Sept. 5, 2019 By Shane O’Brien
Elected officials in Queens have urged Mayor Bill de Blasio not to scrap gifted and talented programs in New York public schools following a recommendation from a mayoral advisory group last week to end the program.
Council Members Peter Koo, Robert Holden, Karen Koslowitz, Adrienne Adams, Barry Grodenchik and Paul Vallone all signed a letter addressed to the mayor and Chancellor Richard Carranza imploring them to keep the program as it ensures that high achieving students have access to rigorous and challenging curricula.
The letter was circulated through the City Council by Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr of Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights in Brooklyn and has so far been signed by 14 Council Members across New York City.
A high-level panel, dubbed the School Diversity Advisory Group, last week recommended that gifted and talented programs be phased out of New York public schools, arguing that they are outdated and exclusive.
However, the group of Council Members argue that the programs should be expanded, not ended. The group would like to see gifted and talented programs added to more schools in New York and argued that there should be additional on-ramps for the program, like exams at third and seventh grade levels.
Currently, admission to New York gifted and talented elementary school programs is based on a composite exam students take before beginning kindergarten, when they are just four years old.
The mayoral panel said in its review of the programs that they are too exclusive and have led to segregated public schools in New York on par with Alabama and Mississippi.
It found that over 80 percent of kindergartners to receive an offer to a gifted and talented program in 2017-2018 were either white or Asian. Hispanic and black kindergartners made up just 18 percent of the programs in the same year, despite making up 65 percent of all kindergartners.
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.
However Council Member Koo said that gifted and talented programs could not be blamed for a lack of diversity in New York schools and argued that they aren’t present in many communities of color.
“It is disingenuous to blame Gifted and Talented programs for a lack of diversity when G&T programs don’t even exist in many communities of color,” Koo said.
“If the administration is serious about increasing diversity in these programs, it should expand G&T into underserved school districts and give more students of color a fair and equal chance to compete.”
Meanwhile, Council Member Grodenchik said that ending gifted and talented programs would drive parents out of the city’s public school system, creating even more segregation.
“Instead of phasing out gifted and talented programs, we should be adding more such programs across the city.” Grodenchik said. “There are gifted children in every neighborhood, and it is our job to provide the programs that will truly support and elevate them.”