I attended the NYC DOE gifted and talented program session this past Thursday night on the Upper West Side at Brandeis High School (84th and Amsterdam) where hundreds of prospective G&T parents convened. I arrived a bit late due to delays on the 2 train but finally showed up around 7:15 p.m. (the session started at 6:30 p.m.). As I walked into the front entrance droves of people sweating bullets were streaming out the door. At first I thought the information session must be over or maybe the parents suddenly discovered their child wasn’t G&T material after all. To my surprise the mass exodus was due to the amount of people packed like sardines in the auditorium with temperatures that seemed in excess of 80 degrees.
As I trotted into the auditorium with my camera swaying around my neck the presenter from the DOE gave a PowerPoint presentation to the audience. I didn’t catch her name since I showed up late for the session. The flow of the presentation seemed a bit choppy as audience members randomly shouted out questions with really no crowd control in place for the questions. Finally the presenter told everyone to keep their questions to the end of the presentation and the crowd gave a small ovation to the request.
I have to admit I was a tad bit disappointed with the session because of the set-up (especially the heat!). I think the DOE tried to make the session informative but probably didn’t expect this type of response from so many attending. This was the only information session held in Manhattan and it might have been good to have another information session in Manhattan that would be easier for parents (like me) who live below Houston Street. Luckily, I’m in a position where I know most (if not all) of the information shared at the session due to my experience with the gifted and talented program here in New York but most who attended probably are not. I did sense a bit of frustration from parents at the session who seemed to be new to the NYC gifted and talented extravaganza and all of its little intricacies like OLSAT and BRSA testing criteria.
Here are a few of the comments parents told me about the Manhattan information session for G&T:
“All the information they shared is already on their Web site and I really didn’t find out something I already knew.”
“I didn’t realize there were so many people in Manhattan interested in this program. This seems very competitive.”
“I had a specific question about transportation but they never answered my question.”
On the upside, the DOE did have three representatives in the lobby outside the auditorium to answer questions from parents one-on-one. The DOE printed copies of the G&T handbooks that are available online. I didn’t see many parents take the books but I assume most probably downloaded it themselves prior to the meeting or possibly picked up the handbooks at the beginning of the session prior to my arrival. There were also people from Bright Kids NYC outside of the school promoting their OLSAT test prep service to prospective G&T parents.
I also received updates from parents who attended the NYC gifted and talented program information sessions in Queens and Brooklyn. Here are the comments from those sessions:
From parents who attended the G&T information session in Queens:
“Since the info session answered most of my questions, but not all, I’d rate it at an 8 out of 10.”
“The crowd certainly reflected the diversity of Queens and every ethnic group was represented.”
“The presentation was centered around the application process and enrollment, but not the program itself. When asked about the benefits of the program itself they only pointed out the benefit of having a classroom full of high achievers. They also stated that it was up to the individual teachers to modify and adapt the program to meet the needs of gifted children. They encouraged parents to contact the schools directly to find out more about the individual programs.”
“The high school auditorium was packed with people standing. Many people brought their children with them, which surprised me because I was expecting a room full of parents.”
From parents who attended the G&T information session in Brooklyn:
“It was pretty crowded, but given the number of parents in Brooklyn with kids I was surprised they were only having one meeting per borough.”
“I would say it [the information session] was useful because you got most of the essential information, deadlines and dates, the basics about the two tests, the procedures and processes about applying for the test and then maybe subsequently a G&T program, the differences between district programs and Citywide programs, etc.”
Overall, I think the NYC gifted and talented program information sessions provide useful information for parents who want specific questions answered beyond what they can find out from the DOE web site. I admire the DOE for conducting such sessions in each of the five boroughs.
In my next post, I’ll give my list about how the DOE can improve its G&T information sessions. For now, I’d like to hear from other parents who attended one of the G&T information sessions. Were the sessions useful? Would you recommend these sessions to other parents?
And here are more pictures from the information session I attended:
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