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Gifted and Talented programs given new life under revamped plan

By Matthew Fischetti and Evan Triantafilidis

Education Chancellor David Banks and Mayor Eric Adams announced an expansion of the Gifted and Talented programs to every school district in the city.

The program, which starts at the Kindergarten level with an opt-in citywide test, will have 100 seats added to the existing 2,400 enrollment slots.

The admissions tests administered annually to thousands of rising Kindergarteners will be replaced with a student evaluation and eventual nomination by their pre-K teachers to a lottery system, or through an interview process if they are not yet in school, or attend a private or parochial school program.

The Adams administration says this universal pre-K screening takes the initial burden off families and will increase access to the program, resulting in a more diverse eligibility pool.

At the third-grade level, 1,000 seats will be added to the program.

Although it is not clear yet which schools in Brooklyn and Queens will be receiving the additional seats, the revival of the Gifted and Talented program was met with mixed reactions from elected officials. The Department of Education did not identify which districts will receive additional seats, despite multiple requests for clarification.

With just weeks left in his tenure, then-Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last October plans to phase out the Gifted and Talented program. De Blasio planned to replace the program with “Brilliant NYC,” which would allow students eight and older to participate in accelerated learning programs while remaining in their original classroom.
De Blasio envisioned a program that was touted to reach 26 times more students than the current Gifted and Talented program, and offer a more widespread approach to attain a more inclusive model.

Critics of the Gifted and Talented program argue that the diversity of the program does not reflect the student body population. While Black and Latino kids make up the majority of city students – at approximately 65 percent – the Gifted and Talented programs enroll more than 75 percent of students who are either white or Asian.

The Adams administration says the expansion of the program is the result of the Department of Education’s engagement with and feedback from parents and diverse community stakeholders.

“We’re doubling down on this administration’s commitment to our youngest New Yorkers by adding additional seats and removing inequities in the admission process to allow students throughout this city to gain access to accelerated learning,” Mayor Adams said. “And thanks to this expansion, for the first time ever, there will be a Gifted and Talented program in every school district in this city. This is how we give every young person an opportunity to grow, to learn, to explore their talents and imagination.”

Elected officials along with education advocates voiced their approval of the new Mayor’s plan, while others claim that the move simply expands an already inequitable initiative.

Councilwoman Linda Lee, representing the 23rd District in Eastern Queens, has been advocating for the expansion of the Gifted and Talented program since before she was elected. With her youngest son eligible to test-in next year, Lee applauded last week’s announcement from the Mayor and Schools Chancellor.

“Since the fall, parents, community leaders, and elected officials have consistently called for G&T to be restored, and today the Mayor and Chancellor demonstrated that they are listening,” Lee said. “By not just expanding the number of seats available citywide, but also expanding programs to every school district in the City, and allowing students to test into the program at later ages, this new program will prove that we can have equity and educational excellence at the same time.”

A number of Lee’s colleagues in the City Council, including Speaker Adrienne Adams, Sandra Ung, Lynn Schulman, Rita Joseph, Justin Brannan, Gale Brewer and Oswald Feliz have all praised the move to expand the Gifted and Talented program citywide.

New York State Senator John Liu, chair of the committee on NYC Education, said that he is happy to see “positive movement” on accelerated learning in public schools, but remains cautious to the lottery system and “nebulous recommendations” that are a cause for concern for parents and families.

“Going forward beyond this school year, the administration must be sure to engage parents and students who have long called for more accelerated learning in order to address these outstanding issues,” Liu said.

Critics of the program, like Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Comptroller Brad Lander, say that the revival and revamp of the Gifted and Talented program does not do away with the underlying tones of modern day segregation in the classroom.

Lander said that Elementary school students benefit from learning alongside a diverse group of peers, calling it one of the core virtues of public education.

“Segregating learning environments for elementary students, based on a teacher’s or test’s assessment of how smart they are, is not sound education policy,” Lander said in a statement. “We’ve seen repeatedly that stand-alone G&T programs lead to racial segregation.”

Other leftists like Public Advocate Jumaane Williams have released white papers criticizing the program and instead advocating for a “school enrichment model.”

The model would utilize “a broad range of advanced-level enrichment experiences for all students, and use student responses to these experiences as stepping stones for relevant follow-up,” according to Williams’ report.

“Adding more seats, more access, more opportunity is an improvement that will extend these benefits to more students. At the same time, it is also an expansion of a program that is inherently inequitable,” Williams said in a statement.

