Old Stuyvesant High School building, NYC. Image Credit: Mike Licht

No More Gifted And Talented Programs? Is Mayor DeBlasio Fighting Elitism Or Depriving Students?

The NYC DOE (Department of Education) today announced that 62 of the 67 recommendations suggested by the School Diversity Advisory Group (SDAG) will be implemented. The SDAG is a panel comprised of students, parents, teachers and other educators, as well as advocates and researchers appointed in 2017 to advise School Chancellor Richard A. Carranza by Mayor Bill deBlasio, with the aim of fighting bias and increasing diversity in NYC’s public school system.

Mayor Bill deBlasio stated, “…There’s no one who knows better how to diversify our school system than our students, parents and teachers…every student, no matter their zip code, [will have] access to a school where they can thrive…” with regard to the planned changes advised by the Study Group. Eight public town hall meetings were held by the SDAG throughout the city, along with about forty committee meetings, in order to facilitate community involvement and foster discussion.

One such goal of the Group is that the “DOE should aim for all schools to look more like the city. This will encourage the DOE to challenge the neighborhood segregation that exists and support schools in further diversifying their populations.” This recommendation was written to help schools reflect district demographics. While this all sounds quite noble, the panel has effectively proposed elimination of “gifted and talented” programs throughout the city, with few exceptions.

In Making the Grade II: New Programs for Better Schools, we find this opener, penned by the Executive Committee, “As parents, as educators, as advocates, academics and students, we all want an exciting, challenging and relevant education that prepares students for the world and supports their ability to work together to solve big problems, serve their communities, get good jobs and participate in the very fabric of this country.” No one with compassion, or intelligence and a concern for our city’s youth, could possibly rebel against such goals. Yet, NYC residents, as well as writers for most major newspapers, seem alarmed at how such a plan is explicated in the pages that follow.

The group further “defined integration goals to include racial and socio-economic integration, but also included multilingual learners, students with disabilities and students in temporary housing as students who should be represented in schools throughout the city.” In effect, every school should begin to have ratios of each of these sub-groups of learners that reflects the ratio of each in the wider population of the area served by each school. How is such a lofty goal to be achieved, one might wonder? The report suggests that the city DOE , “[use] a framework for “real integration” that recognizes schools need improved resources, relationships, representation and restorative justice to be integrated.”

Of course, here is where the consternation and difference of opinion begins to take definite form. The report’s authors then go on to suggest there is an easy answer: trash the “gifted and talented” programs throughout the city, labeling these programs (with a proven track record of success) as inherently creating educational segregation based on race and socioeconomic status, suggesting that advanced learners will have “better” options than the presently-utilized “screened” programs.

According to the report’s recommendations, “…These schools and programs often fail to serve disadvantaged students and Black and Latinx students…” and therefore, should eliminate the entrance assessment test, the SHSAT. Perhaps a more holistic assessment is in order, but does it follow that all the Group’s other recommendations are on-point?

The reader may be wondering just how it is that screened programs are biased and encourage segregation. The response? “…the existing use of screens and Gifted and Talented programs [is] unfair, unjust and not necessarily research-based…segregat[ing] students by race, class, abilities and language…” Of course, Asian families dispute this assessment, as Asian students while over-represented in such “gifted and talents” programs, in fact many times hail from disadvantaged, low-income families, experiencing both a language barrier and significant economic barriers.

While some Black and Hispanic students claimed that they were unprepared for the entrance exams, or even that they were completely unaware that such entrance exams were offered, this cannot be blamed on the reasons Mayor deBlasio’s panel provided, but rather lies squarely on the shoulders of educators. Of course, cultures placing a premium on education may be more knowledgeable about such topics, but in the end, it’s really the fault of teachers and faculty for not informing their students of their complete list of options, including admission into specialized high schools and gifted programs.

The School Diversity Advisory Group further noted that, “…it is imperative to resource the creation and development of new research-based programs that serve all children; recognizing that all children can learn, that learning together improves learning…” However moral and compassionate this sounds, does this, in fact, hold back advanced students? Does such an assessment realistically encompass the realities that not all learners move along at the same pace, nor do all students learn in precisely the same manner?

While it’s claimed that “new models of effective and integrated learning based on interest and enrichment models, rather than arbitrary and often exclusionary admissions models,” in the “real world”, this may not hold true. The panel further explains that “…exclusionary admissions models often unfairly sort students by their resources rather than interests and opportunities for developing their interests and abilities…” should be eliminated. However, what resources, specifically, are we talking about? Many Asian students, as noted above, come from backgrounds that lack both a history of economic, and educational, achievement. Yet still, we find this sub-group over-represented in gifted programs.

