Queens councilmen slam panel’s recommendation to phase out gifted and talented programs across the city

Elementary school kids raising hands to teacher, back view
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Queens lawmakers were alarmed by the recommendations made by a blue ribbon panel selected by Mayor Bill de Blasio that would phase out most gifted and talented programs and eliminate most selective admissions in New York City’s public school system.

The report, released by the School Diversity Advisory Group Tuesday, listed a number of proposals to help integrate schools by ending programs that enroll mostly white and Asian students, while black and Hispanic students make up the majority of the city’s 1.1 million public school students.

Councilman Peter Koo “wholeheartedly condemned” the report that would eliminate the gifted and talented programs.

“These classes are coveted by many students and parents throughout the city and need to be expanded if anything, not eradicated,” Koo said. “Yet, instead of working to increase access for students in underserved communities, this proposal seeks to completely remove all opportunities to an advanced education. Increasing diversity and expanding access to higher education should not mean scapegoating success. I urge the mayor to reject this proposal.”

During an interview on MSNBC, de Blasio said he had not had a chance to review the report. QNS reached out to City Hall and is awaiting a response.

“Extensive evidence in this report suggests that existing screens and Gifted and Talented is unfair, unjust and not necessarily research based,” the panel wrote. “As a result, these programs segregate students by race, class, abilities and language and perpetuate stereotypes about student potential and achievement.”

Councilman Barry Grodenchik called the idea of phasing out gifted and talented programs misguided.

“These programs allow our best and brightest children to flourish in environments that appropriately challenge and engage these exceptional young learners,” Grodenchik said. “Cutting such programs serves no constructive purpose; rather than diversifying our schools, the elimination of gifted and talented programs would simply drive parents out of the city’s public school system, further exacerbating the racial divide that the plan purports to address.”

During a press conference, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said, “These recommendations point to a future where every student has access to rigorous, inspiring, engaging education,” adding that “this is not about lowering the bar, it’s about giving all of our students what they need to meet the bar.”

Grodenchik, a lifelong Queens resident who grew up in NYCHA’s Pomonok Houses and Flushing while attending Queens public schools, further slammed the School Diversity Advisory Group’s recommendation.

“The gifted programs in my Queens district are models of diversity, filled with students whose families [emigrated] from across the globe, often with the goal of entering these specific schools and programs,” Grodenchik said. “Instead of phasing out gifted and talented programs, we should be adding more such programs across the city, especially in neighborhoods where programs that attract families of gifted children are scarce. There are gifted children in every corner of the city, and it is our job to provide the programs that will truly support and elevate the leaders of tomorrow, regardless of their ZIP codes.”

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