Changes to the Gifted and Talented admission process and a rezoning of schools in District 24 could have powerful impacts on students.
The process of applying to the G&T program currently involves multiple steps said Sara McPhee, director of middle-school admissions, at Tuesday night’s meeting of Community Education Council 24, some of which she called “burdensome.”
As things now stand, the OLSAT (Otis-Lennon School Ability Test) accounts for 50 percent of the evaluation process, with the other 50 percent consisting of the fourth- grade state English Language Arts and Mathematics exams. The DOE indicates a desire to eliminate the OLSAT from the equation.
Reaction from the public was mixed.
One parent suggested that a good test-taker is not necessarily the best qualified to be in a special program. Another questioned whether there was any data available to substantiate that any of the tests currently used are, in fact, redundant.
Joann Berger, a mother of two children in G&T classes, said the OLSAT “doesn’t seem to be a fair measure” and “this is a test that changes year to year. It’s not a constant measure of a student’s ability.”
She would prefer to have IQ tests entered into the equation, believing they are “a more constant, reliable score.”
Another concerned participant in the meeting, Charlie Vavruska, said, “I don’t think they should get rid of the OLSAT. The test is a good indicator.”
CEC 24’s secretary, Lucy Accardo, suggested that each district should be allowed to decide which tests should be used as the determining factors.
Next on the agenda: rezoning.
The prospect of rezoning in the district has been on the minds of many who live in the area. The problem, according to council president Nick Comaianni, stems from the overcrowding in schools in Corona and Elmhurst, in particular IS 61. The question arose at the meeting, though Comaianni cut the discussion short, saying, “There is no plan on the table right now. The council has not gotten any proposal.”
He said in a telephone interview later that “parents want to see a plan [from the DOE]. We don’t have a plan to show them.” He was hopeful that a plan would be ready by the end of the summer.
Rezoning wouldn’t take place before Sept. 2014, he said.
Rezoning is what the DOE wants, he said, “but it’s not necessarily what they’ll get. The plan would have to be looked at and tweaked and we’d see if it’s something we would approve.”
Berger, for one, would be against possible rezoning of area schools. “They want to kick the Maspeth kids out of the Maspeth school and shift them to Ridgewood and bring the Corona kids into Maspeth,” she said. “Nobody knows what they’re working on yet.”
Maryanne Barnes, who no longer has children in the district’s schools, is nonetheless concerned. “What do you think I’ll get for my house?” she asked, if prospective buyers found out they would no longer be allowed to send their children to nearby schools. “I’m here to fight against rezoning as a homeowner,” she said.
Comaianni had harsh words for the DOE, saying, “In public, they say they want parental input. They don’t. Most of the time they don’t take the parental input. The DOE does not want parental involvement. At the end of the day, they don’t want our opinion. They only want our opinion when we make a lot of noise.”