Should students be sorted by their “interests and potential interests” or their ability level? While individualized learning is wonderful, should an advanced learner be tasked with peer-tutoring their less advanced peers, or should a class be kept at a slower pace to accommodate those learners lacking such an educational framework and background that is necessary in advanced learning environments? Are we about to hold back our “Doogie Howsers” in the name of equality? These questions merit serious consideration, before we jump into a situation that is intractable and damaging to any student.

According to the Group’s statement,”… Studies indicate that once made integrated, through equitable enrollment policies, New York City students will benefit from a host of educational benefits. Integrated classrooms yield higher academic outcomes, stronger critical thinking skills and increased creativity.” How does an advanced learner develop stronger critical thinking skills, or enhanced creativity, by being placed in “un-sorted” classrooms? Is this somehow related to the Group’s findings that,”…All students in integrated classrooms demonstrate reduced implicit biases and enhanced social-emotional well-being?”

Generation Z is less biased than former generations, across all socio-economic groups. Is the elimination of biases synonymous with creating a more robust learning environment? If so, how? Do we expect universities to follow suit so that, say, NYU accepts all students into all programs, intellectual (and other) qualifications be damned? Will the United States plunge headlong into a future where we all experience less bias, as the study group proposes, yet finds ourselves outpaced by the graduates of other nations choosing to place students with those at their own level, where they will be constantly challenged?

What are our educational goals, then? “Diversity means something different in each community and recommendations should speak to that broad definition,” according to the Group. While such a statement is inherently true, is diversity the highest end in setting up an educational system that serves all students as best as each student requires, on a personal level? Are we considering the group over the individual? These philosophical questions remain, and cannot be easily answered.

Presently, students are grouped according to level of achievement, which may indicate future pace, and scope, of learning. What plays into “level of achievement?’ Surely, individual interest and enthusiasm, as well as familial priorities placed on education. But what about differences in the individual make-up of students? What about cultural differences and attitudes toward education? Can these factors be legislated away, or are we wreaking havoc upon an educational system that has benefited more students than any other big city on Earth? Are we disrespecting those individual students prizing education? Are we suggesting that “all learners are created equally?”

Of course, disadvantaged students need to have educational opportunities made clear to them. At each step of their educational journey, such students must be reminded of the consequences of failure to achieve, as well as the benefits of focusing on their studies; they need to have a serious attitude about school cultivated in them, by all means necessary. Sometimes, parents and caregivers enrich their children’s learning process. After all, the New York Public Library is available to one and all, and even the poorest among us can borrow up to thirty books at once.

Possibly, there should be a focus on getting kids and parents to utilize the service of their NYPL branch, as well as educating parents and students about the option of entering into specialized “gifted and talented” programs. As it is, the Study Group seems to be suggesting that we will discover many “diamonds in the rough”, that is, students lacking achievement only because of bias and segregation.

Without a re-orientation toward education, for both parents and kids, simply mixing everyone together in a classroom, regardless of aptitude level, based purely on “interest” and trying to replicate ratios of groups that reflects those found in the larger community, and NYC as a whole, seems to increase the focus on race, economic status, and ethnicity like never before. Instead of trying to create a “fair” learning environment, parents and students should become better acquainted with services already in place, such as in-school tutoring, as well as free help available both online and after school, so that children with a background focused less on personal academic achievement may excel, if they wish to do so.

In the end, all school are not for everyone, and not all students will perform equally well in every program. There are schools like Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech, Bronx High School of Science, and Staten Island Tech for students with those sorts of interests and aptitudes. But there’s also schools like Art and Design High School, Fiorello H. LaGuardia H.S., Frank Sinatra School of the Arts High School, as well as Digital Arts and Cinema Technology High School, for students with a different sort of aptitude and interest.

Possibly identifying a student’s interests early on, and fostering its nurturing and development, as well as identifying students’ learning style (now a contested metric), including uncovering weaknesses in a student’s perspective on education, may serve us all better than trying to cut down those towering educational successes in order to bring about some sort of nebulous, foggy sense of “equality.” Equality of opportunity should be foremost among the concerns of our city’s educators; it’s just how we go about meeting this goal that may be of issue. Are we considering students as individuals, or resorting to race and class, seeing them only as a statistic? These are questions we must ask ourselves, regardless of our race, socio-economic standing, or any other tabulatable factor.

