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NYC is ending its gifted and talented schools program for exceptional students and will put all children in the same classes, claiming that the current system discriminates against black and Hispanic kids.
Announcing the decision on Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio - who is in the final months of his term - said: 'The era of judging four-year-olds based on a single test is over'.
Critics of the program said it was racist because most of the gifted schools were filled up with white and Asian American students.
But parents and teachers say ending the program in its current state will create more problems for students: the gifted kids will be bored and slowed down in classrooms of mixed ability, and those who need more attention will be 'left behind,' they say.
Students were being accepted to the special Talented and Gifted (TAG) schools after passing a standardized test at the age of four. In some parts of the city that are predominantly black and Hispanic, fewer kids were passing the tests, so the schools closed.
Now, all kids will be put into same-level classrooms, but gifted kids will be given different work.
It's not yet clear how teachers will determine which children are considered gifted and which aren't.
Parents and teachers say it is a flawed decision that punishes gifted children and holds them back.
Outgoing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has axed the city's gifted and talented schools program because he says it discriminates against black and Hispanic kids
De Blasio's solution is to put the gifted kids in regular classrooms which critics say will only increase class size, spread teachers' thin and harm all of the kids' progress (file image)
They say it will slow down their progress and will also lead to other, less gifted kids being 'left behind' because teachers won't be able to cope with the multiple levels of students' abilities in large classrooms.
Beforehand, the program accepted 2,600 gifted kindergarteners but now, some 65,000 kids will be considered under de Blasio's replacement plan, which he is calling Brilliant NYC.
'Brilliant NYC will deliver accelerated instruction for tens of thousands of children, as opposed to a select few,' he said.
Parents reacted angrily to the change that de Blasio made without consulting them or teachers.
Some also pointed to TAG Young Scholars, one of the gifted schools in Harlem, where more than 36 percent of students are from black or Hispanic households.
Previous debates over the issue said it was proof that the program was not racist or discriminatory.
'I grew up in a place where being gifted and talented was not only a blessing, it was a necessity. It's quite unnerving that Bill de Blasio would end the program as he's about to exit. Leaving a mess for the incoming Mayor and communities to clean up as he goes,' tweeted Alicia Hyndman.
Critics said the gifted kids will be 'severely hurt' by the Mayor's decision
Others say it will harm both the gifted kids who'll now be held back, and the others who must now share their teachers' attention with them.
'Hopefully [mayoral candidate] Eric Adams will reverse this,' one parent tweeted. 'Accelerated learning in general classroom sounds good on paper but in reality, they just give smart kids extra work to do.'
'Not the same experience as being in an environment where they are challenged by other smart kids.'
Others went further, claiming it was proof that NYC purportedly 'hates smart kids'.
'It is critical that all teachers are able to recognize different learning needs including students who need more depth and complexity,' tweeted Inform NYC, a voter activist group.
'Talented and gifted describes our Nobel Prize winners, scientists, doctors, sports stars/teams, actresses/actors, all forms of artists, singers, researchers... does everyone see where this is going?'
Another critic tweeted: 'No reward... no compensation for unique... ALL EQUAL.'
There are also examples of how the system can work against racism.
TAG Young Scholars in Harlem had an intake of pupils that was 36 percent black and Hispanic in 2019, according to a New York Times article, which quoted several parents who explained how the school benefited their kids.
One was the father of a Hispanic boy, who said his son would never have learned to read so quickly in a non-gifted class.
A white mother with two kids told the reporter for the same article that her 'gifted' child needed a different environment than her non-gifted child.
'I do worry that my son would have been bored in a general-education classroom,' the mother said.