Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Gin & Tonic? Yes, Please.

OH! If only this post was about that G&T instead of “Gifted and Talented.” Mel has just written two posts about making the decision whether or not to put her bright children into their area’s G&T program or to keep them at their local elementary school, where they’re happy and doing well. First, I want to say that I am blessed to even be able to contemplate these choices. My daughter is healthy, and developmentally on track. She was behind verbally until her hearing loss was corrected when ear tubes were placed when she was two. But, in my opinion, she was still within the normal range with her verbal skills before her surgery. Just on the lower end of the bell curve. Now (take my objectivity with a grain of salt), I estimate her to be smack in the middle of the curve. Do I think my kid is wonderful, bright, my own very special snowflake? Of course I do. She is my joy! The light of my life. But gifted and talented in the way that NYC tests for? Probably not. Not at not quite four. FOUR!!!! Age four is when NYC begins testing for it’s G&T program. They can also take the exam at five, but there are very few spots available for those who don’t start in G&T in kindergarten. That’s it. There is no other time during their primary schooling for NYC kids to be tested for G&T. Even though research shows that it’s not accurate or effective to test at that age. And the test prep! Tutoring a child at age four (or younger) for a test that is supposed to indicate whether a child is innately ahead of the curve just feels so wrong. Oh, and don’t suggest holding my late November birthday kid back a year, even though kindy is the new first grade, don't you know. NYC has eliminated redshirting completely. Children start kindergarten the calendar year they turn five. Whether their birthdays are in January or December. They are then expected to start first grade the calendar year they turn six. So it’s not an option to send them to a private preschool the year they turn five and then public kindy the year they turn six. If you want to hold your end of year kid back a year, private elementary school is your only option.

The air of competition in NYC regarding kindergarten is insane. Nonetheless, I am grateful that we don’t live on the skinny island at the center of the city, where test prep for toddlers for private schools and G&T seems like the norm. There’s this feeling that if you don’t get your child into the right kindy, his or her future is DOOMED! Within the middle class contingent in my outer borough neighborhood there is some of this, but not at the level it is in Manhattan. As I said before, in my opinion, Sunshine seems perfectly average. She’s a happy, boisterous, child. Very affectionate, possibly with a higher than average EQ. She puts a lot of effort into nurturing her baby dolls. “Her wants to be next to me, or her will cry.” We are lucky to be zoned for excellent elementary schools. So why am I feeling all this anxiety about the G&T exam, for which I would have to submit the application by November 8th? What if I’m missing something? What if she’s gifted and talented in a way that the test would show, but that I’m not aware of? And we miss this opportunity? Although, for some of the same reasons Mel wrote about, even if she did test into the G&T program, I would almost certainly not enroll her in the city’s program.

I do not want her commuting to school at age 5. I don’t want to have to get her up earlier in the morning to get on a school bus to go to another neighborhood. I want her friends to be neighbors. I want her to feel like part of our community. NYC’s G&T programs are almost all G&T dedicated schools. Think about what that means in terms of diversity. Our neighborhood is THE most culturally diverse neighborhood in a culturally diverse city. Our neighborhood is also a mix of middle class and working poor. This benefits our local schools immensely. The middle class parents who send their children to the local public schools tend to be involved, and the percentage of the student population below the poverty line entitles the schools to additional funding and resources through the Federal Title 1 program. But, I’ve heard of schools that became high performing schools thanks to the Title 1 resources, then the middle class families zoned for the schools began sending their children there, only to have the percentage of students below the poverty line drop to just below the percentage to qualify for the extra funding. What happens then? Teachers are eliminated. Class sizes increase. You get the picture. As this article states, these schools can become victims of their own success.

I’m rambling, but all these factors are part of my anxiety. Adding in the uncertainty of what the Department of Education will change next. I'm hoping our next mayor will shake up the DOE. I know what my first choice is for Sunshine for kindergarten, but due to overcrowding, I have no way of guaranteeing that, even though my first choice is one of our zoned schools.

Pass me that gin and tonic NOW!


Stacie said...

She is gorgeous!

Thankfully, this isn't even an issue for our boys (who just turned 6 because I did redshirt them) in Kindie this year. Our cutoff for the gifted program is third grade. But, that being said, I wasn't sad to hear that the school of choice we were accepted into (because of therapy proximity) is a gifted magnet. I suspect I have one who will definitely be able to take advantage of the program at their school. We shall see about the other.

I don't think I'd send them to another school if that was the only option, though. I tend to believe that school will be what you make of it. I'm involved in their education at home. My husband does what he can at their school to help. Besides, which school you go to isn't the be all, end all here that it is in other places.

And that was rambly. Hopefully, you get the point!

Shannon said...

Just the thought of schools and all the craziness of our education system these days has me anxious - and reading about G&T testing makes me want to reach for a gin and tonic, too!

I love her empathy! And her smile. :)