Opposition mounts against possible elimination of DOE Gifted and Talented program

BOROUGHWIDE — With many New Yorkers stunned by the mayor and school chancellor’s agreeing to consider a task force proposal to eliminate the Gifted and Talented program in city schools, teachers, parents and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have been voicing their concerns and speaking out in support of keeping, and even expanding, the programs in the schools.

The proposal to do away with G&T is just more smoke and mirrors to keep us from focusing on what is broken in our city’s education system according to Adele Doyle, president of the Community Education Council in District 20, which encompasses Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and portions of Sunset Park, Bensonhurst, Boro Park and Kensington.

 “Every child deserves a place to learn where they learn best and most importantly where they can aspire to the career of their choice, whether it be in G&T, vocational tracks, specialized high schools or a Renzulli-modeled enrichment program,” Doyle told this paper.  

“But to prepare our students for a competitive global workforce, academic mastery matters, and the vast majority of our students are not only not mastering academic content, but they are not even proficient in basic reading and math. We should be modelling rigorous programs across the city. We should not be trying to bury them,” added Doyle.

For Amanda Rich, a teacher in the DOE, the G&T program challenged her and motivated her to excel throughout her school years. “I was in the Delta program in P.S. 185 and it was a more challenging and enriching curriculum than what you would get in a regular program,” she told this paper.

“And then in middle school I was in the Honors Academy at Christa McAuliffe, when they switched the whole school to be gifted and talented,” Rich went on. “The standards were higher and it set me up well for high school where I was able to audition for LaGuardia High School.”

Rich continued, “LaGuardia set me up for Hunter College and ultimately Columbia, where I realized I wanted to become a teacher. I now teach gifted and talented students on a daily basis. I can’t imagine where I would be and what kind of education I would have received had I not been challenged through the G&T program.”

Democratic District Leader Ari Kagan, said the gifted and talented program at Arthur Cunningham I.S. (in School District 22) helped prepare his son Yakov for higher education. As a result, Yakov ultimately graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School and Vanderbilt University with honors.

“We need to have programs for gifted and talented students in every school in New York City. Instead of abolishing these popular programs, we need to expand them significantly,” said Kagan.

That’s something that another parent, across the aisle, echoed in statements to this paper. “As a public school parent, I believe that any plan that seeks the elimination of gifted and talented programs in our public schools is bad public policy,” said Republican District Leader John Quaglione.

“This proposal, along with the discussion about specialized high school admissions, has many doubting our school system. The question to ask is, when and why are our schools shifting away from encouraging our students to excel in school,” he added.

Two Brooklyn lawmakers, Republican Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis and Democratic City Councilmember Robert Cornegy, are among those who agree. The two drafted letters this past week that were signed by a total of 20 state senators, assemblymembers and city councilmembers in favor of retaining gifted and talented programs in city schools. They also held rallies in support of keeping the program.

“The actions of Mayor [Bill] de Blasio and Chancellor [Richard] Carranza defy logic; they want to shut down a program that prepares students for the challenges they’ll face in a highly competitive world. That’s wrong. They should work to raise standards throughout the school systems so more students qualify for gifted and talented programs,” said Malliotkais.

The letters and rallies were in response to the recommendation of the “School Diversity Advisory Group,” this past week, that the New York City Department of Education eliminate its G &T programs because they favored Asian and white students. The advisory group, appointed by the mayor, also favors doing away with academic admissions screening for middle schools and most high schools.

“To fix the system, we must build a more inclusive, integrated and equally resourced public school system,” Councilmember Justin Brannan told this paper.  

“We should expand not eliminate proven opportunities for success,” he contended. “We should broaden and improve pipelines like G&T, not collapse them. Every family deserves a world-class education for their child. Ending school segregation and educational inequity must be our focus, but scrapping G&T or the SHSAT [Specialized High School Admissions Test] will not get us there.”

Malliotakis’ letter encouraged city officials to improve the quality of education in public schools and address issues such as stripping teachers of autonomy and a lack of school discipline that contribute to disparities in academic performance among students.

The letter drafted by Cornegy also expressed a desire to improve the system but not at the expense of eliminating the programs. “As elected officials, our focus should always be on improving our schools and the quality of education that the children of our city deserve,” the letter stated.

Both letters ended with an identical plea urging the mayor and chancellor to abandon the proposal.

City Councilmember Mark Treyger, chair of the Committee on Education, also supports expanding the Gifted & Talented programs to every school and every school district. 

“The conversation on Gifted & Talented programming should focus on expanding opportunities for our kids, not defending the Bloomberg-era decisions which resulted in a significant loss in the number of gifted and talented seats for many of our students,” Treyger told this paper.

“Let’s consult and empower local school communities, listen to parents and educators and expand gifted, academic enrichment opportunities for all students throughout the five boroughs,” he urged. 

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