Opinion

Adams: Questionnaires? Interviews? A Single Yes-No Question? Parents Say NYC Pre-K G&T Admissions Is Now a Confusing Mess

By Alina Adams | May 26, 2021

Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for EDUimages

A version of this essay appeared on the New York School Talk blog.

After his own Panel for Education Policy voted down renewing the contract that had been used to test students for New York City public school gifted and talented programs, Mayor Bill de Blasio swore that parents of incoming kindergartners would still be able to apply their children for admission for the G&T lottery.

Teacher and parent recommendations replace the standardized test. Students attending public pre-K would be evaluated by their teachers. Students in private pre-K or not in any program would be evaluated by city Department of Education early childhood education experts.

At the time, I questioned the equity in having teachers who might have different standards use their different judgments about whether a child was “gifted,” and whether having some children evaluated by total strangers could produce a level playing field.

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Parents began receiving email to schedule their child’s virtual assessment in May, and the actual interviews appeared consistent, except for one detail. Parents wrote me to report:

AS: It was about a 20-minute conversation with a lot of questions about my child’s strengths, preferences, curiosity, emotional expression and personality. She said I would likely find out in a few weeks regarding the lottery, but she did not specify exactly if she would be making a recommendation. 

SZ: The lady seemed nice and genuinely interested. She asked me a series of questions — describe how your child reacts to new experiences, how does he learn, how does he play, etc. She ended by saying she would write a recommendation. 

NN: The DOE person started the interview with an explanation that they only fill out the form and have no bearing on the lottery

The deadline for submitting a recommendation form was May 11. The week before, my email box began filling up:

BP: I filled out a G&T application for my daughter who attends a DOE pre-K. I have not received an appointment to meet with anyone, nor did her teacher receive any information to fill out about her. 

AB: My son’s pre-K is still saying they haven’t received any nomination form. I called the DOE, they say they sent it. I feel so lost and confused.

CJC: Our daughter has not been evaluated nor her teachers contacted when we called last week. DOE advised that it was the school we applied to (not the pre-K) that was organizing the evaluation. 

MTW: What I was informed by the DOE — and likely the reason why teachers are reporting that they have not received any forms — is that there are actually none being sent out. Apparently, teachers need to go onto their portal to access the list of applicants to be able to fill out the form. However, it feels like there was probably not sufficient explanation to teachers that they had to do that … I asked what portal and was told … that her teacher is welcome to call the hotline if she has questions.

CC: My son’s DOE pre-K teacher informed me that she never received an evaluation. Was the DOE supposed to contact the teachers directly? She seems to have no idea how to complete the form.

LR: My teacher has yet to receive the nomination form. I called the DOE today and they advised they indeed saw my application go through successfully and suggested I reach out to the school, though they could not tell me who the email was sent to requesting the nomination form. My teacher said nothing was received … later, I got a call from our assistant principal and she … was able to forward it to our teacher. 

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Matters grew even more confusing when, as the application deadline loomed, some parents continued getting calls about interviews while others were asked for the names of their child’s school so the teachers could fill out a detailed form.

QZ: My daughter is currently enrolled in a private school. On April 29, DOE sent me an email with a survey link asking for my daughter’s program information and her teacher’s email address. … The website says, “We will email your child’s teacher or program in the next 24 hours.” Twelve days later, my daughter’s teacher hasn’t received anything yet. … I called … after a 45-minute wait, the person who picked up the phone said the only thing he could do was to escalate the issue … I also emailed … as of now, I’m still waiting, there is no link sent to my daughter’s pre-K teacher, and there is no interview arranged.

JG: I was never contacted. I emailed and called the DOE twice this past month and they said they’d notify someone. NOTHING. So much for “equity.”…. Now that I emailed them again they are forwarding me surveys to fill out with the private preschool information for my child’s teachers to perform an evaluation. The best part is that they are “reminding me” per the body of the email to use the survey which they have absolutely never before sent to me. Good times! 

