Stepping up to the plate one last time for educational mediocrity and against excellence, lamest-duck Mayor de Blasio last week announced the end of Gifted and Talented programs for students citywide.
The move came as a surprise in the sense that there was no outreach to parents ahead of time, no meetings, no hearings, no solicitation of input, just a bit of fiat from the mayor and his like-minded toadies in the Department of Education. But it was really no surprise to those who have been well aware of the mayor’s ongoing war on excellence in the schools, whether it’s his taking advantage of the pandemic to eliminate academic screening in middle schools or his failed attempts to get rid of the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test. It’s all been done in the name of equity because students in some racial groups continue to do much less well collectively than others on the tests. In this case, the brightest students would no longer get to be in advanced classes.
The real answer, of course, is to improve educational opportunities for all students, not to take them away from the fastest learners. Unfortunately, that’s not the de Blasio way. Fortunately, he won’t get to actually implement his plans before he leaves office, and the next mayor could very well reverse course (which, incidentally, leaves one wondering if de Blasio did this more to position himself in a potential run for governor than to actually implement new policy).
None of this is to say that the G&T program should not be changed at all. Far from it. It is indeed a bit unfair to base admissions on one test given to 4-year-olds (though second chances are available too). We support both expanding the program and modifying it. One good way to do that would be to enact legislation proposed by state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. of Howard Beach, who sits on the Education Committee.
Addabbo’s measure would create more advanced and G&T classes. It also would allow students to get into the accelerated classes via academic merit, rather than just the exam. We would couple that with a determined drive on the part of the DOE to get these courses into every school possible, greatly expanding their availability to students.
As Addabbo notes in a press release about his bill, likely next mayor Eric Adams supports building up accelerated learning programs and creating new ones. Extreme longshot Curtis Sliwa backs G&T all the way, too. We just need to wait until Jan. 1 for a new leader to nix de Blasio’s plan and then work to give more kids more opportunities to excel.