We're thrilled to welcome Mrs. A, an elementary school teacher teaching in NYC public schools as a contributor. This week, Mrs. A shares her thoughts on G&T program in schools in low income neighborhoods.
“Matthew, why don’t you come and join us for the nursery rhymes we’re learning.” I beckoned to my kindergartener who was lagging in his seat, rather than joining the crowd of students on the “rug”. “Boring!” whined Matthew, “I already know all those nursery rhymes, I learned them in pre-school.” It was September and I was just getting know my class, “OK” I thought, “I am going to have to challenge this little guy, he obviously knows more than the rest.” Matthew finally joined the group after much cajoling and the lesson proceeded without a hitch.
It turned out that Matthew was obviously gifted, by the end of the year in kindergarten he was reading books from the third, fourth and fifth grade libraries. His writing and math were both way above average and his language skills, that is, his speaking and vocabulary were exemplary, yet, Matthew failed the Gifted and Talented test by 4 points that year. I was sorely disappointed in this, because, Matthew, is a minority, a Latino, whose parents, though well-meaning were not at all test savvy and I feared that he would lose out and never get the education he needed.
The school that I teach in a Title I, New York City Public School in Brooklyn, 95% of the students are on Free Lunch. The school groups all classes homogeneously, there are no top classes. Currently with budget constraints there are no courses added to the curriculum. Like most city schools, the school has become focused on test scores and achievement, differentiated instruction is talked about, but time does not allow for such lofty goals when one is so focused on moving all children, even your slowest on those tests. The cluster teachers ought to be able to provide some kind of diversified relief for the brightest however, this school has the following cluster programs: Reading, Literature, Literacy, Social Studies, Computers, Art & Music. There are three cluster teachers devoted to reading instruction. For the brighter students this is clearly overkill.
So what does Matthew do now, in first grade? He can be found, often in the halls, running errands for the teacher. Last I spoke to him and asked him what he was studying in November he rolled his eyes and said, “Families” , “We are studying families, families, families.” I suppose, he helps others in the classroom who are lagging in their studies. This scenario of our brightest minorities can be seen repeated over and over again, although they don’t get into the Gifted and Talented schools, they are still untapped and unchallenged talent wasting away in a mediocre system which caters to the bottom and middle rather than the top.
These students are at risk, they are bored, tired of the same old studies and we risk losing them to more stimulating endeavors such as drugs and sex as they get older. These talented minorities, like pure gold, can be mined if the city is willing to take a good, hard look at it’s Gifted and Talented search.
Here are my suggestions:
- Start requiring that the students who are minorities who fail the test by say, 10 percentage points, be given special instruction in their schools.
- Every school should have a Gifted and Talented class for each grade.
- Extra-curricular activities MUST be added for the Gift and Talented class, perhaps that class could be taught by two teachers as we do with the Special Ed. Inclusion Classes.
- Consider having a few Gifted and Talented schools devoted JUST to minorities.
New York Gifted and Talented admissions for September 2015 begin this week on Wednesday, October 8th. Complete details and handbooks are available online at the DOE website. In addition, G&T info session will be held in each borough. See below and our events calendar for schedule
|Manhattan||High School of Fashion Industries
225 West 24th Street
|Tuesday, October 14||6:00 - 8:00 PM|
|Brooklyn||Clara Barton High School
901 Classon Avenue
|Wednesday, October 15||6:00 - 8:00 PM|
|Staten Island||P.S. 69 Daniel D. Tompkins
144 Keating Place
|Thursday, October 16||6:00 - 8:00 PM|
|Bronx||Theodore Roosevelt Educational Campus
500 East Fordham Road
|Tuesday, October 21||6:00 - 8:00 PM|
|Queens||Forest Hills High School
67-01 110th Street
|Wednesday, October 22||6:00 - 8:00 PM|