Mayor de Blasio: Testing 4-year-olds for gifted programs is a ‘real concern’

Mayor Bill de Blasio said using a single test to determine if 4-year-olds qualify for city gifted and talented programs is “a real concern,” commenting for the first time on the merits of the controversial proposals recommended by his School Diversity Advisory Group. 

During a press conference marking the first day of New York City public schools, the mayor wouldn’t give a firm timeline for deciding whether to adopt any of the proposed changes designed to spur integration in one of the most segregated districts in the nation. But he said that some could be enacted before the next school year.

“If we get to a point when we see changes that can get implemented at the beginning of the new school year … if we think we’re ready, we’ll move,” he told reporters gathered at a pre-K center in Staten Island.

The comments come more than a week after the advisory group released the bombshell report, whose most attention-grabbing proposal was to eliminate the city’s gifted and talented programs in their current form and replace them with schoolwide enrichment programs. The plan, which also calls for eliminating many screens in middle and high school, has attracted criticism from numerous camps.

For his part, Chancellor Richard Carranza has previously signalled support for changing gifted programs. While he cautioned that the conversation isn’t “just about eliminate or don’t eliminate”  but “making sure we’re providing robust educational opportunities for all students in all schools.” 

De Blasio echoed those thoughts, but also said that in talking to parents around the city, he doesn’t hear many asking strictly about integration. “All the theory about how we create a utopian world, you know how we get everything to be perfectly balanced at all, that’s not what parents are talking to me about,” he said. “They are talking to me about, how do you make my child’s school better right now.”

The mayor, who has final say on the recommendations, said his administration will take the next school year to analyze the report, talk to parents and educators as well as the principals and teachers unions, who came out against the gifted proposal last week. He adopted 62 of the group’s first wave of 67 recommendations, but those proposals weren’t as controversial.