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More students tested for gifted and talented programs after push

A push to get more students to take the city’s gifted and talented test this year paid off: over a thousand more students took the citywide admissions tests this year, with the overall number rising to 39,160 from 38,015 last year.

But the outreach efforts did not increase the number of students admitted to the program’s most selective citywide programs. In fact, the number of students who qualified for the citywide programs declined. The number of students who qualified for the less selective district-based gifted and talented programs, which require slightly lower test scores for admission, did increase, growing by 319 students from last year.

The racial and family income backgrounds of the students whose test scores made them eligible for gifted and talented were not immediately available.

The city sent letters to qualifying students this morning, whose families now get to list the programs they prefer and hope for a spot in the program of their choice.

A place in the citywide programs is not guaranteed. Last year, 1,788 kindergartners qualified for about 300 seats. This year, the number of kindergartners making the cutoff is slightly larger, though the overall number of students who qualified for the citywide programs dropped by 149 students.

Two standardized tests determine whether a student is eligible for gifted and talented programs. The tests are the result of an overhaul of gifted program admissions that the Bloomberg administration led in 2008 with the aim of making the system more equitable. Before 2008, each gifted program set its own admissions standards, and critics charged that the intricate neighborhood-by-neighborhood system gave the savviest — and most affluent — families an advantage.

But the effort to make admissions more open to poor communities by standardizing them has proven unsuccessful so far. This year’s demographic information was not immediately available. A city spokesman said it would be released once students apply to programs.

One factor that critics charge could hobble the new system’s equity aims is the fact that the families who can afford to boost their children’s chances on the exam through tutoring will pay for it.

Bright Kids, a tutoring company launched in 2009 that runs a “boot camp” for the gifted and talented tests, more than doubled the number of students it served this year, said the program’s founder, Bige Doruk. The program served 300 students this year, she said.

“The pressure is coming from the public school system. They are failing in areas and getting crowded, and parents are now looking to the G&T,” Doruk said. The average fee per student is $1,000, she said.

In response, the city has stepped up efforts to recruit more students, especially students in poor neighborhoods, to take the two exams — the OLSAT and the BRSA — that determine eligibility. O

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