April 14, 2022 By Allie Griffin
The Department of Education will expand the Gifted and Talented program to all school districts, Mayor Eric Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks announced Thursday.
“Expanding our Gifted and Talented program to all New York City districts is about giving every child, in every zip code, a fair chance and making sure no child is left behind,” Adams said.
The decision is a reversal from the de Blasio administration, which planned to phase out the program in a move that was criticized by several Queens lawmakers. Conversely, Adams’ change of course was applauded by many borough pols.
The expansion will add more than 1,000 G&T seats, bringing the total to 2,500 citywide. It will also bring the program to every school district in the five boroughs.
Council Member Linda Lee, who represents eastern Queens, welcomed the announcement and thanked Adams and Banks for listening to parents’ concerns.
“Since the fall, parents, community leaders, and elected officials have consistently called for G&T to be restored, and today the Mayor and Chancellor demonstrated that they are listening,” she said in a statement.
Lee held a rally in October protesting de Blasio’s planned elimination of the program when she was running for office. Council Member Sandra Ung, who was campaigning for the Flushing council seat at the time, joined her.
Ung issued a statement Thursday in support of the expansion.
“The former mayor’s decision to phase out these programs was never in the best interest of our students, and I want to thank the current mayor for making the common sense decision to reverse course and to stand with parents, educators and our students,” Ung said.
Assembly Member Edward Braunstein also celebrated Adams’ decision.
“I welcome news that the Gifted and Talented Program has been restored and will be expanded to every NYC school district,” Braunstein said in a tweet. “G&T has offered generations of high-achieving NYC students access to a rigorous education and its expansion will provide opportunity to even more families.”
The highly competitive program, which students test into at the kindergarten level, has been criticized by experts for exacerbating segregation in the city’s public schools.
Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said she and fellow council members will work to ensure the expanded program is fair for all.
“All students, regardless of race, income, or the neighborhood they live in, deserve equal opportunity to accelerated academic learning and challenges,” she said in a statement. “The Council looks forward to continuing working with all stakeholders to make sure the new version of Gifted and Talented not only helps more students to succeed, but also reflects the diversity of our city’s students.”
Mayor Adams hopes to prevent inequity in the program by adding a second entry point at the third-grade level. The DOE will add 1,000 new third-grade seats spread throughout every school district. The top 10 percent of second graders — based on their core subject grades— in each public school will be invited to apply.
Lee said that the changes address many of the program’s criticisms.
“By not just expanding the number of seats available citywide, but also expanding programs to every school district in the City, and allowing students to test into the program at later ages, this new program will prove that we can have equity and educational excellence at the same time,” she said.
The DOE is also maintaining the former administration’s decision to eliminate the entry test for kindergarteners. Instead, every current pre-K student will be evaluated for nomination into the Gifted and Talented program by their teacher. Students enrolled in outside programs and those not yet enrolled in school can participate in an interview with DOE staff to evaluate eligibility.
State Sen. John Liu, however, said the removal of the screening tests makes a student’s shot at entry into the program the luck of the draw — though he was grateful for the program’s expansion.
“An expansion is welcome news, although it relies on a lottery and nebulous recommendations that are a cause for concern to many parents and families,” Liu said. “Going forward beyond this school year, the administration must be sure to engage parents and students who have long called for more accelerated learning in order to address these outstanding issues.”
But Banks said the expansion will open access and equity to more young New Yorkers.
“Today we move to end the era of scarcity — the era of making families fight amongst themselves for limited Gifted and Talented seats in far off schools,” Banks said. “Through this expansion, we are providing more opportunities for accelerated learning to more families, while providing an equitable, fair process to identify the students who will excel with accelerated learning.”