De Blasio Pulls Plug on Gifted & Talented Program

Apple on pile of books at the elementary school
Apple on pile of books at the elementary school. Illustration from 123rf.

In a move stretching beyond his administration, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza announced Tuesday that this will be the last year of the Gifted and Talented (G & T) program, in which four-year-olds take verbal and nonverbal assessment tests and some of those that score above the 90th percentile are put into accelerated kindergarten classes.

The G & T program currently has 2,500 kindergarten seats for 15,000 applicants, and approximately ~65K rising kindergarteners across the city. Of the students currently in the G&T program, 43% are Asian-American, 36% are white, 8% are Hispanic and 6% are white, according to the city Departmnet of Education (DOE).

“Last night, we posted the Pearson contract extension for the Gifted and Talented admissions test, to go to vote with the Panel on Educational Policy (PEP) on Jan 27. If approved, we will administer the test beginning in April in person and families will receive their scores early this summer ahead of the fall of 2021,” said DOE Spokesperson Barbot Miranda

“As the City moves forward from the darkest days of COVID-19, we’ve maintained a steadfast commitment to choosing the fairer path to academic opportunity and achievement for all of our students and families. Moving ahead with the Gifted and Talent test will be no exception: this will be the last year New York City administers this kindergarten test. For our youngest learners, we must move forward and develop a system that reimagines accelerated learning and enrichment,” Miranda added.

Miranda said the DOE will spend the next year engaging communities around what kind of programming they would like to see that is more inclusive, enriching, and truly supports the needs of academically advanced and diversely talented students at a more appropriate age. 

“We will also engage communities around how best to integrate enriched learning opportunities to more students, so that every student – regardless of a label or a class that they are in – can access rigorous learning that is tailored to their needs and fosters their creativity, passion, and strengths,” she said.

But the G & T programs has its supporters, including from term-limited City Councilmember and Brooklyn Borough President Candidate Robert Cornegy Jr. (D-Brooklyn) who spent a good part of his council tenure fighting to get G &T programs back in his district after they were taken out of Central Brooklyn’s Black communities during the Bloomberg Administration.

“There are different paths to educational excellence, and for many of my young constituents, the gifted and talented program is their best option. Chancellor Carranza says that the program disproportionately favors White and Asian students within schools, but many of the schools in my district are over 95% Black and Hispanic. We need appropriate education for our students who are under-performing. I remain committed to getting appropriate education for all our students, including those who excel academically beyond their peers,” said Cornegy.

“I am disappointed at the phase out of G&T. This only adds urgency to what I have long demanded: A path for high-performing Black and brown students within the Department of Education,” he added.

City Councilmember Robert Holden (D-Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood, Woodhaven, Woodside) echoed his sentiment.

“Once again, the Mayor and the Chancellor are putting their own political agenda ahead of our students’ needs and dumping another problem into the lap of the next administration. New York’s most vital resource is our children, and they need all the help we can give them. Our city’s future depends on well-educated youth, who will lead the city tomorrow. The Gifted and Talented program must continue,” he said in a press release on Wednesday. “In my district and across the city, many children of immigrant families are enrolled in the Gifted and Talented program. These parents and children work very hard for their share of the American Dream. They shouldn’t be deprived of that opportunity.”

City Council Education Chair and former public school teacher Mark Treyger (D-Brooklyn) said her opposes the plan to phase out the G & T program for several reasons.

“Firstly this is his [de Blasio] last year in office. For him to suggest recommendations when he is no longer in office is beyond his tenure. Secondly, we need to figure out how to expand opportunities and not remove them,” said Treyger.

“I also have to put a plug in to end total mayoral control of our public schools. The mayor continues to make decisions because Albany allowed him to. I’m against full mayoral control. The city council should have some kind of checks and balances. The council should have an advisory and consent role in picking the chancellor, and still doen’t have any seats on the PEP,” he added.