A Brooklyn school district where parents once fiercely lobbied for gifted and talented programs may now support phasing out those very programs.
The Community Education Council in District 16, which includes the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, is voting Monday on a resolution that calls on the mayor and schools chancellor to overhaul the city’s gifted programs.
The resolution backs recommendations made by the School Diversity Advisory Group, which was appointed by the mayor to propose ways to better integrate one of the country’s most segregated school systems. The advisory group’s proposals include changing admissions standards for gifted programs, phasing out those programs, and replacing them with schoolwide enrichment models.
Black and Hispanic students make up almost 70% of citywide enrollment, but account for only about 20% of students in elementary school gifted programs.
Opposition to the proposal to eliminate gifted programs has been intense and led partly by Councilman Robert Cornegy, who represents Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights. He has argued that a more equitable approach would be to expand gifted programs so that more black and Hispanic students will be prepared for selective middle and high schools.
Not long ago, Cornegy rallied alongside parents for new programs in districts that had gone years without any — including District 16, in which 93% of students are black and Hispanic, and more than 82% come from low-income families. A gifted program finally opened there in 2016.
But NeQuan McLean, the president of the education council, said his district’s program has not made access more widespread or fair.
“That’s not working for our community,” he said.
Most city programs admit students based on a single test that students take before entering school, and classes begin in kindergarten. In District 16 and a handful of other historically underserved neighborhoods, gifted programs don’t start until third grade and admission is based on multiple criteria, including report card grades and teacher interviews.
McLean said that parents become invested in their child’s elementary school, so by the time they reach third grade, few are willing to leave for the district’s only gifted program at P.S. 26 Jesse Owens. McLean said more than 200 students qualified for the program last year, but only 25 accepted placements.
When students do opt for that gifted program, their original school loses enrollment — and therefore, funding.
Instead, McLean said the city should support models that provide advanced instruction to everyone.
“If we’re offering enriched learning at every one of our schools, the families don’t have to pick and choose,” he said. “The schools are not competing against each other, but everyone is learning this accelerated and rigorous curriculum.”
The District 16 council will vote on the resolution at its regular meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. on Monday. It will be held at J.H.S. 57, which is located at 125 Stuyvesant Avenue.
To read the resolution, click here.