Outrage Greets New York City's Plans to Nix Gifted and Talented Program for Kids

New York City plans to cancel the gifted and talented program in public schools and replace it with a new plan called Brilliant NYC Blueprint, which will roll out in December.

City officials aware of the matter told Newsweek on Friday that kindergarten students coming into schools next fall will not have the program, which will be gradually eliminated. Those who are already enrolled in those classes will continue in the program, but they will be the last to graduate from it.

The new program will be implemented in all elementary schools starting with kindergarten. This plan will serve 26 times more students than the current gifted and talented program, which admits 2,500 kindergarteners, city officials said.

As students go on to third grade, they will all remain in general classrooms but they will be screened by subject area to determine if they need tailored accelerated instruction.

The city plans this year to train all 4,000 kindergarten instructors to teach accelerated learning and hire more teachers who are trained to apply this type of instruction, where students use advanced skills—from robotics and coding to advocacy—to solve real world problems.

The number of schools with the accelerated learning program will be expanded from 80 to all 800 city schools with elementary grades, according to officials.

"The era of judging four-year-olds based on a single test is over. Brilliant NYC will deliver accelerated instruction for tens of thousands of children, as opposed to a select few," said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a statement that city officials shared with Newsweek. "Every New York City child deserves to reach their full potential, and this new, equitable model gives them that chance."

Newsweek reached out to the mayor's office for further comment but didn't hear back before publication.

This is a political stunt with nothing behind it. No plan. He's asking teachers to teach a 4+ grade-level-span in classes of 32+. I feel horrible for the kids who will be left behind and the teachers who are expected to do it all with some PD. The system needed to be revamped.

— Deborah Alexander (@debalex55) October 8, 2021

The decision has stirred up different reactions on social media, with one person pointing out that de Blasio "did not do a single thing to fix failing NYC schools so on his way out the door Mayor de Blasio destroyed the rare functioning component of the NYC school system. You voted for this, New Yorkers, twice."

Another Twitter user suggested that the mayor's scheme is a "political stunt with nothing behind it." The person said that the teachers will face the challenge of implementing the mayor's plan and that some children will be left behind.

Others are optimistic that Eric Adams, that Democratic nominee for mayor, could reverse the plan if he wins the mayoral race.

Hopefully @ericadamsfornyc will reverse this. Accelerated learning in a 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. https://t.co/NTYb8jZEjg

— Eric R Olson (@EricROlson) October 8, 2021

Adams has said that he would keep the admissions test for the 4-year-olds in the gifted and talented program if he becomes mayor, according to Chalkbeat. He also said that the gifted and talented program should be expanded to more communities.

City Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter was also involved in eliminating the gifted and talented program in favor of different types of learning opportunities.

"As a life-long educator, I know every child in New York City has talents that go far beyond what a single test can capture and the Brilliant NYC plan will uncover their strengths so they can succeed," said Porter in a statement that city officials shared with Newsweek.

"I'm excited to get into neighborhoods across the city to hear directly from communities about the types of learning opportunities that pique students' interests and lets their gifts shine," Porter said.

He did not do a single thing to fix failing NYC schools so on his way out the door Mayor de Blasio destroyed the rare functioning component of the NYC school system. You voted for this, New Yorkers, twice. https://t.co/tXrhc1KIN6

— Karol Markowicz (@karol) October 8, 2021

Some groups of parents who opposed halting the gifted and talented program are concerned about the change, The New York Times reported, and criticized de Blasio for preparing for a replacement program without allowing parents to weigh in.

But city officials told Newsweek the mayor and senior education officials and leaders citywide plan to hold forums in all 32 school districts to discuss the plan with parents and instructors in October and November.

Others who are supportive of the mayor's plan, such as the president of the United Federation of Teachers, Michael Mulgrew, still criticized de Blasio's timing, according to the Times.

Mulgrew, who previously called for ending the separation of gifted classes for students in kindergarten through second grade, said some students in upper elementary grades will still be categorized by their abilities. He noted that "the plan isn't baked yet."

Newsweek reached out to Adams' office and the United Federation of Teachers for comment but didn't hear back before publication.

 city cancels gifted program in schools
The Brilliant NYC Blueprint is a plan to include all New York City students in one general classroom while tailoring accelerated learning to those who need it. Above, Melissa Moy, a teacher at Yung Wing School P.S. 124, goes over a lesson on a monitor with students on July 22. Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images