Thursday, October 30, 2008

Enrollment in gifted program drops 50% and minority admissions skid


Wednesday, October 29th 2008, 8:00 PM

A new policy aimed at making the city's coveted gifted programs more diverse has backfired - causing a 50% plunge in enrollment and a decline in minority admissions.

The Bloomberg administration replaced the patchwork of entrance criteria with a unified testing system in 2007, but did not mandate a cutoff score.

Thousands more children took the exam last year, but too few qualified to fill the slots, forcing the Education Department to drop the passing score from 95% to 90%.

"Im not surprised by the outcome," said Kim Sweet, executive director at Advocates For Children.

"I think when you shift toward admission criteria that relies so heavily on standardized tests, it seems that you're bound to import some of the bias that comes with those tests."

Of kindergartners accepted into the city's gifted and talented programs this year, more than half were white.

That's in sharp contrast to the general population, where only 18% are white. And, while 41% of this year's kindergartners are Latino, just 9% of kids in gifted and talented programs are.

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein defended the process.

"We have taken critical steps to expand gifted and talented - including extensive outreach that has led to many, many more students being tested. But, we won't compromise standards and thereby dilute our programs," he said.

Part of the problem was that children who qualified didn't live in the neighborhoods where the programs were offered.

Teresa Mahr's daughter Brianna was admitted, but she would have had to bus her child - at her own expense - to Manhattan from Whitestone, Queens.

"It was inequitable," she said. "It's the wealthiest people in Manhattan whose kids could go to those programs."

Klein said the DOE was planning to add citywide programs in Queens and Brooklyn next year.

With Elizabeth Lazarowitz

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