Public Schools

Recent Changes to the Gifted & Talented Admissions Process in NYC

Recent Changes to the Gifted & Talented Admissions Process in NYC
January 3, 2024

One of the strengths of New York City’s public educational system is the vast quantity of school options available to parents. NYC offers an unparalleled breadth of school types, including schools that specialize in certain areas. These specialties range from certain disciplines, like art or science, to focused pedagogical environments, namely including “gifted and talented” (G&T) programs. 

G&T programs are an excellent option for kids who are ahead of the curve in their academic performance. These schools provide accelerated learning options with specially-trained teachers who can offer advanced opportunities for students who are hungry to learn. Some families consider G&T programs as an alternative to independent/private schools, many of which also have the capacity to cater toward advanced students.

Families considering G&T programs should be aware that the New York City Department of Education has recently changed the admissions process for these opportunities. But before detailing those changes, let’s review the basics of G&T programs. 

Basics of Gifted & Talented Programs in NYC 

Gifted & talented programs in New York City are provided by the Department of Education to eligible students who show potential as advanced or accelerated learners. These opportunities are sometimes entire schools (such as NEST+M, Anderson, TAG, etc.), or can be specific tracks or programs within general education schools. 

Families often ask us which types of children thrive in G&T programs. Over years of experience working with both families of G&T students, and G&T educators/administrators across the city, we believe that there are a few key traits of children who will be successful in G&T: 

  • They are very curious, and have a high level of initiative and ownership over their learning; for example, they ask a lot of questions as they progress in their studies, and sometimes seek out additional learning opportunities on their own, outside of projects assigned by their teachers. 
  • They have strong communication skills, both written and verbal. They are comfortable speaking up in class and sharing their thoughts and opinions, and they are also comfortable expressing themselves in writing (depending on their age level). 
  • They are highly self-aware and take direction easily. These kids have a relatively higher level of self control than their peers, and can self-regulate to remain calm and focused in a classroom setting (again, to the extent possible depending on their age level). 

Gifted and talented programs are available for younger students, kindergarten through fourth grade. Students often apply to enter G&T in kindergarten, but it’s also possible to apply for entry in first, second, third, or fourth grade. G&T programs housed in general education schools will often only extend through 5th grade, while dedicated, city-wide G&T programs often extend through 8th or 12th. (If transitioning out of a G&T program that ends in 5th or 8th grade, students interested in advanced programming can look towards high-achieving, selective middle and high schools; while these schools are not specifically “gifted and talented,” they are the natural continuation of that track.)

Recent Changes to the G&T Admissions Process

Historically, admission to NYC public G&T programs was conducted via standardized exams. Interested students sat for these exams, and the strength of their score was the primary criteria for their G&T admission. 

However, the NYC Department of Education (DOE) announced significant changes to G&T admissions after COVID made it more difficult for children to sit for in-person testing. Mayoral changes have also amended G&T protocols. Unfortunately, many parents believe that these changes made G&T admissions less straightforwardly meritocratic, and more subjective. 

For entry in fall 2024 and beyond, students can be nominated for kindergarten entry to G&T in one of two ways:

  • If your student currently attends an NYC public school prekindergarten program (“UPK”), their current teacher can assess and/or nominate them to be considered for G&T. You’ll need to proactively reach out to their current teacher to discuss this process and move forward, if the teacher deems a fit. 
  • If your student does not currently attend a DOE school (i.e. they are not yet in school, or they are in a private nursery program), you can indicate your interest in G&T via the DOE website. A DOE representative will then get in contact to interview you about your child. The representative, who is an early childhood education expert, will then nominate eligible applicants for G&T admissions. 

After these nominations, either from current teachers or DOE representatives, are placed, G&T offers are made based on a combination of factors including the school preferences that a family lists in their DOE application (make sure to list G&T programs at the top of your preferences, if you want to be considered), available seats, your district of residence, etc. Unfortunately, this means the process is a bit more opaque than it used to be, when your child’s test performance offered relatively clear guidance as to their chances of admission. 

For students entering 1st grade or later, G&T admissions is open to all students who received marks of 3 or 4 (“meets expectations” and “exceeds expectations”) from their current DOE school. All of these students enter the G&T lottery, if desired - which means that the G&T process is now significantly more competitive and luck-based than the past (because roughly 45,000 students per grade level meet this expanded eligibility requirement of 3s and 4s). 

If your family is assessing whether G&T programs are a good fit for your child, and/or have decided to move forward with interest in G&T and need guidance on how to receive a nomination, feel free to reach out to us at Admit NY. Our team has years of expertise in both public and private school admissions, and can offer guidance as you assess the next steps in your child’s educational journey.