Department of Education employees, teachers, and education advocates are calling for an end to the city’s Gifted and Talented program in an open letter to the Department of Education arguing the program “cements segregation.”
“As DOE employees, educators, workers, students, community members and caregivers, we believe that all children are gifted. All children are talented. All children have limitless potential. Because we believe in educational equity, racial justice and school desegregation, we oppose all forms of Gifted and Talented programming, tracking and admissions,” the letter reads. “We refuse to support a sorting process that cements segregation from the start. “
Admission to the city’s controversial G&T program requires rising kindergarteners to take a single exam, which many parents and educators consider to be a flawed means of determining “giftedness” in a toddler and is instead a better indication of socio-economic background.
Last year, the program came under fire again prompting Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza to promise to get rid of the exam for good after offering it one last time this spring. But that plan was thwarted after members of the Panel for Educational Policy voted to not renew a contract with publishing company Pearson which administers the G&T exam.
The vote then forced DOE members to come with an alternative eventually deciding that for one year only, four-year-olds would be evaluated by their pre-k teachers who would then select students to enter a lottery system. Families of toddlers not in a pre-k program but interested in having their children entered into the lottery were encouraged by the DOE to sign up for pre-k.
The letter’s dozens of signatories argue the G&T program feed into the city’s screened middle and high schools and is their first step towards perpetuating a school system that is one of the most racially segregated in the country. Over 60% of New York City public school students are either Black or Latino, according to DOE data, G&T classes are made up of about 75% white and Asian students.
“Eliminating the original G&T eligibility test, which rewarded economically advantaged families and those who had access to test-prep, is a welcomed step, but this year’s stop-gap measure adds new avenues for bias. Ending G&T now would bring classroom integration to communities that cannot wait another year,” the letter continues.
In response to the letter, DOE spokesperson Danielle Filson told amNewYork Metro, “This letter calls for the end of the Gifted & Talented admissions process, but as we announced in December, that process will no longer be used moving forward.We’re providing families with a temporary alternative this year and will be partnering with communities to chart a new, more inclusive and enriching path forward.”