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3rd August

First Published in The New York Sun, August 3, 2007

By Andrew Wolf

What are parents of at least six children from Riverdale to think about the process by which their five- and six-year-olds will be excluded from their local elementary school?

The sin of the six tots seems to be they’re smart enough to be called “gifted and talented,” but not quite smart enough. They had scores that qualified them for participation in the Department of Education’s new gifted and talented program but missed the cutline, a score of 354, that would have permitted them to participate in the gifted class at P.S. 24, their neighborhood elementary school.

Was there a lack of space? No, there was plenty of room for them at P.S. 24. Instead these little ones will have their places taken by children from other communities, the result of a controversial new admissions policy that the Education Department maintains will foster “diversity and equity” in local schools, in possible violation of a recent Supreme Court decision. What makes these “test results” so galling is that while two-thirds of the grade on the test is based on well-regarded I.Q. type tests, those results are being combined with a subjective measurement, the Gifted Rating Scale, a process that has come under fire from one of they city’s top experts on gifted education, Professor Dona Matthews of Hunter College.

The GRS is a questionnaire that is filled out by a child’s teacher, rating attributes such as “motivation” and “leadership” on a scale between zero and nine.

Even if one believes in busing for the purposes of integration, there is no need for such social engineering here in the Bronx. Whites are now in the minority in the student bodies at the three Riverdale public schools.

The figures on the gifted program disclose that the demand for the new gifted and talented programs, and a similarly high proportion of success in gaining admission, comes largely from Riverdale. Some 22 Riverdale children were offered positions at the gifted program at P.S. 24 in the first round. There are 28 places altogether in each of the district’s two gifted programs.

The program at the other school, P.S. 54, was selected as the first choice by the parents of only one student from Riverdale’s two elementary schools. While no child with a score lower than 354 will attend the gifted program at P.S. 24, the cutoff for P.S. 54 is just 246, a reflection of just how few parents chose the school.

It is clear that the gifted program at P.S. 24 will serve a largely local population, but there is still that small number of Riverdale children who will be deprived of the program in which they earned a place. The number of such children may be six, but even if it were one, it is one too many.

These children have been directed to P.S. 54, and I suspect that their parents will refuse to subject their children to the one-hour bus ride each way every day. So they will end up in P.S. 24 or nearby P.S. 81 after all, but the doors of the gifted class they earned a place in will be closed to them. This is Mayor Bloomberg’s strategy. Diversity by subtraction.

Advertisements soliciting applications were put into newspapers elsewhere in the Bronx other than Riverdale, as well as in the Amsterdam News, a citywide weekly directed at the African American community, and El Diario, a Spanish language citywide daily. Meanwhile the Department of Education neglected to place advertising in either of Riverdale’s two newspapers.

A measure of just how academically advanced students are being shortchanged by the Department of Education is that the programs citywide are being organized around a class size of 28, rather than just 20 as is the case with other early childhood classes, and 12 and fewer in special education classes. Under the “fair school funding” formula, not an extra penny is provided for gifted students, as contrasted with huge supplements allocated to poor pupils and English language learners.

The new admissions policies, piloted last year on Manhattan’s West side, will drive middle class families of all races from the public schools.

Under the Supreme Court decision, it may well be that using race or any other criteria that suggests a policy to move children around involuntarily to further a scheme to create “diversity” is now illegal.

Lawyers representing national groups that filed briefs in the recent successful Supreme Court case that declared “voluntary” integration schemes unconstitutional are now reviewing the particulars of the New York City policy. There may well be a case here.

© 2007 The New York Sun, One, SL, LLC. All rights reserved.

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