New York City Scraps Gifted Children Program Following Segregation Criticisms

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New York City is pushing with the phase-out of its gifted children program by 2022 after criticisms that it had further compounded the problems of racism and segregation impacting students in the Black community.

Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed that the Gifted and Talented Program would be scrapped in favor of Brilliant NYC. Under this new program, kids up to eight years old will be instructed and educated with a different assessment model and will no longer be separated from the regular classes.

Brilliant NYC is expected to benefit 65,000 New York City kindergarteners as opposed to the 2,500 kids who gained from the old program every year. Representatives from the city's Department of Education said it would begin looking for qualified educators to implement the new model for the next school year.

"The era of judging 4-year-olds based on a single test is over," the mayor said. "Brilliant NYC will deliver accelerated instruction for tens of thousands of children, as opposed to a select few," he said.

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What was the Gifted and Talented Program?

Every year, New York City conducts an assessment test for four-year-old kids entering big schools if they could qualify for the gifted children program. Most kids who pass are either Asian American or White, prompting some parents and advocates to file a lawsuit against the city, citing that the criteria for the program were polarizing and discriminatory of Black or Latino children.

A study from the UCLA Civil Rights Project showed that one of the most segregated public school districts in the U.S. is New York City. That status had not changed in the updated report from 2018, which showed that there is only 10 percent of White students in a public school with a predominantly (75 percent) Black and Latino student population. Yet these minority students make up just 14 percent of the gifted program, while 80 percent of the slots usually go to Asian Americans or White kids.

In 2021, changes were made to the Gifted and Talented Program that did away with the tests for four-year-old children. Instead, enrollees to the program were picked either through a school lottery or a nomination. However, admissions dropped due to the pandemic, but some attributed it to families now aware that the process is slanted against minority kids.

What is Brilliant NYC?

Once Brilliant NYC is implemented, the student's acceleration to the gifted classes will be determined after third grade and based on the teachers' assessment of their performance. Meanwhile, those in kindergarten until the second grade will be trained with skills, especially in computer and science, that could likely help them get accelerated when they are in third grade.

The National Association for Gifted Children Board of Directors president Lauri Kirsch said they support Brilliant NYC but noted that its equity problems should be addressed. As this is De Blasio's final term as mayor, Kirsch hopes that the next mayor will make more improvements to the new program and keep the children's best interests in mind.

This will level out the playing field for some parents and give all kids a chance to shine. However, Asian American advocates do not want the original gifted children program scrapped or changed because it is an "assault on high achieving students."

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