Gifted and Talented program at Astoria schools will not be altered without community input

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A proposed change to the Gifted and Talented (G&T) program in Astoria schools will not be implemented until there is more input from parents, according to Superintendent Philip Composto.

Composto sent a letter to parents earlier this month, stating that the current policy that automatically grants elementary school students in the G&T program at P.S. 166 and P.S. 122 to I.S. 126 and The Academy at 122 would be phased at in 2020.

Elementary school students in the program would have to apply to the G&T middle school program in fourth grade in order to allow all students  “equal access to middle school G&T seats,” Composto said in a letter to parents earlier this month.

Parents and elected officials such as state Senator Michael Gianaris and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz spoke out against the Department of Education’s decision. Katz wrote a letter to Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña arguing that it is “important to honor commitments made to parents who chose to entrust the education of their children to public schools.”

“Changes in policy, like this important one, should at the bare minimum be discussed first with affected communities,” she wrote in the letter. “Our parents make life decisions based on assurances of current policies by the Department of Education. Parents who have reached out to my office have expressed the position that they chose P.S. 122 for their children primarily because of the auto-articulation into middle school. Families moved into apartments and purchased homes in consideration of their children’s education. Others have adopted commutes that last up to two hours to take their children to school.”

Composto, in a letter to Gianaris, that the DOE would “further engage families regarding potential changes to the middle school G&T Admission process.”

Meetings will be scheduled with parents and the DOE sometime in January to gain feedback and “work to develop equity and excellence and explore changes,” the letter said.

The program at The Academy at 122 receives up to 667 applications for only 120 seats, according to DOE statistics. At I.S. 126, where there are 52 seats, 359 students have applied.

“PS 122’s G&T program is a valued treasure in western Queens which makes our community proud,” Gianaris said. “The current admissions process is the result of years of hard work that strikes the appropriate balance in the best interests of our children. No changes to that process should occur unless affected families and community representatives are involved and approve of any alterations.”