As Mayor Bill de Blasio Discusses Getting Rid of Gifted and Talented Programs, New York City Residents Are Torn

Words and picture by Katie Herchenroeder

On the ground, those engaging with NYC schools daily are torn on removing Gifted and Talented programs across the city. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Department of Education are discussing the idea to remove Gifted and Talented programs from New York City Public Schools, per the suggestion of The School Diversity Advisory Group, commissioned by de Blasio in 2017 to fight the lack of representation across NYC. 

The group, comprised of five executive members and 40 more on the advisory committee, wrote that the city should, “Discontinue the use of the Gifted & Talented admissions test. Institute a moratorium on new Gifted & Talented programs, while phasing out existing programs.” Their advice comes as NY public schools remain the most segregated in the country, according to The Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Christina Hyacinthe, a site supervisor for after school programs at P.S. 217 Colonel David Marcus School, shared, “I think it’s a really bad idea to have gifted programs taken out of schools because that actually highlights the best part of kids whenever they’re inside of school.” Looking at her own school, she reported, “I have a lot of kindergarteners that are really smart and doing fifth grade math … so I feel like all schools should be open to that.” Her frustration echoes some who find the measure controversial.

From an outside point of view, mother of two Michel Med has decided to enroll her children in private school, yet still supports keeping Gifted and Talented programs in public schools. Med explained that her children are challenged in their school and she would want the same for them if she transitioned them to a public option. 

One main focus of the report centered around the age of those taking specialty tests – four years old. Disagreeing that this is too young to begin the programs, Med said, “The smaller they are, the quicker they learn.”

On the other hand, recent high school graduate Humaira Akram is a fan of removing the programs all together. “I feel like as kids grow they get more mature and so you can’t divide them on how intelligent they are,” she argued. Akram continued on to note that “there are so many kids out there that are smart but may not have as many opportunities as the people with money for afterschool activities or things like that.” 

Remembering her own experience, Akram shared, “Me personally, coming from elementary to middle and high school, the most not intelligent kids ended up going to the best colleges.”

While Akram, a student at Brooklyn College majoring in Phycology, believes that testing for gifted kids “may help [them] feel like they need to work hard for something,” she said.

In an interview this week on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Bill de Blasio addressed the report as something that just came out, ensuring that both him and New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza would assess it.