Dear Commons Community,
Mayor Eric Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks unveiled a plan yesterday to expand the city’s gifted and talented classes for elementary students and to permanently eliminate the contentious admissions test given to 4-year-olds in an effort to address concerns that the program has shortchanged low-income and Black and Latino students.
Under Mr. Adams’s plan, the city will add 100 seats to the current 2,400 for kindergarten students in the program and an additional 1,000 seats for third-graders.
The citywide admissions test, which has not been offered since fall 2020, will be replaced by a screening process in which pre-K teachers will nominate students to apply to be entered into a lottery. Applications for the program will open May 31 for the 2022-23 school year. As reported by The New York Times.
“It’s time for all our students to have access to the classroom programs that develop their full personhood and their full potential,” the mayor said at a news conference Thursday.
By expanding the program and permanently eliminating the admissions tests, the mayor and his Mr. Banks, are hoping to address what city officials have acknowledged for years: The gifted and talented program has contributed to racially segregated classrooms.
Though 70 percent of the students in the city’s school system are Black and Latino, around 75 percent of the students enrolled in gifted classes are white or Asian American.
“Expanded access to the city’s gifted and talented programs is long overdue,” Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, said in a statement.
But there are concerns that the plan doesn’t go far enough to address the program’s flaws, such as the small number of seats for the city’s more than 70,000 kindergartners and the few entry points into the program.
There were about 1,900 kindergarten children and about 90 third graders accepted into this year’s gifted program, according to Nathaniel Steyer, a spokesman for the Department of Education, in a school system that serves more than a million students.
And some officials questioned the value of the gifted program itself. “Scaling up a program which separates students, often along lines of class and race, is a retrograde approach that does nothing to improve quality education for the overwhelming majority of our students,” said the New York City comptroller, Brad Lander, in a statement.
Defenders of gifted and talented programs also had some concerns.
“Overall, we’re keeping the program, we’re expanding it to where there are no programs, I think that is wonderful news,” said Yiatin Chu, the co-founder of Parent Leaders for Accelerated Curriculum and Education, a group founded by white and Asian parents that supports gifted and talented schools.
But Ms. Chu, who has a fifth grader who is not in the gifted and talented program, said the plan had faults. Not nearly enough seats were added, she said. And immigrant families would still like to see a “more standardized and less subjective” way to evaluate children, she said.
While not perfect, this is a move in the right direction.