New York City to End ‘Racially Segregated’ Gifted Programs

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 25: NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks onstage during Global Citizen Live, New York on September 25, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Global Citizen)
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Global Citizen

Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) has decided to end New York City’s school programs that meet the educational needs of intellectually gifted students, a move the New York Times calls his “most significant act in the waning months of his tenure.”

Bright students currently enrolled in the gifted and talented program will not be affected, but the Times reported Friday “the highly selective and racially segregated program will be replaced for incoming students.”

According to the report:

The gradual elimination of the existing program will remove a major component of what many consider to be the city’s two-tiered education system, in which one relatively small, largely white and Asian American group of students gain access to the highest-performing schools, while many Black and Latino children remain in schools that are struggling.

“About 75 percent of the roughly 16,000 students in gifted elementary school classes in New York are white or Asian American,” the Times added. Those groups make up about 25 percent of the overall school system.”

The New York Post reported Friday as well the gifted program will be replaced by Brilliant NYC, a program for students aged eight and older, who will reportedly experience some accelerated learning while remaining in their classrooms.

“Brilliant NYC will deliver accelerated instruction for tens of thousands of children, as opposed to a select few,” de Blasio said.

“Every New York City child deserves to reach their full potential, and this new, equitable model gives them that chance,” he added.

As the new class of kindergartners enters the school system, the city states the new model will offer accelerated learning to “all 65,000 city kindergartners,” reported the Post.

“All 4,000 Kindergarten teachers will need extra training in preparation, and the city will hire additional teachers trained in accelerated learning in areas with historically little to no gifted and talented programming,” the report added, noting the Brilliant NYC plan will “focus on real-world skills, with subjects such as coding, robotics and even community advocacy.”

“As a life-long educator, I know every child in New York City has talents that go far beyond what a single test can capture and the Brilliant NYC plan will uncover their strengths so they can succeed,” said Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter.

However, Sam Pirozzolo, former president of the Staten island Communication Education Council whose two children came through Gifted and Talented programs, said the plan is “disheartening.”

“Tens of thousands of families are leaving the public schools because the education being taught sucks,” he said. “Eliminating the gifted and talented program is another brick in the wall insulting parents. It’s the political stuff going on. It’s Critical Race Theory.”

New York State Sen. John Liu (D) tweeted the gifted programs “have been an integral option for generations of schoolkids.”

The lawmaker added de Blasio “promised intensive public engagement about it but now wants total elimination. This won’t help his abysmal record. If anything, his legacy will be revocation of mayoral control.”

In the summer of 2019, a report released by de Blasio’s panel, dubbed the School Diversity Advisory Group, asserted Gifted and Talented programs and “screened” schools that have admission requirements are “unjust” because they do not “serve all children.”

“We recommend eliminating exclusionary screens, replacing those programs with pro-integrative programs used in many school districts across the country to affirmatively attract students of all backgrounds and make sure that all students are challenged,” the group wrote.

The diversity group added programs designed to meet the special academic needs of high ability students serve merely as “proxies for separating students who can and should have opportunities to learn together”:

Simply put, there are better ways to educate advanced learners than most of the current ‘Screened’ and Gifted and Talented programs, which segregate students by race and socioeconomic status. These schools and programs often fail to serve disadvantaged students and Black and Latinx students and have often failed to take advantage of some of the research and innovations that have developed since their inception.

Members of the group’s executive committee included Hazel Dukes of the NAACP, Jose Calderon of the Hispanic Federation, and Maya Wiley of The New School.

However, as the Post reported, both of the candidates for mayor, Eric Adams (D) and Curtis Sliwa (R), have asserted they do not wish to entirely eliminate the city’s gifted program.

Many of the program’s backers have praised its longstanding accomplishments in providing academically gifted students with the ability to achieve at their own pace.


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