Note: The so-called “Elite Eight” specialized high schools will be exempt from the new directive, and testing for potential entrants will remain in place. The schools include The Bronx High School of Science, The Brooklyn Latin School, Brooklyn Technical High School, High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at City College of New York, High School of American Studies at Lehman College,  Queens High School for the Sciences at York College,Stuyvesant High School, and our borough’s own Staten Island Technical High School.

14 Comments

  • Avatar B Ruiz says:

    Clearly, the mayor is depriving students. Let the kids be “integrated” on their extra-curricular teams, outside of school, and on their own time.

    What the $%#@ are we running here?!!! Is a public school a psychological operation or a center of learning?

    This is bull$*#!+ and there’s no way I’m supporting this garbage.

    Communist counties will pass us. Capitalist countries will pass us.

    What are we becoming? What is this philosophy, even?

    I happen to be a die-hard Lefty, and I can’t fathom what the %^&* this even represents, politically!

    Are we running a day care center for adolescents and kids, now?

    Let’s forget about educating them. let’s just help them all feel OK about each other.And that isn’t even going to work.

    Racism starts at home and on the block. No such thing as black racism? I’m Hispanic and trust me, blacks do NOT like my people. Not ALL. Of course. But a hell of a lot, to be honest.

    My scars prove it. I don’t have to prove anything to a bunch of fake leftists on here. WOKE really means nothing more than hate. Don’t be fooled.

    Black kids can call white kids and Hispanic kids names. Cracker, bandito, etc. but the second anyone says anything back uh oh we have racism! Better call Sharpton.

    Wake up white and black and Hispanic and Asian parents. This is a scam designed by FAKE LEFTISTS to create harm to our kids! Have a child who achieves and works hard in school? Now we’re going to place him in a class with REAL banditos of all races to replicate the city’s stats. Does that include crime stats, mayor?

    Are they going to teach the kids how to twerk and mumble rap? I can see it now. Forget about physics, computer programming, and AP classes. We’ll have mumble rap 101!! Advanced WOKENESS! haha

    I went to SI Tech. Why? Because I studied hard in JHS and didn’t smoke weed or hang out on the block. Well, later I did all that but I was already older and it was in the summer.

    My mother would have come after me with a shoe but more importantly, I loved math and computers and detested the thug life. Now kids celebrate that. We liked Run-DMC and our parents flipped. Now, that rap seems like choir boys preaching! And back in the 80s, kids already stopped with the racism, to an extent. Breakdancing brought the kids together. But then the politics keeps dividing. The people, only some go for it but it’s enough to undo the progress.

    I’m from Port Richmond and my family is from Puerto Rico. PR and PR all the way, baby! I never lost my roots or my soul, even after college and a career.

    Let’s chop down the best to make everyone equal. They don’t even do this in China. What a joke we’re becoming. If you call me a racist, just for fact check, my family is more integrated than a subway platform. We have relatives of every ethnicity and color. Even a Korean brother-in-law so now we eat kim chi with our Empanadillas. haha

    This is not socialism. This is some sort of scam. I don’t know what to call it. Deblasio is making a mockery of the Left. I heard this guy talk one time, just recently. Now I know why they hide him from the public. Hannity wiped the floor with him. What a goon Deblasio is! Is he really the mayor? I can’t even believe it.

    • Avatar TJ vs the WORLD® says:

      I take strong offense of your comments. Do you realize you are biased? Just because you are Puerto Rican does not give you a pass to say and think anything you want. Your family is such a rainbow but are there any Black folks at that Thanksgiving table? I’m going to guess no.

      Even if you do have one token Black relative you parade around as proof your not a racist pig it is just ridiculous. Face facts. Black people have been oppressed and are still oppressed today. But tomorrow it will be different.

      Young people seek to change that. I don’t care if you have tacos with Korean sauce. You are a textbook example of racism. Listening to Run DMC in 1982 can’t change that. You mention that and it shows your sad.

      • Avatar StatenIslander.org_Editor says:

        Your comment reeks of bias, while purportedly attempting to fight bias. This seems a tad hypocritical, and should be cause for self-examination.

        Also, the commenter referred to “Kim Chee,” a Korean delicacy which is a fermented sauerkraut-type condiment, rather than a sauce.

        And, Puerto Rican Americans eat a “taco” in their home territory that is quite different than Mexican tacos. The delectable finger foods are, in fact, referred to as pastelillos, and NOT tacos.

