The city’s gifted and talented program will expand this fall with more seats for kindergarteners and a new program for third graders, Mayor Eric Adams announced Thursday.
"For the first time, there will be a gifted and talented program in every school district in New York City,” Adams said at a virtual appearance during a press conference at City Hall, as he remained quarantined for COVID.
The expansions are a reversal of former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s attempts to dismantle the city's G&T programs in his efforts to tackle persistent segregation and inequity in the school system.
Critics have long charged that the standalone programs for accelerated students — from the testing of four-year-olds for the kindergarten program to the specialized high school entrance exams — have led to segregated schools where Black and Latino students were underrepresented. But parents who support G&T say it’s unfair to hold back accelerated learners.
"This is a big, long-sought win for parents, families and students across our city, especially in underserved districts,” Adams said. "We're giving every child in every zip code the chance that's been denied too often."
Adams’ new expansion plans, as promised during his campaign for mayor, underscore his support for the gifted and talented program. G&T will be preserved as a standalone program at specific schools in each district. The kindergarten program will be expanded to every school district — 100 seats will be added to the existing 2,400 seats, with districts that do not have current G&T programs receiving the new seats.
Entry to the kindergarten program will still be based on universal screening through teacher recommendations, as the de Blasio administration had eliminated the entrance exam. Kids who are not currently in a Department of Education pre-K program will be screened by DOE staff when they apply.
The new third-grade G&T program will screen second graders who are in the top 10% of their class, based on grades in the four core areas of math, science, English Language Arts and social studies. There will be a program in every school district for a total of 1,000 students, though DOE officials said more seats can be added if schools see more interest.
“When you talk to national experts on child development, they identified the third grade as the best time to identify gifted behavior,” said Schools Chancellor David Banks at the press conference.
The third-grade program will be separate from the kindergarten G&T program – students who enter the third-grade program will be in their own class and not joining their peers who started in the kindergarten G&T track, the DOE said. Admitted students will have priority for their district’s G&T program, though they will be able to apply to other G&T programs.
The DOE said it's currently working with schools to identify where the new third-grade programs will roll out. At least one school has already been identified as receiving a new G&T program — PS 56 in Richmond Hill will start a third-grade program this fall, according to DOE officials.
Applications will open May 31st for both programs for enrollment for the 2022-2023 school year.
State Sen. John Liu, who chairs Senate Committee on NYC Education, said he welcomed the expansion of the programs.
“Glad to see some positive movement on accelerated learning in public schools, and kudos to the mayor and the chancellor for this step forward. An expansion is welcome news, although it relies on a lottery and nebulous recommendations that are a cause for concern to many parents and families," Liu said in a statement Thursday. "Going forward beyond this school year, the administration must be sure to engage parents and students who have long called for more accelerated learning in order to address these outstanding issues."
But one educational advocate who has been opposed to separated gifted and talented programs called the expansion "disheartening."
"it almost seems like it's creating a gifted and talented Hunger Games for elementary school students when we don't need to be adding more competitive process for public school programs," said Nyah Berg, executive director of New York Appleseed, a nonprofit that advocates for integrated schools and communities. "So it's pretty disheartening, these changes, especially when they are being touted as in the name of equity, in the name of getting rid of scarcity."