Cornegy Says Expand Don’t Eliminate Gifted & Talented Program

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City Council Member Robert E. Cornegy Jr. (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights), who succeeded in 2016 to get Gifted & Talented programs in his district – which had none in 2013 compared to 10 in Bay Ridge – showed today he’s not about to let a School Diversity Advisory Group recommendation snatch away his hard-fought victory.

Thus, Cornegy rallied 13 other city council members to sign a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza urging the city to not only scrap the plan to eliminate the program but to expand it in both how students gain entrance into the program and to include it in more elementary school grades.

City Councilman Robert Cornegy Jr

There is an opportunity to effectively reform the program to expand access to Gifted and Talented, provide more on-ramps and recalibrate entrance requirements, and provide resources to prepare our students for the modern economy. We do not need to re-invent the wheel to serve the children and families of our city,” wrote Cornegy.

“Rather than seeing the program as unjust, or an impediment to diversity in our schools, we see the program as a catalyst for helping children succeed, particularly students of color. If the program was not worth it, there would not be students spending an hour on a train twice a day to get a good education. These are children who demonstrate hustle, curiosity, and adaptability, and we cannot let them down,” the letter added.

Currently, G&T programs are open to all kindergarten to fourth-graders that are deemed extremely intelligent through verbal and nonverbal assessment tests and score above the 90th percentile. This has led to brain drain of G&T students in communities of color being bussed to white neighborhoods.

According to the New York Post, in March of 2019, “10 city districts with more than 90 percent black or Hispanic enrollment have only one G&T program.” 

Cornegy argues that rather than eliminate the program, it should be expanded in communities of color with added criteria for entrance.

“We should pursue options for making these programs yet more inclusive by considering factors beyond test scores to include community service, portfolios of work, recommendations, and alternative writing samples. We will not allow our progress – the efforts of teachers, students, families, and more – to be rolled back. 

Under Cornegy’s proposal, the program can be expanded to include testing in the third- and seventh-grade as other entrances to the G & T program, with the bonus being students that tested of color that tested in would stay in their own communities for these programs.

Not all educators are in agreement with Cornegy’s plan, though, and one educator source said his “proposal to require community service for four-year-olds to enter G&T is absurd and one must question what does community service look like for a four-year-old.”

“Specifically, writing samples and work portfolios for a four-year-old as a requirement for G&T is absurd,” the educator source added.

Alan Maisel
City Council Member Alan Maisel

But several of the council signatories also are educators and they support Cornegy’s proposal. This includes City Council Member Alan Maisel (D-Bergen Beach, Canarsie, Flatlands, Georgetown, Gerritsen Beach, Marine Park, Mill Basin, Mill Island, Sheepshead Bay) who is a retired public school assistant principal and former social studies teacher and City Council Member Robert Holden (D-Queens) who is a former professor at the New York City College of Technology (CUNY).

“Gifted and talented programs have a proven track record in New York City schools,” said Holden. “These programs provide a pathway for students to excel at a young age and encourage them to strive for a great education. Real equity in our education system can be achieved by increasing resources and the availability of these programs at schools in every neighborhood. We must expand G&T, not disband it.”

Additionally, City Council Member Adrienne Adams (D-Southeast Queens) worked as a child development associate instructor, training childcare professionals to meet the requisite goals to obtain the CDA (Child Development Associate) credential in accordance with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Code of Ethics.

Additionally, Adams served as Education Chairperson of Community Board 12 and represented the board at citywide education events, Community District Council and New York City Department of Education/Panel for Education Policy meetings.

“While desegregation is a priority, eliminating the Gifted and Talented program will not solve the problem,” said Adams. “To best serve our students we must invest in our communities. If we expand the Gifted and Talented program students could challenge themselves at higher levels without leaving their neighborhood or the public school system to gain the opportunity to excel. To tackle school segregation we must start with the larger systemic issues that have gone unaddressed for so many years instead of removing this academically rigorous program.”

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