NYC Schools to End Gifted & Talented Program in Favor of ‘Accelerated Learning' Model

An advisory panel recommended in 2019 that the city eliminate the classes, which it said entrenched segregation in schools

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What to Know

  • NYC is phasing out gifted and talented programs from public schools; critics say the program furthers racial divides
  • Mayor Bill de Blasio made the long-awaited announcement on Friday; this year's G&T class will be the last one, his plan says -- and it'll replace that program with a more inclusive accelerated learning model
  • The incoming mayor could shift gears. An Eric Adams spokesman says he'll assess the plan but noted DOE must improve socioeconomic equity; a message to GOP nominee Curtis Sliwa wasn't returned

New York City will phase out gifted and talented classes in its schools, opting to end a program that critics said entrenched racial divides in the nation's largest public school system, Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed Friday.

The mayor officially announced the long-awaited transition on Friday, confirming a move he first proposed in January. Students in first grade and up who are already in G&T will be permitted to complete the program, but no new classes will be formed.

Instead, the city will train teachers and prepare schools for a more inclusive model -- one based on an accelerated instruction format that will still pay special attention to children with unique abilities but will do so without separating classrooms.

In other words, a program that once required rigorous testing for entry and included just 2,500 kindergarten students a year will expand to encompass tens of thousands of students -- no additional testing or funding from parents required, de Blasio said. Special instruction will include team teaching and digital components, among other efforts -- and additional monetary investment to train teachers.

"We're ending something I thought was unfair all along," the mayor said in making the announcement on WNYC's Brian Lehrer show. "We can't pretend that a lot of our schools are in a better place than they are. We have to bring them up. Every one has kids that can benefit from accelerated learning. A lot of them have been ignored."

De Blasio said new NYC Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter was the first chancellor he has had to help him develop an appropriate means of pushing the plan forward. The Department of Education plans to solicit community input for the next two months or so as it works to "perfect" its plan, but it will roll out soon, he said.

"Engagement is a critical part of moving this plan forward," Porter said, when asked whether the plan was just a blueprint or ready for immediate implementation. "No single test should determine any child's future. There's 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."

"This moment is about making sure that you don't have to cross district lines, you don't have to go outside of your neighborhood, but your district schools can actually provide the support, the type of learning, that your children need," Porter added. "Parents should have a school that they can walk to that provides their child with the education they deserve."

New York City is hoping to level the playing field in public schools. Pei-Sze Cheng reports.

The plan is contingent upon the mayor running the city, though, and de Blasio's term ends on Dec. 31. Will the next mayor opt to shift gears?

Asked whether eliminating the G&T program is a plan he would continue if elected, a spokesman for Democratic nominee and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams told News 4 he would assess it and "reserves his right to implement policies based on the needs of students and parents, should he become mayor."

"Clearly the Department of Education must improve outcomes for children from lower-income areas," Adams spokesman Evan Thies said.

A request for comment to Republican mayoral nominee Curtis Sliwa wasn't immediately returned Friday.

In 2019, the city's School Diversity Advisory Group recommended phasing out the existed Gifted and Talented program, saying it was "unfair" and "unjust" and led to segregation. At the time, the New York Civil Liberties Union said 75% of the kids in the G&T program were white or Asian, even though white and Asian students only make up 30% of the district's enrollment.

When NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza resigned earlier this year, there were widespread reports that at the core of his departure was a dispute with de Blasio over the pace of eliminating the gifted classes.

The expected announcement comes one day after a scathing report by the city's inspector general found the mayor misused his security detail for personal purposes -- including shuttling his children around. It also comes amid reports the mayor has begun telling associates he will run for governor next year.

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