Too Few Black and Latino Students Get Into NYC’s Gifted and Talented Programs, So NYC Considers Dumping the Programs

New York City Mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful Bill de Blasio. He’s on the hot seat in his city as he must decide whether to accept a panel’s recommendation to end gifted and talented programs in the nation’s largest school district in a bid to better diversify the city’s schools.
Photo: Stephen Maturen (Getty)

In an effort to end the underrepresentation of black and Latinx children in gifted and talented programs throughout New York City’s public schools, a mayoral advisory panel says the city should just get rid of the programs.

A panel appointed by New York City Mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful Bill de Blasio is recommending ending the selective programs, which have been dominated by white and Asian students, the New York Times reports.

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In place of the selective programs, according to the Times, the School Diversity Advisory Group, recommends that the city:

replace gifted and talented schools with magnet schools, which attract children interested in similar subjects, and add enrichment programs that are open to students of varying academic abilities.

The panel also recommended getting rid of the standardized admissions exam for elementary school gifted programs; stopping most grouping of students by academic ability; and phasing out gifted classes by not admitting new students.

According to the panel, which was made up of several dozen educational experts:

Gifted programs and screened schools have “become proxies for separating students who can and should have opportunities to learn together.”

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The city’s schoolsthe largest school system in the nation with 1.1 million studentsdefinitely have a diversity problem when it comes to who gets admitted into the city’s gifted and talented programs. Students in such programs are overwhelmingly (75 percent) white and Asian, even though the school system as a whole is predominantly (70 percent) black and Latino.

However, will the panel’s recommendationswhich the mayor can decide whether to adopt or notdo much to address the issue of improving the educational outcomes of black and Latinx children, as opposed to perhaps better ensuring that black and Latinx children will be in classrooms with white and Asian kids?

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For example, as Chalkbeat notes, the recommendations make no mention of ways to diversify the city’s famed, and extremely selective, specialized high schools, which have seen huge drops in black and Latinx admission, some admitting less than 10 black students this year.

In addition, there will be no way to stop parents with the means to do so—both black and whitefrom abandoning the city school system if they’re unhappy with the educational offerings.

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As the Times notes, while the proposals could please black and Latinx families who may believe the existence of gifted programs divert resources from basic neighborhood schools:

The proposals [...] may [...] 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.

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As it is, according to the Times, the proposals have garnered pushback from just such groups, who favor expanding gifted and talented programs in low-income areas, as well as from the teachers’ union.

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