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Gifted and Talented?

Today Maya took the public school gifted and talented (G&T) test. Here is how it all went: When we got to the school lunchroom we presented our letter and her birth certificate. They handed her (my 4 year old) a tiny pink Post-it with her name on it. As far as we could tell this was the only thing identifying her. Matthew was pretty sure that if she lost that Post-it we would never see Maya again. She had barely removed her coat when a lady came in to the lunchroom, called her name and took her out. Matthew and I then sat down at one of the white, public school lunchroom benches with all the other bewildered parents. We had no idea where they took her. We had no idea who she was with. We had no idea what they did with her. (Alien anal probes immediately came to mind). Matthew and I played a game on his tablet where you have to stop falling missiles from destroying your city. About 45 minutes later Maya returned.

That was the G&T test. All the info we have about this experience came from our 4 year old, who thankfully has a memory like a steel trap and loves to relay info. She told us that she went into a classroom by herself with a teacher. The teacher had two books. She (Maya) had to point at things, like at “what goes in the box”. She said the teacher told her “great”. She was asked about letters and colors. I asked if she knew all the things she was asked. “Most of them.” There were no toys. She had fun. “Can we go to Dunkin Donuts now?” She seemed happy and proud of herself for going in there alone and clearly, in her 4 year old mind, felt she had done well. So it is unlikely she was tortured. We never spoke to the person who tested her. They will contact us in 4 months to tell us her score. That is it.

This test is to see if Maya is “gifted and talented”. If she is, she will have the option to be in a more accelerated kindergarten class. The G& T options in our district are dismal, namely one school which is extremely overcrowded and far enough away to require a bus or car ride. If she scores in the 99th percentile she may be eligible to apply for a couple of super competitive gifted schools on the lower east side, a commute every day, twice a day.
Maya is 4. She knows all her colors, letters and numbers. She is starting to sound out words. She makes up her own stories, songs and games. She loves to draw and paint. She is a natural dancer. Her teachers say she is a leader. She knows all of Taikyoku 1 (her white belt kata in karate class). As far as I am concerned she is quite gifted and incredibly talented. But what do I know? I have only watched her develop from birth. It takes a perfect stranger 45 minutes of asking her to point at the right picture in a booklet to determine whether she is smart or not.

We cannot afford private school, and even if we could, most NYC private schools are lottery based. We are lucky that Maya's current school is a decent one. If she does not score high enough, or we decide we do not like the options available to us, we are happy to keep her where she is. The principal is motivated and creative. Maya can be in a dual language kindergarten class and learn Spanish. She has friends in pre-k whom she loves. For other parents, these gifted programs are their best chance for their child to get a good education. What if their kids are not G&T enough? Lotteries for charter schools? Afterschool tutoring? Praying they wont just get lost in the crowd of their mediocre (at best) or terrible (at worst) local public school? Clearly something is wrong when only the gifted kids get the best teachers and their spots are determined by 45 minutes of answering questions.

If your kid is shy and doesn't talk to strangers well, not gifted. If they didn't sleep well the night before the test, not gifted. If they do not have parents who are willing to drill them for months before the test (we didn't do this), not gifted. Also if your child is like most 4 year olds and when you ask her what she did at school all day she says “Nothing, just played”, then you will never know how her test went. You will never know if she answered questions about shapes or was abducted by aliens. Or answered questions about shapes that were presented to her by aliens. If your kid is taking this test soon, I wish you luck. If you, like me, think that your child is pretty damn talented no matter what score she gets than after the test do what we did; go to Dunkin Donuts and let her order a donut and a hot chocolate in celebration of how super smart she is. Because as far as I am concerned, when you are 4 years old, being able to go into a room you have never seen before with a person you have never seen before and answer questions for almost an hour without bursting into tears makes you incredibly and unquestionably gifted.


  1. I thought this was so good that I sent it the oneducation column(Michael Winerip) at the NYTimes today.


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