        (http://studentinsanjuan.blogspot.com/2008/07/taco.html)

    • Avatar EMT1979 says:

      That’s a disgusting comment. You’re so close to being totally out of control. I just hope you don’t have kids that you teach to think like you do. I watched a newscaster apologize just now to her co-host for calling him a gorilla. He is black. How did we ever get to this point? I think I know. It’s people like you B Ruiz who teach their children to carry on with hate. I bet if we met, I could predict your views on most things. I bet you vote Republican. I bet you loathe the homeless. I’m sure you think the world is wonderful and racism is long gone. I’ve got news for you, you need an education. An education on real life. If you ha gone to a high school that was more integrated,you might feel different about so many things. Insulating yourself your whole life from reality is the problem and watching news that keeps you in this vacuum is the other problem. Try to think with your heart and consider all those kids without the opportunities you were priviledged to have had in your own life.

  • Avatar Great Reporting! says:

    I just want to say, I read this same article on all the other newspapers, from the locals to nationwide, and this is the best coverage yet. You guys weren’t the first to report on it, but this is the most in depth coverage yet.

    I like that Archie quoted rather than paraphrased his way through the group’s memo. I loved reading this.

    And the way he raises questions, and really gets the reader to think is what the media should always be doing. Two thumbs up!

    • Avatar StatenIslander.org_Editor says:

      Thank you for your appreciation. The team here at the Staten Islander News Organization greatly values the positive feedback.

      -Archie Frank, Editor

  • Avatar WOKE IN 2019 says:

    being woke means making ppl uncomfortable b/c they need to be b/c they don’t fully appreciate the reality that everyone must have equality but doesn’t in our real world

    it’s actually the opposite of being a racist

    not held against u personally b/c ur experience speaks to u & that’s ur own life but it’s not everything

  • Avatar Maklansky The Great says:

    Not for nothing, but i live near Allison Ave in New Dorp, and I see every day after school that SI Tech has about 70% Asian students.

    I say, more power to them. They studied hard, are smart kids, and care about their future.

    So we’re supposed to say it’s OK to move them out (a minority) and replace them with different minorities?

    This is insane. Bottom of the heap, here we come world! America is in for a fast ride to the bottom.

    • Avatar StatenIslander.org_Editor says:

      Please see above italicized text:

      “Note: The so-called “Elite Eight” specialized high schools will be exempt from the new directive, and testing for potential entrants will remain in place.”

      Staten Island Technical H.S. is on that list of the “Elite Eight.”

  • Avatar EMT1979 says:

    Here’s the video of the WHITE woman calling her co-host (BLACK) a monkey and then apologizing:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isDFkjKtpM8

    DISGUSTING. SHAMELESS.

  • Avatar matty c says:

    For once I totally agree with Frank.

    My son placed well on the test and earned his place in a gifted program. Take that away now, liberal mayor? Hizzoner is treading on dangerous territory. Parents are going to fight this. All the way.

    Teach kids to stop trying. Decrim pot and defecating on the street. Do away with bail. Crime is OK. Hit the LEO’s with water and God knows what else. What is he trying to do here?

    That includes liberals whose kids do well in school. I’ve met my son’s classmates parent’s. What a bunch of freaks. But I have to say they care about their kids education.

    No next term, for Deblasio. Wait and see I’ll be right.

  • Avatar P*SSED OFF says:

    What a load of nonsense. This mayor is the worst yet. My kids earned their way into the top class. They deserve not to have to deal with street antics in the classroom. Asian kids are a minority and often not well off so this is a load of junk. Also I see city charts lump Asians with white kids so their pie chart can look better. This is racism at the worst. It’s just blacks/Hispanics vs. Asians/white kids. Nonsense.

    • Avatar Uncle Rob says:

      So Asian kids are upset to be lumped in with white kids? BUT..you’re all priviledged in that you have Tiger Moms starting you on multiplication at the age of 2. My Mom’s was working and raising three kids. My Dad had 2 jobs. We stayed with my Aunt and Grandmother a lot. So we had a disadvantage because my parents didn’t even have time to be Tiger Parents if they wanted to. There just wasn’t the time in a day.

      But now a lot of newspapers online won’t even let you read for free.. So MY OWN KIDS aren’t getting the opportunity for enrichment because they aren’t priviledged and we can’t afford to get the news. That’s how you learn to write well. By reading good writing.

      Put it all together and you see Asian and white kids have a foot up over true minorities with real disadvantages. Not being racist but all kids should have the same opportunities. School school work on making all kids have chance at success even if they don’t come from priviledge.

      • Avatar Asians Are Minorities, Too says:

        I agree 100% that reading good writing makes a better writer. But the NYPL is still there and kids can use their computers (under parental supervision) to read all sorts of things that aren’t on the pay news sites.

        Don’t get upset. Your kids can still achieve greatness in learning. But you do have to realize that Asian kids are being unfairly put in a “privileged” category. This is wrong and has to stop.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *