Jolie Futterman, Grade 10, Staff Writer
On October 9, 2021, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City announced his proposal to end the Gifted and Talented Program. Under the plan, students currently in the program will be allowed to continue, but no new classes will be Gifted and Talented classes will be created. Mayor de Blasio’s policy marks a major shift in the New York City education system.
The Gifted and Talented program separates “gifted” children from those in a general education program. These children are tested and then, based on their scores, admitted to prestigious classes. They receive accelerated, intense academic lessons that differ from those being given to students in general education classes. The program intends to offer intelligent students an education that caters to their abilities.
Mathilda Simons, a freshman at the High School of American Studies, enjoyed her time in the Gifted and Talented program at The Anderson School. “It was a positive experience for me,” Simons said. “The school was, in general, gifted and talented. There wasn’t a separated group so there weren’t obvious inequalities.”
Simons also enjoyed the academics. “The academics were stronger, I learned more. It was challenging, but all of my teachers were ready to help,” she said.
However, other students do not think the program set them forth on a path of academic success. “I would describe my experience as beneficial to my learning but I don’t think it put me ahead academically,” said Celia Powers, a junior.
While the program may help some students, critics are angry at its lack of diversity. According to the New York Times, 75 percent of students in the program were White or Asian in 2019, even though these students only made up 30 percent of those enrolled in public school. Powers, who attended P.S. 9, explained that the Gifted and Talented program was very segregated at her school. “The gifted classes at my school were predominantly white and Asian, and the non-gifted classes were more diverse,” she said.
Some in support of the program argue that getting rid of it will leave students in low-income areas with no opportunity for improved education. NYC Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter hopes to improve education for all students, not just those that are considered gifted based on one test. “No single test should determine any child's future,” she said. “There [are] so many more students who are gifted, who are talented, who are brilliant, who have special gifts, and I think this is a moment about creating opportunities for all students to demonstrate their powerful learning abilities.” Those with the same view as Porter want to divert funding that is given to the program to the school system in general and work to improve the quality of education for all students.
Mayor de Blasio plans to replace the program with “Brilliant NYC,” which will expand the pool of students that accelerated learning is offered to. The plan will be fully unveiled in December. “Brilliant NYC” plans to train all 4,000 public school kindergarten teachers to identify individual students’ strengths and offer enrichment to these students without separation by classes.
However, Mayor de Blasio’s term ended on December 31, 2021. Eric Adams, his successor, has the power to change course. Adams has said that he plans to keep the Gifted and Talented Program, but reform the system. Adams explained that he would not just test kids for the program at four years old, but at multiple ages. When asked if he would get rid of the program, Adams responded, “No I would not. I would expand the opportunities for accelerated learning.”
Mayor de Blasio’s plan to phase out the Gifted and Talented program sparks controversy.