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Gifted and talented scoring debacle
Because of errors in scoring the admissions test, parents of about 4,700 students were recently wrongly informed that their children failed to make the cutoffs either for their district’s gifted and talented programs or for the more competitive citywide programs.
Even more embarrassing for the Department of Education is that it was parents — not DOE officials or the testing company — who discovered the error by simply examining their children’s score sheets. At first, the DOE dismissed the parents’ complaints — in keeping with this administration’s general arrogance toward parents.
The debacle has raised further questions about the performance of Pearson PLC, the testing giant that made the scoring errors. Pearson was brought in last year to replace CTB McGraw Hill, which had mismanaged the testing operation. But dozens of questions on the Pearson tests last spring had to be thrown out because they were ambiguous, had two right answers or were just unsolvable.
The scoring incident should also spur discussion about the wisdom and fairness of relying on a single standardized test to determine whether young children are gifted.
The DOE and principals used to have more leeway in screening for these programs, using performance-based measures and other criteria. But several years ago the Bloomberg administration decided admissions should be based solely on test scores. Predictably, since then the programs have become segregated by race and income.
A smaller percentage of children in low-income districts apply for gifted-and talented programs compared to students in wealthy neighborhoods. Among those who take the test, fewer in low-income areas pass.
Studies show that less affluent children perform less well on standardized tests. Wealthier families are also able to afford test-preparation programs, and their children have much more exposure to formal school settings by age 4, giving them another leg up.
We need to return to a fairer way of determining eligibility for these programs, one that looks at more than a single test score. And we should also consider whether the enriching activities offered in these programs should instead be made available for all students.
Related topics: testing