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Parents protest CIG admission policies

Parents fear a gifted and talented education program designed for the city’s brightest students is being watered down. Led by State Senator Carl Kruger, Brooklyn parents braved the blistering cold last Friday to protest changes to the way children are granted admission to the Center for the Intellectually Gifted (CIG) program, which was designed for students in District 22 learning two years above grade level. Traditionally, the city Department of Education (DOE) has required students coveting CIG seats to take the standard Eagle gifted and talented admissions test followed by another exam for kids who score in the highest bracket. But for this year’s admissions process, students took the first exam and were allowed to select the gifted program they wanted to apply to – either CIG, which is offered at a handful of local schools, or Eagle, which Kruger said is offered at every District 22 elementary school. That means that kids who typically may not have earned a chance to even test for CIG could gain a seat in the program. And this has parents fuming that seats that should be reserved for the best of the best could go to anyone. “If you open it up to any parent that knows it exists, you have a tendency to lower the standards,” said Terry Ryan, whose daughter is in the CIG program at P.S. 193, 2515 Avenue L. Nearly two dozen parents stood outside P.S. 193 to protest changes to CIG’s admissions procedures. Celeste Watts said she is upset “that they’re trying to get rid of it.” She hopes her daughter, a first-grader at P.S. 190 at 590 Sheffield Avenue, will soon enter a CIG program. “I feel it would benefit her if she could be accepted,” Watts said. “I would hate to see it come out of the schools.” Two of Ryan’s children have been in CIG programs. “It’s a fabulous program,” he said. “It has proven itself time and time again. It doesn’t need fixing.” “We’ll do whatever we gotta do to keep CIG alive,” Kruger said. “We’re asking the mayor and the chancellor not to destroy something that we’ve worked very hard for…enriched programs.” CIG began in the early 1990s and was modeled in part after the coveted Hunter College Elementary School. In a letter to schools Chancellor Joel Klein, Kruger wrote, “CIG has thrived within District 22 as a largely unsung secret, meeting the needs of a population that could not be served by a conventional gifted and talented program.” But the DOE believed that the program’s so-called secretive status was what needed to be changed. “In the past, admissions policies have varied widely from school to school with the result that sometimes parents didn’t know about gifted programs or how to get in,” explained DOE spokesperson Lindsey Harr. To address many parents’ complaints that the programs are generally placed in schools with predominantly white middle-class student bodies and enroll kids whose parents have access to powerful DOE officials, the department created a universal admissions procedure, which changed CIG testing with the rule that all students must take the same gifted and talented test. Speaking at a meeting of District 22’s Community Education Council (CEC) last December, Anna Commitante, director of the DOE’s gifted and talented office, said, “It seems that you have to be on a secret track or in the know or know somebody” to get a seat in a gifted program under the old admissions rules. But with a uniform process, Harr said, “The comprehensive citywide assessment will ensure greater coherence and rigor in admissions to gifted and talented programs. The policy will ensure that we have high-quality programs that meet the needs of gifted students.”

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