Aug. 28, 2019 By Shane O’Brien
Council Member Peter Koo has criticized the recommendation made by a mayoral advisory group to end gifted and talented programs in New York public schools.
A high-level panel, dubbed the School Diversity Advisory Group, was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio and recommended that gifted and talented programs be phased out, arguing that they are outdated and exclusive.
Koo, however, panned the panel’s findings and said that the programs needed to be expanded if anything, stating the gifted and talented programs could be used to help ambitious students from all walks of life.
“I wholeheartedly condemn today’s report calling for the elimination of NYC’s gifted and talented programs,” Koo said. “These classes are coveted by many students and parents throughout the city and need to be expanded if anything, not eradicated.
“Yet, instead of working to increase access for students in underserved communities, this proposal seeks to completely remove all opportunities to an advanced education.”
The panel, however, argued that the program has led to segregated schools and is too exclusive.
Admissions to New York gifted and talented elementary school programs is based on a composite exam taken before the beginning of kindergarten when students are four years old. The report stated that the programs are seen as a pipeline into the best public middle schools and high schools in New York and that the stakes appear to be very high at such a young age.
The panel suggested that affluent families who can afford to enroll their children in a test preparation program have a crucial advantage in gaining entry into the gifted and talented programs, resulting in segregation in New York schools.
The report started that New York schools are as segregated as Alabama and Mississippi.
The panel’s report found that, of the kindergartners to receive an offer to a gifted and talented program in 2017/18, 39 per cent were white and 42 per cent were Asian, while only 10 per cent were Hispanic and only 8 per cent were black.
However, in the same academic year, 41 per cent of all kindergartners in New York were Hispanic, while 24 per cent were black. Only 18 per cent were Asian and just 17 per cent were white.
The panel recommended phasing out gifted and talented programs and screened schools and replacing them with non-selective magnet schools, which are based on the needs and interests of students.
It also suggested that the city should redesign its competitive high school admission process to ensure that high schools reflect the racial and economic demographic of their area.
The panel said that increasing opportunities for children who have a learning difficulty or live in temporary housing or for children who are black or Hispanic was crucial. It also stated that the creation of an integrated school system was critical and that diverse classrooms could increase educational benefits.
Koo said that an increase in diversity should not be achieved at the expense of success.