Leveling the Playing Field

The NYC schooling system has been proven faulty, but the Brilliant NYC program is receiving mixed feedback. (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

The NYC schooling system has been proven faulty, but the Brilliant NYC program is receiving mixed feedback. (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)

Emily Unks, General

There were 2 different groups in elementary school, the “smart kids,” who left for accelerated learning, and the “average kids” who stayed behind. This notion encourages one group and discourages the other, setting them up for a path that will pave their academic future and the way they view school.

The word “gifted” characterizes a group of people who are exceptionally talented and are above average. What does this mean for people who don’t fit under this category? According to Mayor De Blasio of New York, having gifted programs increases segregation in the national school system, so as of 2021, education systems in New York are eliminating the gifted program. The dilemma they encounter is: Will the elimination of gifted programs end racial segregation or prevent growth in children with higher level thinking? This has been an ongoing problem for the schooling system in New York, which is exceptionally deficient.

For years, children with low incomes are unable to pay for tutors and entry level tests which prevents them from having access to these gifted programs. Gifted children are surrounded by resources that regular children can’t come by. The Gifted & Talented program (G&T) is being replaced with “Brilliant NYC”, a new project that is being implemented to accommodate accelerated learning. The children that are already in the programs will remain so that their learning will not be disturbed. A lot of parents see gifted programs as a toxic environment because of the thought that “average kids” are not as smart as others. The NYC chancellor, Meisha Porter, helped De Blasio put the plan in motion. Porter says “No single test should determine a child’s future.” She says that no child should have to cross district lines to obtain the type of learning they need; since much of NY’s schooling requires bussing across districts in an attempt to “equalize” the learning experience. Mayor De Blasio said, “We’re ending something that I thought was unfair all along.”

The inequality goes both ways. Children who learn at a faster pace, rely on gifted programs to set them up for success and now these opportunities are being ripped away. The plan is aligned with the mayor who is currently in office, so as the term of Mayor De Blasio comes to an end, the future of the plans remain uncertain.

Mixed reactions from this plan were highly anticipated. The Democratic nominee for Mayor, Eric Adams, is against the phasing out of these programs. Adams believes that gifted programs should be more accessible to all, saying that the Department of Education should ameliorate the resources for children in lower income areas. According to the UCLA Civil Rights Project, segregation is at its highest in the city of New York. Adams wants to make sure that these programs are within reach for African American and Latino students who make up 70% of about 1 million public schools in New York. Gifted programs are widely regarded as an opportunity for those with evident talent, to encounter a chance to grow. The co-president of PLACE NY, a New York advocacy group, Yiatin Chu, says that “the elimination of the G&T program is just another example of this administration’s continued assault on high achieving students and accelerated learners,”After all, how are we supposed to establish ourselves as individuals if we are forced to be the same? People feel that “Brilliant NYC” will not meet accelerated learning needs. A mass exodus of public schools to charter schools is expected.

Overall, the reaction is split. Some are excited for the implementation of this new program because of the engagement and inclusivity; peers will no longer be separated during class time. Others are upset at the lack of accelerated learning opportunities. The fate of gifted opportunities lies in the hands of the next mayoral candidates and it puts those against the “Brilliant NYC” program in a bind. The real question is left for debate: will the removal of G&T programs finally solve the education system that’s been deteriorating for years, or will another plan need to come into effect?