“Caste”-ing Call

Vincent Avatar

My eldest was one of the kids who took the citywide gifted and talented test meant to bring equity to the city’s gifted and talented programs. Despite scoring well on the test, my son has been denied a seat in any gifted and talented programs.

It began a several months ago when my wife and I were pleasantly surprised by a letter from the DOE informing us that our son qualified for a seat at NEST+m. Several weeks later a message left on our answering machine by a DOE representative stated that his acceptance was a mistake and that a new letter with our choice of schools would be sent to us.

We received the second letter, completed the accompanying form as instructed, and sent it to the DOE with the expectation that our son would be accepted into our second choice of school. This was not the case.

Instead we received a third letter from the DOE stating our son would not be allowed entry into any gifted and talented programs. A number was provided for us to call with questions. I have called twice. No one has returned my calls.

I have never been a fan of gifted and talented programs (GATE or TAG depending where in the country you are). I feel they create an atmosphere of privilege when schools should be creating an atmosphere of equity and community. In the spirit of multiple intelligences, all students have their strengths and weaknesses.  Schools should provided situations for the refining of student strengths and the improvement of student weaknesses.

Currently, what exists is a caste system where poor performing students and students with special needs are so stigmatized they have no hope of achievement. They are “untouchable” (Dalit). The Kayastha being those who test well or excel at sports (especially on the high school level). Average students form the faceless members of the Vaishyas and Shudras.

Having my eldest take the gifted and talented test does not mean I have changed my opinion of GATE programs. Instead, it should mean I have the results of an assessment tool to help my son grow academically. It should mean that my son has more options in finding an appropriate educational setting. It currently does not mean either. I do not have an explanation of the test scores and I do not have a choice of schools despite my son scoring well above the required points for admission.

While not a fan of GATE programs, I am no less upset by their rejection of my son. He scored above the required points. He has earned his place in a GATE program. and yet he is denied entry. As criticism focuses on the discrepancy between Black and White students, there is a whole spectrum of students whose needs are ignored. Among them Asian students, who despite stereotypes, also need academic assistance.

A report from the Asian American Legal Defense Fund (AALDF) cites the negative impact of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) on Asian students. As an Asian parent and educator, such investigations into educational issues in the Asian community are too few and far between. Like those poor performing students, Asian students are stigmatized with no hope of achievement. The successful few have been stereotyped and used to overshadow the needs of the many.

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