This spring will be the last time the contentious Gifted and Talented exam is offered in New York City’s public schools, Chancellor Richard Carranza announced Tuesday.
The move marks the latest attempt by the Mayor’s Office to make a sweeping change to the way the country’s largest public school system handles screened admissions.
Admission to the Gifted and Talented program is determined by a high-stakes exam, which is administered to children as young as four.
The issue has been a flashpoint of advocacy on both sides. Critics, like de Blasio, have said the exam does more to expose preparation and family resources than to discover innate talent. Supporters of the exam have argued for its expansion.
“Gifted and Talented programs serve a small percentage of children—but we know many more New York City Schools students are exceptional,” tweeted Carranza on Tuesday evening.
At his press event Wednesday morning, de Blasio expanded on his plans, saying that he and Carranza decided not to cancel the test for the coming spring because they knew that many parents had already put resources into preparing their children for the test and they wanted to respect that.
Going forward, he said there will be an “intensive public engagement process through the spring and into the summer to really work with stakeholders of all kinds, parents, elected officials, community leaders, obviously our [Panel for Educational Policy] to think through what’s the right approach for the future.”
De Blasio added that he thought that the state of education under the pandemic had prepared the school system for this moment because it had pushed forward the type and amount of “individualized education” that schools are able to offer students through the digital medium.
“We’re going to be using the new digital tools to allow teachers to do so much more. That’s also going to allow us to reach kids with a lot of talent and tailor-make the approach for them,” de Blasio said.
Wednesday morning advocacy groups in favor of expanding the program had already begun to organize against the mayor’s decision. Many such groups had long suspected that the city wanted to end the form of testing this year after it delayed giving a definite timeline for several different types of screens throughout the fall semester.
“NYC families want supportive and diverse classrooms where their child will benefit from academically rigorous instruction while also learning with children from different socio-economic, racial and cultural backgrounds,” said Yiatin Chu, co-president of PLACE NYC, a group that has fought for the program’s expansion.