A school diversity committee formed by Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to eliminate programs for gifted and talented students, claiming they perpetuate racial inequality because they’re comprised mostly of white and Asian students.
The committee also recommended scrapping all forms of screening for students across the city.
The report has no binding power, but de Blasio can implement the panel’s recommendations if he wishes.
De Blasio only said of the report Monday, “Every child, regardless of ZIP code, has the right to attend a school where they can thrive.
“I thank the School Diversity Advisory Group for all their hard work to promote equity and excellence across our system, and I look forward to reviewing their recommendations. ”
Carranza added, “We’re going to review their recommendations and take action to ensure all students have access to a rich and rigorous education.”
After the lip service to quality education, what’s really at stake here? Perhaps we should be asking about the legitimacy of these programs.
But the schools chancellor has already openly questioned the legitimacy of gifted-and-talented programs, including to a group of Queens parents in February.
“When you have over 35% of your students be designated as gifted and talented, we need to bottle the water we’re drinking and ship it all over the place,” he said sarcastically.
“Because that is far beyond the percentage of gifted and talented that, from a statistical perspective, should be found in the population.”
Backers of the current system counter that it rewards diligence and accommodates families of advanced kids who would otherwise abandon the public school system altogether.
And proponents of gifted-and-talented programs and other screens note that many top city schools have significant populations of poor immigrants.
The bottom line is lower standards, making “gifted and talented” hollow words, indeed.
Still, the efficacy of having gifted and talented programs cannot be denied. When some students are being held back from learning by others, there is a need to recognize talent and nurture it by designing a curriculum that will challenge a gifted student — regardless of race.
But the implications of this report are worrying. Are we now to penalize students of some races because kids of other races aren’t doing as well? The inescapable conclusion is that schools must strive to achieve standards that meet the lowest common denominator, and not strive to meet the highest standards.
When explanations for why some students of some races do better than others become knee-jerk accusations of racism, schools will never improve.