Families applying for kindergarten spots in New York City’s Gifted and Talented program next fall will apply and receive admissions decisions earlier than in previous years, under changes announced Wednesday by the Department of Education.
In a departure from the previous schedule, applications for the coveted Gifted and Talented positions are scheduled to open on December 7, concurrent with An application for traditional kindergarten programs. Families have until January 20 to select gifted programs in the same online application as other programs.
The admission decision will be published in April, the education department said.
The city expects to have 2,500 gift spots next year for new kindergarten classes, where preschoolers will be selected through teacher evaluations instead of the pre-pandemic practice of testing 4-year-olds.
“This process can be a family’s first interaction with our schools, and it’s important that we get it right and make it welcoming and easy,” Department of Education First Vice Chancellor Dan Weisberg said in a statement. “This year’s changes to the kindergarten application process will increase access to gifted and talented programming and make the process easier for families.”
The changes to the application process are the latest in a series of reforms to the program, which has been heavily criticized for its segregation effect. In 2020 only 11%% of students offered gifted programs were black and Hispanic compared to 66% of public kindergarten students citywide.
The pandemic threw gifted techniques into disarray, with a a stunning January 2021 vote by the city’s Education Policy Board, the board of supervisors that approves education department spending, which canceled the contract for the entrance exam given to 4-year-olds. The move forced the city to shift gears.
Under former Mayor Bill de Blasio, the city switched to a pass system based on teacher recommendations and lotterywith plans to eventually phase out all separate classes of the gifted and talented.
When Mayor Eric Adams and School Chancellor David Banks took office, they canceled de Blasio’s plandeciding to maintain and expand a separate gifted and talented track, but did not return the entrance exam.
Banks added 100 spots in the kindergarten program and 1,000 spots in a separate gifted program that begins in third grade and selects students based on their grades in second grade.
At the time, Banks argued that adding seats and ensuring that each geographic school district has options “will ensure[e] more accelerated learning opportunities for more families while providing an equitable and fair process for identifying students who will excel in accelerated learning.”
The transition to teacher recommendation and a lottery-based admissions system has markedly changed the demographic situation, more than double more than double the share of black and Hispanic students accepted for the 2021-2022 academic year compared to the previous year.
Officials did not immediately provide the demographics of students who received offers to the program this year.
Families have pushed for years to delay the admissions process for gifted and talented programs, which aim to place students who need accelerated learning into separate schools and classrooms.
Before the pandemic, when admission to the program was determined by a single entrance exam, students usually took the exam in January, received their results later in the spring and then applied. Admission decisions were usually made in June, a few weeks after the city sent out general offers for kindergartens.
For the past two years, the talent admissions process has been in flux due to disruptions due to the pandemic and reform efforts, further pushing back deadlines.
Education officials said they have heard feedback from families asking for the schedule to be moved to make it easier to plan for next year.
Middle and high school applications, which go through a separate process and are not associated with gifted and talented applications, are due Thursday.