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New standards may reduce gifted classes

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Close to 52,000 students took the standardized tests required for consideration for a seat next fall in one of the programs accepting children in kindergarten through grade three, which is a three-fold increase over the 13,266 applications the agency received in 2007. The DOE credits the jump to a policy change last year that allowed students to be tested in their home schools during the week instead of off-site on weekends.Queens has 20 schools throughout the borough's seven districts with gifted and talented programs, plus several of the districts offer honors classes at the middle school level.District 27 in the Rockaways, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park has seven programs starting in kindergarten, two of which cover through eighth-grade and four through fifth-grade. No other borough district starts gifted programs before first grade, and PS 122 in Astoria covers grades two through eight. Districts 28 and 29 currently only offer gifted and talented programs for the first-grade, while those in Districts 25 and 26 cover first through fifth.But while the number of test applicants rose, so did the standards by which their scores were judged. Up until last year, districts had more say in which students got into a program based on test scores. But at a series of town hall meetings throughout the five boroughs last fall, DOE officials announced that the agency planned to set a citywide standard where students would need to score in the 95th percentile or above on two standardized tests in order to be considered for a seat."If there's a district where we're going to discontinue programs, we'll decide by the number of students who want to get into the program. The No. 1 criteria is demand for the program, but there are a number of other factors," said DOE spokesman Andrew Jacob. The decision where those seats will be located is to come once the city has all the test scores and can see the distribution, he said."Some districts that have a lot of programs now may see some of them cut, where other [districts] may get new programs," Jacob said."The cut-off score didn't go up, it's that there wasn't one in the past," he said. "You could have [gifted and talented] classes with a wide range of academic abilities."Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at achristodoulides@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

Updated 6:57 pm, October 10, 2011
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