A panel appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed eliminating all gifted academic programs in New York City because they contain mostly white and Asian students.
A report released by de Blasio’s panel, dubbed the School Diversity Advisory Group, states Gifted and Talented programs and “screened” schools that have admission requirements are “unjust” because they do not “serve all children.”
“We recommend eliminating exclusionary screens, replacing those programs with pro-integrative programs used in many school districts across the country to affirmatively attract students of all backgrounds and make sure that all students are challenged,” the group writes.
The panel’s plan would abolish all elementary school gifted programs, “screened” middle schools and some high schools, except the city’s elite high schools that are under the partial control of New York State, reported the New York Times.
The diversity group says in its report that programs designed to meet the special academic needs of high ability students serve merely as “proxies for separating students who can and should have opportunities to learn together.”
The group continues:
Simply put, there are better ways to educate advanced learners than most of the current ‘Screened’ and Gifted and Talented programs, which segregate students by race and socioeconomic status. These schools and programs often fail to serve disadvantaged students and Black and Latinx students and have often failed to take advantage of some of the research and innovations that have developed since their inception.
Members of the group’s executive committee include Hazel Dukes of the NAACP, Jose Calderon of the Hispanic Federation, and Maya Wiley of The New School.
According to a report released in 2018 by The New School’s Center for New York Affairs, about 15 percent of New York City public high school students and nearly 18 percent of middle school students attend academically “screened” schools, for which admission is based on “student grades, test scores, attendance, an exam or admissions interview, or some combination of these factors.”
While the report’s introduction states the “screening” process is known to “severely and unfairly disadvantage the Black and Hispanic students who make up the overwhelming majority of the overall public school student population,” it also observes that more than half of students in academically screened public high schools are black and Hispanic, and about 60 percent of students at these schools are from low-income homes.
“In many cases … these academically screened secondary schools offer ‘islands of opportunity’ for Black and Hispanic students in low-income neighborhoods,” the introduction states.
De Blasio, a 2020 Democrat presidential candidate, has vowed to eradicate inequality in the city’s school system, the largest in the country. He has the power to accept or reject the recommendations of his panel, without the involvement of the state legislature or the City Council.
If he decides to adopt the proposals, “the decision would fundamentally reshape a largely segregated school system and could reverberate in school districts across the country,” stated the Times.