Should Our Son Take the Gifted & Talented Test?

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We think our son is whip smart, but is he smarter than other kids? Do we test him for gifted and talented programs in NYC?

Registration is around the corner for the test, which involves two one-hour exams held at his school during regular school hours. There is no school-based prepping — and we wouldn’t prep him for it. No pressure.

Addressing G&T testing at a recent PTA meeting, the principal of A’s school seemed to discourage parents from signing our kids up unless we were serious about sending our kids to a G&T school. It’s a long, exhausting exam, she said. She didn’t offer other guidelines in that meeting, but in a direct email exchange, she suggested talking to A’s teachers.

A is  a fast learner; he’s now pretty much like any other second grader, even though he didn’t begin to learn English until he was 5. He’s nearly 7 now. We know he’s smart, but how smart? Aren’t most parents amazed by their children’s capabilities? Their growing brains? Their world ponderings?

We like his school — it’s reputable, is a short walk (4 blocks) from home, and has teachers who care about the students’ education and creativity. Is that enough? Would we want to switch to an unknown school, that might be lower-quality overall but have a small G&T classroom? Would we want our kid to be labeled as special? Would we want to separate him from learning with all levels of children? The G&T program is meant to be a way for brainier kids to get a private-school education without paying private-school prices — but you wouldn’t know what school you would get into. A G&T classroom? Or an entire G&T school. Would we want either?

Friends in another borough have a daughter who tested into G&T classes last year, for third grade, but they decided to stay with her neighborhood school, where the daughter continued to be challenged by the curriculum (not bored) and had good friends. Another parent had a similar experience when her boys tested well in kindergarten, but she opted to keep them in their school. “Elementary school is about experiences and community building,” she texted me. “Plus, in my experience, kids get wind that they are in G&T and think they are better. I used to really push my son and thought I wanted that. But in the end I just want a regular kid in a neighborhood school.”

This seem to be the consensus of my friends. That you usually have to take them out of the local school, where they feel safe and secure, and go to a G&T school, often a subway or a bus ride away. When I just posed the question? Should I? Many of them immediately had a resounding, “No!”

We also have to consider whom we are doing this for? If A were truly bored in his good public school, then we’d look elsewhere. But he’s not. So if we entered him into G&T programs, is it to prove to ourselves, that we are good parents? To show the world we have a smart son? That he’d truly blossom so much more in a G&T classroom. In our eyes he is already gifted and talented. Do we need a test or a school to prove it? No.

A friend of mine in California, whose children are now teenagers and attend public school, says, “When C was little, I remember going to a school-application meeting of sorts. And the instructor said in this weary tone, I know, you all think your kids are geniuses, but they’re really not. People were appalled, because we all had little 5-year-olds who were geniuses. But even then, I thought, she’s right.”

Still other pals suggested that having options is good (and one mom noted that her kid is rocking a G&T school, which goes from K to 12, so no need to apply to middle or high school. (That in itself is a lure). And also just taking the test gives parents more information about their children. And the test free.

Is A gifted and talented? A little genius? Or just, as one friend says, “another very bright kid among many?” Probably the latter, but I agree that having as much information as possible about your child is a good thing, so we’ll do the test. A will like doing it — he likes to figure stuff out. Right now, it’s unlikely we would enroll him in a G&T program, but honestly, you never know. And options are always a good thing.

Photo: Getty