A New York City Word Problem:
This year, of the children who scored high enough to be eligible for a gifted program— 2,656 kindergarteners — qualified for the five most selective schools by scoring at or above the 97th percentile.
These highly touted Citywide schools — three in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn and Queens — have about 400 kindergarten seats.
So, HOW MANY KINDERGARTENERS CAN WE SQUISH INTO EACH SEAT and still keep the student-teacher ratio under 30:1?
#1. The Classroom EQUATION:
6.64 (students per SEAT) x 30 (max # of desks per class) to have 1 teacher, and if the PTA funded it, an extra student teacher or parent volunteer- to differentiate lessons despite most teachers having no formal G&T training. So that’s 199.2 students per G&T citywide K classroom. Then it would work. Hmmm….
#2. The Competition EQUATION:
OLSAT test prep guide- $89 + workbooks, and a learning activity kit ($299) + game ($300) + consultation with a testing specialist ($200)= HOLY MOLY!
#3. The Switch the Tests: short-term, level- the-playing-field-tactic EQUATION:
It costs NYC (and therefore taxpayers) X amount to purchase testing materials (the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test, or OLSAT, a reasoning exam, and the Bracken School Readiness Assessment, a knowledge test) and actually test the 14,000+ kindergarteners whose parents want them in a G&T program. It costs $5.5 million more to alter the current standards for G&T entry (a mere 4 years after they were introduced,) swapping the Bracken exam with the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test, which city education officials contend will better measure ability.
How much should we spend on testing when the NYC school system needs more than 6 times as many seats (not to mention facilities and teachers trained in gifted education) just to accommodate the highly gifted kindergarteners.
#4. The New Approach to Education EQUATION:
ADD together 5 ‘Is’- Imagination, Inquiry, Invention, Implementation and Initiative + ‘5 Es’ – Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate, then SUBTRACT standardized testing, memorization, drill and kill, and then MULTIPLY better trained teachers, motivated parents, PLUS some new funding into STEM and other needed initiatives and what do you get?
Graduates who have the potential to be the next great innovators.
Perhaps the SOLUTION is more simple than all of this…
1- Parents, do your part, early and often. Read to your children from day one. Don’t wait until kindergarten, or rely on your preschool. It’s now your job.
2- Parents, demand more from your school system, beyond just G&T- for all public schools for every child so advanced learners can find a place within a local public school that can provide the learning opportunities that they need, just as any child with specific learning needs receives support.
3- Teachers, take classes in gifted education so you can provide rigorous learning opportunties for your high fliers, and simultaneously, know what special needs look like, so you can help children on both ends of the spectrum- get the added support they need early- whether a parent wants to hear it or not.
4- Parents, teachers, administrators, even local business owners, work together. Remember the ‘it takes a village’ concept.’ Let’s use it. No more blame game. No more using parents for just the fundraising needs and then keeping them an arms distance from everything else. Use them as mentors, topic experts, guest speakers, volunteers, partners in education. Let’s work together and share our resources and abilities for the benefit of our children.
5- D.O.E. and NYC legislators and taxpayers- pay good teachers what they are worth! Look at Finland and Singapore. Let’s bring respect back to the profession and make teaching the noble pursuit it once was. Let’s put tax payer money and federal funding into proven STEM programs for even our young learners. Let’s quit focusing on standardized tests as the end game and refocus on critical thinking.
Read these articles for more information:
more in the NYT article,