An elementary school in Brooklyn is ditching its Gifted and Talented program because it benefits white and Asian students more than others.
And New York City education officials not only approved the move, they plan to recommend the same for all schools across the district.
The city Department of Education recently approved plans developed by school leaders at P.S. 9 last summer to do away with the Gifted and Talented program because it wasn’t as “diverse” as the school in general, the New York Daily News reports.
The program is offered to kindergartners based on the results of a test they take at age four, and students stay with the accelerated classes through fifth grade. But increasing opposition to testing and a hyperfocus on race is drawing calls to abolish one of the few challenging options for high-achievers.
P.S. 9 was the first school to get the green light, as city officials consider the change for all schools.
“The DOE supports schools in making decisions that benefit their school communities, and PS 9 developed a community-driven proposal to begin the phase-in of a school-wide enrichment model for the entire student body starting in the fall,” Katie O’Hanlon, a DOE spokeswoman, told the news site.
The problem boils down to race, and eliminating the Gifted and Talented program is a move designed to shift more of the focus, resources and support to black and Latino students.
“On paper we are very diverse, but when you drill down and look at tracking, it was fairly obvious to a lot of us that Gifted and Talented track was pulling mostly white and Asian students,” said Kirsten Cole, head of PS 9’s “equity committee.”
The Daily News reports:
The accelerated classes have come under intense scrutiny in recent months for their racial composition: 81% of students admitted are white and Asian, compared to 35% of all kindergarteners.
The DOE’s approval for PS 9 to ditch its Gifted and Talented program comes about five months after a “diversity group” created by Mayor Bill de Blasio released a school desegregation proposal that includes the recommended elimination of all Gifted and Talented programs to shift the system toward specialized “magnet” programs.
“We’re not taking away,” Maya Wiley, chair of the School Diversity Advisory Group, told the Daily News last August. “We’re expanding and adding based on what works.”
Some members of the New York City Council see things differently.
“I’ve spoken to parents, for over six years now, who have demanded an expansion of the gifted and talented programs. And the idea – the recommendation of this task force, convened by the mayor, would be to disband it because of segregation – is a ridiculous proposition,” Council Member Robert Cornegy said at a Sept. 4 press conference.
“We know that black and brown students, in particular, have found a way to incorporate themselves into the specialized high schools and into success academically throughout this country, based on being a part of gifted and talented programs,” said Cornegy, who is black and represents and overwhelmingly non-white district.
“Over the last three weeks — whether it was at a grocery store, doing an interview, talking to parents at school as they prepared for school — nine out of 10 people were aware of gifted and talented programs and demanded that we stand out here,” Cornegy said. “Parents, store owners, everybody understands we should have excellence in our school system. I don’t understand the dumbing down, potentially, of our students. It doesn’t make much sense.”
It’s essentially the same sentiment from parents enraged by the plans to eliminate the Gifted and Talented program.
“I stand behind the overarching goal to integrate schools and achieve diversity but I don’t think cutting out specialized programs is the way to go,” parent Anastasia Cordova told The Gothomist.
“As a mother of color, I think it should be expanded not taken away,” said Cheryl M, who spoke on condition that Chalkbeat withhold her full name.