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What Does It Take To Be Gifted?

New York City is on the hunt for a new test to identify gifted students in its million-student school district. To find one, they need to better understand what makes a student “gifted” in the first place.

The city currently tests kids as young as four for placement in the district’s gifted programs, using a set of standardized tests.

Right now, the city’s gifted programs are 44% white students, as opposed to 15% white students in the district as a whole. That’s a big discrepancy, and one the district has been trying to correct by introducing stricter and more uniform controls on who gets into gifted programs.

The current testing system is flawed, critics argue, because kids can be coached to excel at the tests. This biases the exams towards children with involved, academically oriented parents, who tend to be more affluent, and more white, than the general population.

The district initially paired the testing with reports from teachers about students performance on a variety of academic and social metrics. But the reports were expensive and flawed. Teachers tended to turn them in late, the data was irregular and the city canned that aspect in favor of a second standardized test.

Now they’re searching for a new test to help correct their diversity problem and put the really gifted kids in the gifted programs. But there’s no magic bullet: child development experts say a test can only tell you so much, and that to really identify a child’s strengths and weaknesses, you need a professional to sit down and examine the kid personally.

There’s no way the district can afford that kind of resource, so they’re sticking with testing for the time being.

They move the tests even younger, too. The new exam they’re looking at could be administered to children as young as three years old.

Photo: Woodley Wonderworks

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