When my now 13 year old son was a little boy, we used to read him a book called "Leo the Late Bloomer." The gist of the story was that while all the other lion cubs could read and write and eat neatly, Leo couldn't do any of those things. And then, one day, he finally could. Or, according to the book, "Leo bloomed!"
Leo, it is pretty obvious, didn't live in New York City. (Which, to be fair, few lions do.) Because New York City has no time for late bloomers.
At one point, NYC actually considered testing children younger than 4 years old for giftedness. This despite mountains of data indicating that tests done before the age of at least 6 are basically useless. Though that particular change didn't go into effect, the fact still remains that NYC tests 4 year olds, places them into Gifted & Talented classes by lottery (with not enough seats to go around), never retests them to see if they still meet the criteria several grades into the program, and then, if a child tests gifted after Kindergarten or 1st grade, usually settles for lamenting that that there are no spots left for them in the enriched classrooms.
When he was four years old, after a series of ear infections, my son had a hearing loss which revealed itself in an auditory processing disability and speech problems. He'd taught himself to read at that age (a fact I attribute to his favoring the visual over the audible), but when he took the tests necessary for NYC pubic and private schools, he missed the cut-off by literally dozens of points.
We were advised to put him in Special Ed. I declined and instead enrolled him in the most academically rigorous school we could find that would accept him. There, we were asked if we wanted him to get Extra Time on his exams. Again, I declined. My feeling is, life doesn't offer Extra Time (do you really want a surgeon who carries around a note saying he has permission to take longer with your procedure? Or a lawyer who bills 10 hours for what any other attorney could do in 4?), so why should school? If my son was having trouble with a subject, I told him to study harder. That's my definition of Special Ed.
He is in 8th grade this year. Which means it's time to apply to High School. NYC has a number of academically challenging, specialized high-schools, as well as selective ones. (There are also gifted middle-school options, such as Anderson's Middle School, NEST's, Delta, Lab, etc... But Hunter High School only has one entry point, and that's the 6th grade, FYI). To apply to these schools, my son needed to take the SHSAT exam, which consists of an English and a math section, though some of the other schools had their own criteria. For instance, Bard High School/Early College also has an essay and an interview. NEST has their own version of the SHSAT. And LaGuardia High School of the Arts has essays and auditions.
Of the 5000 kids who took the entrance exam for Bard, about 300 were accepted.
Of the around 28,000 kids who took the SHSAT exam this year, around 5000 got an offer to a specialized high-school. About 900 were accepted to the one with the highest cut-off, Stuyvesant.
My son got accepted to both. As well as to LaGuardia.
My son who didn't even come close to testing gifted as a 4 year old. My son whom we were advised to put into Special Ed and to get Extra Time.
Now, I know that there are many experts in the field who would patiently explain to me that this proves my son isn't gifted, that he is merely hard-working. Which is lovely and all, but not the same thing, they'll earnestly remind. Let's say that I agree with them. (I don't, mostly due to the data about how flawed early testing is). The fact still remains that NYC's system of labeling 4 years olds - both as gifted and as special needs - is ridiculous, and doesn't take into consideration basic child development. Not all kids hit the same milestones at the same time. There is such a thing as a late bloomer. And the NYC Department of Education has absolutely no mechanisms in place for accommodating them as they... bloom.
Do you agree?