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Queens Chronicle

City should expand, not kill, gifted and talented programs

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Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:25 pm, Thu Sep 5, 2019.

This week a panel appointed by Mayor de Blasio recommended, among other things, that the school system’s gifted and talented programs be phased out. We strongly encourage the mayor to reject the plan.

It would be much better to do the very opposite: Expand gifted and talented programs across the city, to give more children the opportunity to excel. That opportunity is sadly not available to far too many students. A number of parents in minority communities, whose children are stuck in underperforming schools, want an expansion of gifted and talented education, so their kids also will have a better chance of getting into the best middle schools and high schools and, of course, simply learn more and be better prepared for life on their own. They share this desire with parents in neighborhoods that already have very good schools, parents of all races and ethnicities.

These parents will reject the plan put forth by de Blasio’s School Diversity Advisory Group — just as important players from City Council Speaker Corey Johnson to the United Federation of Teachers have done.

“Every community has children who could thrive in a gifted and talented program, and it is our responsibility to help our children reach their full potential,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a prepared statement. “We do not support the elimination of the city’s gifted and talented programs. We believe the programs need to be revamped and access to them expanded.”

Hear, hear. It’s important to realize that children do not all have the same academic capabilities, and that the schools need to encourage the best and brightest among them to excel in their studies and reach their full potential. Instead, the mayor’s panel and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza seek to reduce their chances for success and fulfillment.

They do this in the name of increasing diversity in the schools. A disproportionate number of white and Asian kids are accepted into gifted and talented programs, compared with relatively few black and Hispanic students. The diversity panel also recommends the elimination of screening for admission to almost all middle and high schools in the city, again to eliminate the de-facto segregation that has developed over the years.

“This is not about lowering the bar, it’s about giving all our students what they need to meet the bar,” Carranza claimed, in a statement that could generously be called misguided and ironic. If that were actually true, he and de Blasio would be more supportive of charter schools like the Success Academy group, where minority children from less well-off neighborhoods are excelling. Instead, de Blasio is, in just one egregious example, denying Success the space it needs to establish a new middle school in Southeast Queens, even though room is available.

Carranza seems to inject race and ethnicity into every aspect of education that he can, from complaining about a supposed “narrative” that “any one ethnic group owns admission” to the city’s “elite eight” high schools, to allegedly demoting some administrators so he could replace them with minorities, prompting a lawsuit alleging administration. If he and the mayor’s diversity panel have their way here, it could prompt more white and Asian parents to send their children to private schools or even leave the city, making the segregation problem worse than it is now.

If the mayor wants to regain the support for the school system that has already been lost, and maintain the support of the teachers union — and even retain mayoral control of the schools, which he is granted by the state — he must reject this plan and rethink much of his approach to education.

Welcome to the discussion.