NYC will phase out controversial gifted and talented program

A New York City school bus.
A New York City school bus.
Lennox Wright/Shutterstock

NYC will phase out controversial gifted and talented program

The program, which had been considered a major form of racial segregation within the city’s public elementary schools for years, will gradually end over the next few years.
October 8, 2021

On Friday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city’s public elementary school system would be gradually phasing out its gifted and talented program over the next few years.

The program, which accepts students based on the results of a standardized test at the age of four, will not be available for incoming kindergarten students next fall and will wrap up in the coming years. Students that are currently enrolled in the program will be able to finish it in its current form, though the program will be replaced with Brilliant NYC. This new program seeks to put an end to entrance exams and no longer separates gifted students from others. However, it’s unclear what will happen to the city’s five schools that currently cater to gifted students.

“The era of judging 4-year-olds based on a single test is over,” the mayor said in a statement announcing the program’s end.

“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.”

Over the past several years, the gifted and talented program has been heavily ridiculed by parents and education experts for being a main source of racial segregation in the city’s public school system. Of the 16,000 students currently enrolled in the program, 75% are either Asian or white, whereas those students make up 15% of the 1 million students in the city’s public school population overall. 

Many education advocates have been pushing for a major overhaul of the program and putting pressure on de Blasio to do so, critical of his lack of effort to desegregate the city’s public schools. However, some parents have been strongly in favor of keeping the program as they consider it an incentive to send their kids to public school and have seen how it benefits those who are accepted into it.

The mayor will be launching Brilliant NYC in December, his last month in office, putting his presumptive successor, Eric Adams, in the position of having to administer an entirely new gifted program just as he takes office. Adams has taken a different approach to de Blasio’s, when it has come to retooling the program, emphasizing the need to boost the number of gifted and talented classes in lower income areas, rather than to do away with them completely. 

“Eric will assess the plan and reserves his right to implement policies based on the needs of students and parents, should he become mayor,” Evan Thies, a spokesperson for Adams, told The New York Times. “Clearly the Department of Education must improve outcomes for children from lower-income areas.”

Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
is the editor of NYN Media.
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