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Avella, Holden Introduce Legislation to Expand G&T Program, Advocate Keeping Specialized High School Test

City Hall (Photo: Tony Avella)

Aug. 2, 2018 By Christian Murray

State Sen. Tony Avella and Councilmember Bob Holden held a press conference at City Hall Tuesday to announce the introduction of legislation that would expand the gifted and talented programs at city schools.

The legislation would require that at least one class per grade at every elementary and junior high school be set aside for top performing students. Avella has introduced a bill in the State Senate, while Holden has introduced a resolution in the Council.

Avella and Holden believe the legislation would help improve low-income student performance, and put them in a better position to do well when they take the controversial Specialized High School Admissions Test, which determines who gets into the city’s eight elite high schools.

The legislation comes at a time when the SHSAT is in the spotlight, as Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced his intention to do away with the test to improve diversity and increase the percentage of minority students in the specialized schools.

Currently, Asian-American and white children are excelling at the test and dominate the student body at these schools. Black and Hispanic children, who account for 68 percent of high school students, make up just 9 percent of the students at these schools, according to city statistics.

The mayor’s plan would instead reserve seats for top performers at each middle school, with an aim of increasing the percentage of minority students at these schools to about 45 percent.

De Blasio’s plan, however, has already received substantial push-back, with the State Assembly speaker announcing that a vote wouldn’t be taken on the legislation until next year.

In addition, Asian-American community have argued that they are being unfairly punished for their success.

Both Avella and Holden believe that the test should remain, but that the city should increase what’s offered to children in lower-income areas.

“We must expand our city’s successful gifted and talented programs to be available in every school to give students the opportunity to achieve academic excellence,” Avella said. “We must not pit one group of people against another but rather expand education opportunities for all.”

The bill is also being introduced in the State Assembly by Assembly Member William Colton, who represents the Bensonhurst/Dyker Heights district in Brooklyn.

Colton, who was at the press conference, said the expansion of the gifted and talented program would provide more opportunities for a wider range of students.

“A real cause of the serious lack of diversity in NYC schools is the failure of the DOE to offer gifted and talented classes in lower grades in under served school districts to challenge and enrich their brightest students. Students who study hard in gifted and talented programs and do well on the SHSAT should not be penalized for the failure of the DOE to provide such programs to other districts.”

Holden said that he has introduced a resolution in the city council calling on the NYC Department of Education to create more gifted and talented programs. “If we truly care about a progressive education system for our children, then lawmakers need to pass these bills now.”

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Excellent idea but the mayor does not want that. He wants to dumb down the specialized High Schools. Look at the Prep for Prep Program about 3,000 NYC Public School kids take the test, those that pass are evaluated, interviewed then about 130 are selected, those selected go through an intensive 14 month academic program on wednesday afternoons and all day saturday and two months July and August during the summers, if they finish and complete the course they get scholarships to the top independant schools in New York. The majority of these kids are African American, Hispanic and South Asian. The kids that excell do so because they have parents the value education. The city must improve education in the elementary all they way through HS, but a teacher can only do so much. Education starts in the home, set the expectations high, go to museums, the majority are free with a NYCID card or NY Public Library card, read to your kids, get involved.


Thank you, State Senator Avella and Councilmember Holden. Finally politicians with common sense! stan chaz , Thank you for your perfect comment! Well stated! Raise the child to the standards, they are the future of our society.

stan chaz

Thank you State Sen. Tony Avella and Councilmember Bob Holden, for proposing a sensible solution. Instead of lowering the admission standards of these top-ranking high schools we will raise the capabilities of the test-takers. Likewise, the number of specialized high schools should be also increased, and free or subsidized test preparation should be provided to everyone who plans to take the test.
This color-blind test is open to all takers, and the fact that Caucasians are a distinct minority in these schools belies the claims of racial discrimination. There is no equivalent of a racist Southern Governor standing in the doorway of these schools barring any group because of the color of their skin. Only the hurdles of math, science, and language skills in the SHSAT test “stand in the doorway” and say equally to all: come, compete, and try your best to make the cut. That is the American way – the just and equitable way.
The test is an accurate measure of who will be best able to take advantage of these schools. For as their graduation and college admission rates show, the test successfully weeds out those who will likely fail in their rigorous & difficult learning environment, a failure which would not only waste precious resources, but would also scar these students with feelings of inadequacy and defeat at a crucial juncture in their lives.
Parents want the best for their children, of course. But instead of pitting one group against another, the best way to do that is to preserve and expand some of the finest public secondary educational institutions that we have in this city, and their high standards of admision, rather than tearing them down.


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