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New York Wants to Integrate Schools by Cancelling Gifted Programs

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In New York City, there are essentially two parallel public school systems. One is open to all students while the other focuses on children who are labeled gifted, separating them out and presenting them with a more challenging curriculum. The gifted program is predominately filled with white and Asian students, while the other is mostly black and Hispanic.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, according to a report by the New York Times, created a high-level panel that has recommended that the gifted program be shut down. The panel – made up of dozens of education experts – states that closing out the program would be a method for desegregating the school system, which is the largest in the nation with 1.1 million students.

The mayor campaigned on a platform focused on reducing inequality. He also has the ability to adopt a variety of proposals without any input from the state legislator or the city council.

The recommendation states that gifted programs have “become proxies for separating students who can and should have opportunities to learn together.”

Discussing the proposed elimination of the gifted program during an interview on Tuesday, de Blasio stated, “It’s literally a recommendation that just came out.”

“I’m going to assess it,” he added.

Eliminating the gifted program could incite a backlash. The families of children who are enrolled could feel alienated by the move.

Additionally, some middle-class Hispanic and black families may also oppose that decision. Many have called for greater access to gifted programs in minority neighborhoods, stating it would ensure that students in those areas had greater access to high-quality schooling.

Other families may support the proposal. Some black and Hispanic families believe that the gifted programs divert money and attention from traditional neighborhood schools in an unfair manner.

The plan would include the elimination of all elementary school-level gift programs, as well as screened middle schools and some of the high schools. The main exceptions would be at the high school level, including New York City’s seven elite high schools, such as Stuyvesant High School, as their admission is partially controlled by the city of Albany.

Approximately one-quarter of New York City’s middle and high schools screen students to determine who gains entry. Exam scores, grades, and attendance rates are all examined during the admissions screening process.

The panel also recommended that gifted and screened schools be replaced with magnet schools, educational institutions that focus heavily on a particular subject, as well as enrichment programs.

If the recommendation is followed, New York City elementary and middle schools would not be able to make admissions decisions based mainly or entirely on academic criteria. The high schools would have to meet diversity requirements.