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New York City’s 5 citywide gifted and talented schools (see this post for list) are thought by many to be the pinnacle of New York City’s Board of Education system. Admission into these schools is fiercely competitive, it requires both skill and luck. According to the Board of Ed a child can be admitted into one of these schools by receiving a grade of 97 or above on the gifted and talented test which can be taken at pre-kindergarten or higher level. In reality, the process is somewhat more complicated. It is crucial that parents understand how to navigate the New York City’s citywide system if they are to maximize their child’s chances of being admitted into one of these schools.
In 2011 around 1,000 students qualified for the admission into the five schools. Only about 250 spots were available. Any child scoring 97 or above from anywhere in New York City can apply into one of these “citywides” as they are commonly called by the parents. However, most people who apply to a particular school do so only if they can provide a reasonable commute to and from the school for their children. Rather than apply to all 5 schools simply because their child has qualified to, majority of people will choose 1 or 2 schools within commutable distance as their top choices and district options as choices 3 through 7. The city guarantees admission for any child who scored 90 or above into one of district options IF their parents rank all the possible options on their application.
The first priority for admission goes to siblings of children currently enrolled in one of these schools. Based on this “sibling priority” a sibling of any child currently enrolled in a citywide who has scored 97 or above will receive any available seats in this school. This is true for all grade levels, kindergarden and up. On occasion spots do open up in grades above kindergarten. However, those spots will almost always go to siblings. So the only realistic way to be admitted into a citywide is to apply for kindergarten admission, which means testing in pre-kindergarten.
After the siblings are placed in the schools, the second priority goes to children who scored 99. All children with that score are assigned a unique number based on the results of a closed lottery conducted by Board of Education. A child with a lucky (low) number will often receive placement in their first choice program. If the first choice program for this child is not available they will then receive a placement in the second choice program or in the third. This child will be placed into a program before the next child is placed.
For instance lets say a little girl named Afina scored a 99 on her test. So did a little boy named Bob. Afina got lucky in the lottery and pulled a number of 5. Bob was not so lucky and pulled a number of 149. Afina was the fifth child (after siblings) to receive a placement in the citywide gifted system. Her mom selected Anderson as #1 choice, Nest as #2 and a district gifted option as #3. Because Afina was lucky she received her first choice. Bob’s parents selected the same schools but due to the fact that he pulled a high lottery number Bob got locked out of Anderson and Nest and instead was accepted in the district program. Same score, different results.
After all the 99s are placed the system works down to 98s and 97s. As mentioned before with the possible exception of PS 85 (STEM) all the other citywides are filled up long before all the 99s are placed. Thankfully however, even if your child doesn’t get that magic 99 or doesn’t receive a low lottery number there are many excellent district gifted options available. After the testing results come out and before program choices are due parents are encouraged to attend open houses at both the citywides and district schools in order to learn more about their options.
This article is part 2 of a 3 part series. Part 3 is available here.