JS: I have received zero communication from the DOE on next steps for completing my daughter’s G&T application. I have attempted to contact DOE every day this week and I’m either put on hold for long stretches of time, only to reach people who can’t help me except to send me to me to the same email addresses that I keep following up with but haven’t heard anything back from. In the meantime, my private pre-K teacher notified me she received nomination forms for my daughter’s classmates interested in G&T, but nothing for her. 

PL: My wife called last week regarding our daughter because we received an email that she was enrolled in a program and we had to complete a survey. She has not been enrolled since March 2020 and never for pre-K. Upon calling, they said we have her listed as being in pre-K or the school has her listed, so the form was sent to the school. … Well, my wife is the director of that school and goes on to inform them that she has not received ANY forms for G&T for any students including our daughter. After a few more days of back and forth … she still has no forms and we are told our daughter was placed on a waitlist for interviews. Today we received another email asking us to fill our survey (already have) and anyone who hasn’t will be scheduled for an interview next week. 

ML: [T]he principal of my son’s school … said the teachers had filled out questionnaires about each student and that the school had submitted them to the DOE, and that we would find out the results in July. I asked if the teacher/school had made recommendations to the lottery and he basically said at this point it’s in the hands of the DOE, they didn’t have any further visibility. I was surprised since I had thought we’d be informed whether our kids were even going to be in the lottery. … Makes it a little frustrating to read some about these inconsistencies … the principal (who I like a lot) was visibly frustrated with the whole process, so sounds like that feeling is shared all around.

AN: My son’s teacher emailed us today to say they received the assessment forms for G&T lottery and already submitted them (not sure how much time she spent on them since her email was sent in the middle of the day when the kids were still in school). She said they asked about the child’s curiosity, play and approaches to learning and relationships and interactions. She did not indicate if she had specifically “recommended” a child to be eligible for the lottery or not or if the DOE would make that determination based on how the form was filled out.

JP: I was called by a DOE instructional coordinator Friday to schedule the interview. I was surprised because our child is enrolled in DOE pre-K but in a remote learning cohort. I thought her teacher would do the nomination. When I asked why it was not her pre-K teacher who nominated, I was told that they were trying to get a whole picture of the child from both teacher and parents. We were told that our child would be nominated for the G&T lottery at the end of the interview. 

PW: Spent 40 min on hold and finally got through to the DOE. The person I spoke to said that G&T nomination forms need to be accessed through the Principal’s Hub Portal. I made sure that they knew that schools hadn’t been informed of this and there was a lot of confusion. I then reached out to my son’s school (he’s in a DOE pre-K inside of a private school) and they said that since they’re not a public school they have no access to the Principal’s Hub. I freaked out for a minute and prepared myself for another long wait on hold with the DOE, when my school’s principal wrote back and said she just got an email that the deadline was extended to Friday and she got a link to the nomination form. 

As that extended deadline grew closer, the interviews, questionnaires and teacher evaluations suddenly seemed irrelevant:

LB: For a private nursery school perspective (as a director) DOE has emailed us a form to ask if we nominate or don’t nominate. That is the only question. Seems strange that DOE remote kids get more input on their forms.

RG: Our daughter’s teacher/school director said she received an online prompt that simply asked for an up-or-down question on whether they recommended the child for G&T (accompanied by an explanation of the kind of factors that they should take into account). 

So …

Some children in public pre-K were evaluated based on a detailed questionnaire. Some children in public pre-K were evaluated based on a single yes-or-no question. Some children in public pre-K were evaluated based on their parents’ opinions. Some were evaluated based on a combination of the above factors.

Some children in private pre-K were evaluated based on a detailed questionnaire. Some children in private pre-K were evaluated based on a single yes-or-no question. Some children in private pre-K were evaluated based on their parents’ opinions. Some were evaluated based on a combination of the above factors.

No one, at any point, knew exactly what was going on.

This is the equity, transparency and inclusion in admissions that de Blasio promised for his final year in office?

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