the admissions test

More children passing the gifted exam, but not in poorer districts

More children than ever passed the city’s admissions test for gifted and talented programs this year, according to data released today by the Department of Education. But the number of children qualifying in the city’s poorest districts has actually fallen in recent years.

In four districts where qualifying scores have historically been so scarce that the city has not opened gifted programs, just 52 children scored high enough to make them eligible for admission.

The 9,416 students who scored higher than 90 percent on the city’s two tests outpaced last year’s total — 7906 — by about 20 percent. The total represents a 77 percent spike since 2008, when the city first turned to a standardized application process for its elementary school gifted programs.

The increase means that more students are eligible to enroll in district-based gifted programs, which require scores in the 90th percentile or above, as well as in five elite citywide programs that requires scores in the 97th percentile. Last year saw a drop in students who qualified for the citywide programs, but the 4,092 students who scored that high this year is 40 percent more than two years ago.

The increase in applications and qualifying scores has been largest in districts with many affluent families. This year, just 52 students posted qualifying scores in in the South Bronx (Districts 7 and 9), East New York (District 23) and Bushwick (District 32) out of 479 test-takers — 27 percent fewer than in 2009.

The Bloomberg administration standardized the admissions process for gifted programs five years ago in an effort to increase equity. Before then, admission standards varied by school and neighborhood, an arrangement that critics said benefited only the most resourceful — and affluent — families. The city also began to make a more concerted effort to provide information about the process to more families.

As a result, the number of children who took the test saw a significant increase in the first year that the reforms were rolled out, but those numbers dropped back down in 2010. The number of test-taking children in high-poverty districts has barely changed since.

Now, the city is developing its own test to screen students for giftedness as a replacement for the tests it currently uses, the BSRA and OLSAT. A Department of Education spokesman said the new test would likely be administered during next year’s admissions cycle.

Robin Aronow, a consultant who helps families navigate public school admissions, said she thought the department was trying again to increase equity in gifted program admissions.

“I think it’s one of the reasons — to level the playing field a bit,” she said.

Aronow attributed the boost in qualifying students to more vigorous test preparation. “There’s been lots of prepping going on to make sure kids are ready for this test,” she said.

Explaining the phenomenon in 2010, she said, “Certainly there is prep that is going on all over the city. There are books out there now for kids. There are independent companies that have boot camps. Can I attribute all of the increase to that? Not necessarily, but I’m sure it played a role.”

As has always been the case, a spot in the citywide programs is hardly guaranteed for top scorers. Last year, 1,803 incoming students qualified for about 325 seats.

This year, 102 fewer children made the cutoff, and education officials said they expected that there would be more seats available. But last year, about 970 students scored 99 or above, “so you still have to be lucky just to get in,” Aronow said.

The number of students scoring in the 99th percentile this year was not immediately available. More than 40 percent of the qualifying students scored at the 97th percentile or higher.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.