New Yorkers Urge Mayor to Abandon ‘Social Justice Experiment’ on the Gifted

By Miguel Moreno

New Yorkers gathered in Brooklyn on Sept. 4 urging Mayor Bill de Blasio to abandon a proposal to eliminate Gifted & Talented programs.

The report (pdf) released on Aug. 27 by the NYC School Diversity Advisory Group, suggested the city get rid of academic screening in elementary, middle, and high schools, explaining that selective schools have disproportionately more White and Asian students.

“I believe the only true social justice experiment should be to ensure that every student gets a quality education,” said Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis in response to the proposal. “Those who cannot currently qualify for Gifted and Talented, let’s give them the resources and the help so they can.”

Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis
Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis speaks at a press conference in Brooklyn, New York, on Sept. 4, 2019. (Oliver Trey/NTD News)

In order for a child to qualify for the Gifted and Talented (G&T ) program, a parent must have them take a test entering kindergarten through third grade. If they score high enough, the child qualifies.

The Diversity Advisory Group reported that nearly 70 percent of kindergartners in NYC are Black and Latino. However, less than 40 percent of them are tested. This led the group to conclude that “Black and Latino students are underrepresented while Asian and White students are overrepresented” in the program.

Last year, NYC’s G&T program enrolled 42 percent Asians, 39 percent Whites, 10 percent Hispanics, and 8 percent Blacks.

Is Excellence Black and White?

A 7th grader enrolled in a G&T program across the street from the press conference told NTD News that she learns things she wouldn’t normally learn in the program.

“It’s not right,” Megan Nie said. “Some people deserve to be in these programs. They need it because some schools would be too easy for them—and as they said before, that people would be bored.”

Megan
Megan, who is enrolled in G&T, speaks with a reporter from NTD News in Brooklyn, New York, on Sept. 4, 2019. (Oliver Trey/NTD News)

Rong Guo, a mother whose son is enrolled in G&T, told reporters that the program pushes him to constantly do better. To Nie and Guo, the programs are not about their race—they are about academic excellence.

Max Eden, an education expert from the Manhattan Institute, said that the education policy trend in New York reflects a deeper problem.

“So the integration argument is not really what’s at work here. What’s at work is this kind of identity politics logic that all disparities must be a product of discrimination,” Eden told NTD.

Mayor Bill de Blasio
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and student Justin De La Cruz work on a science project with worms during a visit to a pre-K classroom at P.S.1 on Henry St. in Manhattan in New York City on April 3, 2014. (Susan Watts-Pool/Getty Images)

Eden said, however, that the programs are not perfect. He doesn’t think it is a good idea to test children as early as four and five years old, but favors a system that values individual excellence.

He added that the proposition is hostile toward students who excel and the values that lead to excellence.

Malliotakis would agree. “That’s the bottom line here: We don’t want to reduce standards,” she said.

Penny Zhou contributed to this article.