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What Does It Take To Be Gifted?

By Sierra Black |

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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About Sierra Black


Sierra Black

Sierra Black lives, writes and raises her kids in the Boston area. She loves irreverence, hates housework and wants to be a writer and mom when she grows up. Read bio and latest posts → Read Sierra's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “What Does It Take To Be Gifted?

  1. goddess says:

    I don’t know- entry into the gifted program in our school district is based on state-wide standardized test results. It’ll be a shame if we now use color to form quotas and pass by those who formerly proved they made the grade.

  2. Jenny says:

    I wish our school had done away with teacher reports! I passed the testing just fine, but one teacher in particular didn’t like me and wrote a bad report. This was the 7th grade. They refused to test me ever again and I spend the last 5 years of public school very, very bored.

  3. JEssica says:

    When I was a kid I wished I was in the gifted program. As an adult I see where most of the kids in the gifted program end up: druggies or in a religious cult. No thank you.

  4. ajedrez says:

    I’m Hispanic and I took the SHSAT (Specialized High School Admissions Test). The school that I would’ve gone to only had/has a Black/Hispanic population of 3%. It’s a shame that NYC overall is very diverse, but the technical high schools are overwhelmingly White and Asian.

    By the way, the reason I didn’t go was because the commute would be an hour long, and I realized that there was a closer school that offered many of the same programs, even though it wasn’t a technical high school. The school I am currently attending is much more diverse: Something like 30% White, 30% Black, 30% Hispanic and 10% Asian.

    There was a program in my school to try to prepare students to get into the specialized high schools, but unfortunately, it didn’t really help (I didn’t take the class and was still able to get a very high score on the test, but again, chose not to go).

    As the article says, the diversity problem is that Whites tend to have more money than minorities. For example, I know 2 girls who spent $800 on tutoring to pass the test (one got a lower score than myself and one got the exact same score as myself). A poor, minority student would not have that money and would be dependant on their own ability, as well as whatever courses they could get for free to pass the test.

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