New York City to Phase Out Its Gifted and Talented Program
The mayor’s plan for the future of gifted education is similar to a proposal made in 2019 by a task force he convened on school integration measures — a plan that he had, until now, mostly ignored. Friday’s announcement will be welcome news to many activists who have said the current gifted system is outdated and unfair.
Though public outcry from those advocates no doubt played some role in the mayor’s decision, more meaningful still has been nearly eight years of private pressure from the mayor’s three schools chancellors, all of whom have been skeptical of, if not completely opposed to, separate gifted classes.
The mayor’s first chancellor, Carmen Fariña, got rid of gifted classes in the Manhattan elementary school she ran for many years as a principal. The second chancellor, Richard A. Carranza, resigned earlier this year, in part because he was frustrated by what he considered the mayor’s reluctance to take bold action on gifted and talented education.
While Mr. de Blasio’s announcement represents a major shift for New York, it is hardly pioneering. Many districts around the country have already moved away from separating children by perceived academic ability, and there is wide agreement among educational experts that New York’s practice of sorting 4-year-olds into gifted classes was not supported by research.
Labeling students as gifted and plucking them out of general education classrooms altogether often exacerbates segregation, removes resources from regular public schools, and weakens instruction for all other students, experts say, when children who need special support can still receive proper attention within normal classrooms and schools.
But teaching children with a large range of abilities in one classroom is difficult, meaning much of the success of the plan will depend on the city’s approach to training educators.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said he believed crucial details of the plan would be worked out by the next administration. Mr. Mulgrew, who has consistently called for the elimination of separate gifted classes for children in kindergarten through second grade, said he thought that some children in upper elementary school would still end up sorted by ability, despite the mayor’s new plan.