When the mayor and schools chancellor announced that this spring will be the last time the Gifted and Talented exam is offered in New York City’s public schools, it raised a big question about what the future holds for the programs.
Admission to G&T programs, which offer an accelerated curriculum that is aimed at covering more material with additional enrichment, is determined by a high-stakes exam administered to children as young as 4.
The mayor’s move to cancel that exam follows the recommendations of the Schools Diversity Advisory Group, which released a 2019 report detailing racial disparities in the programs and recommending their eventual removal.
The report found that while black and Latino students make up 65 percent of all kindergarteners, they only compose 17 percent of all students who qualify for G&T programs. It recommended that the city discontinue the use of the G&T admissions test, and institute a moratorium on new G&T programs, while allowing existing ones to continue. That approach would mean that all G&T programs would eventually be phased out as students age out of them.
So far de Blasio has not released many specifics on what he would be offering as an alternative to the programs.
“As we shared last week, we look forward to hearing directly from communities across the city and incorporating their ideas and feedback into a robust plan. New York City parents, students and educators will have the opportunity to help shape an equitable and enriching future for gifted and talented programs,” a DOE spokesperson said in a statement.
Through the outreach the city intends to see what programming parents would like to see that is more inclusive and best integrates more enriched learning opportunities.
“It’s too early and too vague,” said James Borland, a professor at Columbia University Teachers College, Columbia University, of the mayor’s plan. Borland said he saw the decision as the result of political pressure stemming from the SDAG report.
“The Department of Education is really in a bad situation insofar as they are really damned if they do, damned if they don’t,” he said.
The mayor said last week that he decided not to cancel the test for the coming spring because the city knew that many parents had already put resources into preparing their children for the test and they wanted to respect that. But with less than one year left in his term, his window to determine the future of the programs is shrinking.
This is something that advocates against the G&T test have seemed to pick up on as some groups like Teens Take Charge, and even some members of the Panel for Education Policy, calling to cancel this year’s upcoming exam.
The PEP will hold a hearing on the Pearson contract to administer the test at its upcoming meeting on Jan. 27. Several members of the body have pledged on Twitter to vote against the contract following the mayor’s announcement.
Meanwhile, those who want to keep and expand the programs, like Queens Parents United administrator Jean Hahn, a Rego Park parent whose child is enrolled in a District 28 G&T program, have been calling on the mayor the reverse course.
She said that there wasn’t enough time to come up “with an entire new program, all in the summertime. The election is in November. He shouldn’t be touching this.”
Hahn said that the decision should be left up to the next mayor. She disagreed with de Blasio’s reduction of the programs to enrichment opportunities that could be addressed with improvements in technology. A major benefit of the programs, she said, was their curriculum.
“What he’s looking at is education technology, and there was a program like Outschool [an online education platform]. So it’s about giving more to consultants as opposed to giving to the classroom,” Hahn said.
Parents like Hahn are not without elected support either. State Sen. Toby Ann Stavitsky (D-Flushing) and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows) put out a statement last week slamming the mayor’s announcement as a “half-baked plan.”
The PEP’s next contract meeting, where it will discuss upcoming G&T test, will take place at 11 a.m. Jan. 25, prior to its general meeting Jan. 27.