented programs is lower. Students must score in the 90th percentile or above for eligibility. But even in the district programs -- for many reasons -- eligibility is no guarantee of placement.
We basically have a game of musical chairs. The supply of seats is tight. But some kids opt out of the program in favor of schools closer to home. At the same time, the pool of eligible pupils may wind up larger than expected. So boom: The music stops and not everyone gets a seat.
Pearson's bumbling can be fixed with a new vendor. But the city must also sharpen its focus and planning, to reasonably accommodate all the students who qualify. We could always ask some of our brightest kids to work out a formula.