Home > Uncategorized > Einstein’s Definition of Insanity Applied in NYC: An Expansion of Test-based G+T Programs Will Increase Minority Enrollments in Test-based Elite HSs

Einstein’s Definition of Insanity Applied in NYC: An Expansion of Test-based G+T Programs Will Increase Minority Enrollments in Test-based Elite HSs

June 20, 2019

As noted in many previous posts, the NYC school district is facing a serious problem with it’s current method of determining entry to the small number of “elite” high schools in the city. The problem is described in a recent New Century Foundation blog post written by Alison Roda and Judith Kafka:

This year, just 10.5 percent of the students admitted to New York City’s eight specialized high schools (SHS)—which use a single test to determine admission—were black or Latinx. This statistic—which hasn’t changed much at all over the past five years—stands in stark contrast with the overall demographics of NYC’s public schools, in which 66 percent of students are black or Latinx.

Mayor de Blasio has come up with an elegant solution, one that mirrors that used in several states to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds gain entry to State colleges: ensure that several seats at each school are reserved for the students with the highest grades at each of the city’s Middle School who also scored relatively high on the standardized test used to admit students.

But many legislators, parents, and policy makers who conflate “merit” with “high standardized test scores” are now advocating that the best way to increase minority enrollments in elite schools is to expand the G+T (Gifted and Talented) programs in Middle and Elementary Schools. While this sounds like a rational and fair method for expanding minority enrollments, it flies in the face of reason. Why? Because admission to G + T programs is based on a standardized test! Here’s Mss. Roda and Kafka’s take on this idea:

Not only will expansion of G&T programs fail to address the racial and ethnic segregation that exists in the specialized high schools, but also it will serve to increase segregation at the primary school level, further limiting educational opportunities for black and Latinx students.

And Ms. Roda and Kafka note that G + T programs track students, and that such tracking has it’s roots in anti-desegregation… not the direction minority parents are seeking:

Historically, G&T programs and other “advanced” curricular offerings grew during the desegregation era as a way for more-affluent white families to secure additional resources and maintain segregation. Like Advanced Placement or Honors courses, housing separate G&T programs within schools that also contain general education programs is a form of tracking,because students are fully separated for instruction. In most suburban districts, elementary school G&T programs are “pull-out” programs in which G&T students are given access to a special curriculum outside the regular classroom for a set number of hours per week; the remainder of the time, these students are educated alongside their general education peers. But in New York City, G&T programs are full-time, school-within-school models in which students are taught separately from their general education peers.

Worse, the entry to these programs is a standardized test given at an even younger age, which means that the impact of schooling on the test results is even more limited.

Einstein’s definition of insanity is “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”… and many NYC parents and policy makers who conflate “merit” with “high standardized test scores” are offering a solution that does not address one fundamental reality: “merit” and “high standardized test scores” are NOT the same thing. And to add fuel to the insanity argument, there’s this tidbit offered by Mss. Roda and Kafka:

Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein already tried the approach of expanding G&T to promote equity back in 2008, and their measure failed miserably.After the city switched from an admissions system based on multiple measures to one based on a single test score, and tried to expand the number of G&T programs, the percentage of black and Latinx student in G&T programs fell by half, from 46 percent of program entrants to just 22 percent.

In short, there is NO evidence that expanding the G + T programs in middle school and elementary school will help expand opportunities for minority children AND lots of evidence it will hurt them. So what IS the way forward?

New York City should phase out G&T programs and replace them with equitable and integrated schools. This shift should include creating support for schools to use the schoolwide enrichment model, an approach to gifted education based on the philosophy that all children have unique gifts and talents—not just the students who score well on standardized tests and in classroom settings—and equipping schools to implement a culturally responsive and sustaining curriculum, in line with the framework set forth by New York State.

THIS is a FAR superior approach to expanding opportunities for all children, especially if it is coupled with the second recommendation advanced by Mss. Roda and Kafka:

…we also strongly recommend that the city eliminate test-based enrollment screens at the elementary, middle, and high schools across the city and replace them with a more holistic approach that includes diversity targets.

There are many “gifted and talented” students whose gifts and talents elude identification from pencil and paper standardized tests… It’s well past time to try something different!


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