Panel to Recommend Desegregation Plan to Eliminate All Gifted Programs in New York Schools!

Dear Commons Community,

A group appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio will propose major changes today to the New York City public schools.  A high-level panel appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio will recommend that the city do away with most selective programs geared to students labeled gifted and talented in an effort to desegregate the system, which has 1.1 million students and is by far the largest in the country.  As reported by the New York Times:

“Mr. de Blasio, who has staked his mayoralty on reducing inequality, has the power to adopt some or all of the proposals without input from the State Legislature or City Council. If he does, the decision would fundamentally reshape a largely segregated school system and could reverberate in school districts across the country.

The mayor will now be thrust into the center of a sensitive debate about race and class at home, even as he is straining to stand out in a crowded field of Democratic contenders for president.

He risks alienating tens of thousands of mostly white and Asian families whose children are enrolled in the gifted programs and selective schools. If a substantial number of those families leave the system, it would be even more difficult to achieve integration.

The proposals, contained in a report to be released on Tuesday, may also face opposition from some middle-class black and Hispanic families that have called for more gifted programs in mostly minority neighborhoods as a way to offer students of color more access to high-quality schools.

Still, the plan could resonate with black and Hispanic families who believe that these selective programs unfairly divert money and attention from neighborhood schools.

The plan includes all elementary school gifted programs, screened middle schools and some high schools — with the exception of Stuyvesant High School and the city’s seven other elite high schools, whose admission is partially controlled by Albany.

Gifted programs and screened schools have “become proxies for separating students who can and should have opportunities to learn together,” the panel, made up of several dozen education experts, wrote in the report.

About a quarter of the city’s middle and high schools require that students be screened — through exams, attendance rates and grades — for admission. New York screens more students for its schools than any other city in the country, and those screened schools tend to have a disproportionately white and Asian enrollment.

Mr. de Blasio has been criticized by some on the political left for not demonstrating a willingness to implement major desegregation policies.

But Richard A. Carranza, the schools chancellor, made desegregation his signature issue when he took the job in 2018, denouncing racial inequality and promising sweeping action. He has specifically questioned whether too many students were being labeled “gifted.”

Mr. Carranza did not develop any significant integration policies of his own during his first year on the job, and his input on the proposals will be a definitive test of his willingness to push for disruptive and unpopular change in order to desegregate schools.

Still, the mayor has final say over whether to approve the recommendations.

The panel’s report, obtained by The New York Times, amounts to a repudiation of former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s education agenda, which reoriented the system toward school choice for families, including more gifted and screened schools, to combat decades of low performance.

Some of those policies deepened inequality even as student achievement rose. Mr. de Blasio has been sharply critical of his predecessor’s philosophy on education, but must now decide whether to dismantle some of the structures that Mr. Bloomberg helped to build.

The panel recommended that the city replace gifted and screened schools with new magnet schools — which have been used in other cities to attract a diverse group of students interested in a particular subject matter — along with enrichment programs that are open to students with varying academic abilities.

If the mayor adopts the recommendations, elementary and middle schools would no longer be able to admit students based solely or largely on standardized exams or other academic prerequisites, and high schools would have diversity requirements.

Alternative means of admission should be decided by the Department of Education and individual districts, the panel found.

Though it may be months before the mayor issues a decision, the release of the recommendations is likely to set off an intracity battle in a public school system that is nearly 70 percent black and Hispanic and mostly low-income.”

This will surely be a super hot issue for de Blasio and the City!


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