It’s kindergarten-acceptance time, and the city’s ever-growing post-toddler population—the number of New Yorkers under 5 has increased more than 25 percent since 2000—promises massive, historic overcrowding in the city’s public schools. But parents who don’t like the sound of that, and would do anything to finagle their kids into the privileged “gifted” schools, are even more frantic than usual. The Department of Education has instituted new rules for gifted programs. In this year’s new, uniform process, only the super-testers—those kids who place in the 95th percentile or above—make the cut. (There was more flexibility in the past, and children who scored above the 90th percentile could pretty much count on a spot.) The new process also sends notifications in late March, well after private schools—where space is even tighter—require deposits from accepted kids’ parents.
“We got tons of calls from people whose kids didn’t get in anywhere,” says Amanda Uhry of Manhattan Private School Advisors, who ushers clients through the onerous admissions process at the so-called independent schools, which mailed kindergarten acceptances last month. “Parents were devastated.” Even top preschools that in previous years had no trouble getting their kids into kindergartens have seen some get shut out, she says, thanks to a larger-than-usual candidate pool. Little Red School House saw a 20 percent rise in applications from last year; Trevor Day School 15 percent; Hunter College Elementary School 24 percent; Marymount School 20 percent; and Brooklyn Friends a whopping 74 percent. Deborah Ashe, Trevor Day’s admissions director, has fielded lots of calls from preschool directors asking about children who’ve been wait-listed and even talking up kids who are now making the rounds once more after getting in nowhere. “It’s been an much more competitive year,” she says.
Patrick Sullivan, a member of the mayor’s Panel for Educational Policy who voted against the G&T changes, says the new requirements have caused “a lot of stress.” Parents won’t find out if their children are G&T bound for several weeks. “I’m in limbo,” says Laurie Frey, an Upper West Side parent whose three elder kids are in the gifted program but is waiting for word on her youngest. “In the past, it wasn’t so burdensome. But now the wait just goes on and on.”