Racist initiative

Dear Editor,
Mayor Bill de Blasio is ending the Gifted & Talented programs in public schools because a large number of Asian and white students are enrolled compared to a smaller Black and Hispanic enrollment.
That is blatantly racist and unfair.
He condemns the kids and parents of two ethnic groups who succeed by following the rules. He wants to replace G&T with something called “Brilliant,” which is anything but.
It puts students of different academic levels in the same classroom. This underscores the difference between equality and his goal of “equity.”
Equality means equal opportunity for all, everyone is the same at the starting line. Equity demands equal results, everyone must cross the finish line at the same time.
That defies reality unless it’s achieved by replacing merit with manipulation.
This the Department Of Education’s latest step to dumb down education, which prompted many parents to pull their kids out of public schools and put them in charter, religious and private schools.
Enrollment declined in all 32 elementary and middle school districts. Parents realize that “equity” results in failure for all public school students.
Our likely next mayor, Eric Adams, wants to extend, not end, Gifted & Talented programs. He displays a gift that de Blasio clearly lacks: common sense.
Sincerely,
Richard Reif
Kew Gardens Hills

G&T Programs Close Achievement Gap, Not Cause It

The administration of new Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter provides us with a moment to reconsider policies that have worked and ones that haven’t over the course of the de Blasio administration.
The failing efforts to better integrate our schools could benefit from some fresh thinking.
Chancellor Porter has emphasized the urgency of integrating the public schools. It’s an important goal in a system that is more segregated now than it was 50 years ago, but it is also the unrealized goal of her predecessor.
If Porter follows the playbook from the de Blasio tenure, which includes fighting to change the admissions standards at our specialized high schools, eliminating gifted and talented programs, and setting demographic quotas for certain schools, her efforts are likely to face the same fate as those of her predecessor, whose tenure ended in frustration.
The recently announced admissions results at the specialized high schools should act as a call to action that the city needs new policies.
The sensible alternative to integrate our schools, based on years of real-life experience and what research has shown to be more effective is to increase the number of seats at successful schools, create engaging, magnet programs that draw in a range of families, expand the number of gifted and talented programs in underrepresented areas, and replicate effective schools throughout the system.
As a parent of two public school graduates, I know that all parents want their kids to get the best education in a school that helps them achieve their maximum potential, ideally in their neighborhood.
It’s a goal that every parent is willing to fight to achieve. And it should be the goal of the new chancellor.
For all of the political fighting over them, gifted and talented programs have been shown to challenge our brightest students and to put them on a path to success. Unfortunately, there are not enough seats for the number of students qualifying to attend, and in certain neighborhoods there are no programs at all.
Since these programs are not offered at every school, nor equally spread throughout the DOE’s districts, many families will have their children take hour-long bus rides to school, as they want them to attend these successful programs no matter where they are located.
In my former City Council district in Middle Village, the DOE recently created PS 254: The Rosa Parks School. It is a magnet school with a diverse learning community that has achieved incredible results due to a highly innovative program that draws in families.
And it’s located in an area that is not known for great schools.
PS 290, another relatively new school, has a new gifted and talented program that is largely populated with students of color from low-income backgrounds. It shows how the DOE can find gifted students in any neighborhood when it creates a program that interests parents in their community.
In another example, the arts-focused LaGuardia High School did not have enough seats for talented students, so the DOE created the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts. Both schools are now highly successful at developing our city’s budding artists, and more students are able to attend.
And the schools are in different boroughs to boot.
Brooklyn Latin and the Queens High School for Sciences are also recent examples of the DOE creating more high-quality schools based on successful models and located in new neighborhoods that can serve more children. And all of these schools could easily serve more children by expanding them.
But a de Blasio-appointed school advisory committee recently announced that they want to eliminate gifted and talented programs. It’s the exact opposite of what they should be doing.
The DOE should expand and replicate these programs in every neighborhood in the city, so there are enough seats for every child who qualifies.
The time that our city and school leaders spend dividing up the small number of seats at successful schools, and trying to do so by race, is unproductive, divisive and potentially illegal.
The Rosa Parks School, PS 290 and the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts are all examples of different methods that the DOE can employ to integrate our schools.
The DOE must create more high-quality magnet programs in neighborhoods with low-performing schools, create new gifted programs in underrepresented areas, and replicate high performing schools in communities throughout the city.
It’s a simple solution to a complex problem that has been shown to work for our city’s kids.

Elizabeth Crowley is a former member of the City Council and candidate for Queens borough president.

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