By Carli Seigelstein
New York, New York
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio left many unsettled when he announced that the Gifted & Talented (G&T) test would be administered for the last time this year. Accelerated programs at public schools have relied on this test to assess kindergarten-level children, but without it, there is speculation that the gifted education system may need to be entirely reprogrammed.
Each year, over 32,000 children entering kindergarten through third grade take tests with hopes of receiving admission to G&T programs—fewer than 4,000 of these children are offered admission. With only 83 G&T schools out of the 1,866 public schools in New York City, the competition for admission is fierce.
The G&T test contains verbal assessments, which mainly measure reasoning and comprehension skills, as well as nonverbal assessments. Students are eligible for District G&T programs if they receive an overall score of 90% or above, and for Citywide G&T programs if they receive an overall score of 97% or above. There are many children who are eligible for G&T schools, but they are often not guaranteed admission because the programs are in such high demand.
The appeal of the gifted programs is the quality of a private school education for the public school price: free. This is the argument of many supporters of the G&T test, as they claim it acts as an “educational springboard” for academically advanced children. However, the idea of free high-quality education has led to a culture of constant test preparation in children aged four through seven.
As the competition continues to increase, those opposed to the G&T test argue that this admissions process gives a distinct advantage to those who can afford tutors and test preparation materials over those without such means, thus responsible for the racial makeup of G&T schools. As of 2020, the vast majority of G&T students are Asian (43%), followed by white (36%), Hispanic (8%) and Black (6%).
Mayor De Blasio has been exploring the idea of desegregating New York City public schools since 2019 when he assembled a panel of educational experts that recommended eliminating all gifted programs. The panel claimed that programs like G&T have “become proxies for separating students” who should be learning together. While the mayor did not adopt the principle of magnet schools, as the panel had suggested, he does believe that removing the G&T test is a concrete step in achieving more diverse gifted programs citywide.
During his press conference with Department of Education Chancellor Richard Carranza, Mayor de Blasio spoke to how there is an overwhelming number of G&T children and that this initiative will hopefully help each child receive the education they deserve. Agency spokesperson Miranda Barbot “believe[s this] is a better way” and claims the department “will spend the next year engaging communities” around inclusive and supportive programming for academically accelerated children.
Although there are no definitive admissions proposals for the 2021-2022 academic year, the New York City gifted programs will remain intact.