Expanding Gifted & Talented does not end NYC school segregation

Recently, Mayor Bill De Blasio announced that the city’s Gifted and Talented program will be converted into an accelerated learning program that is accessible to all students and will eliminate the tests for pre-schoolers. Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams fully commits to a Gifted and Talented program reform if elected mayor in November. The current Gifted and Talented program has faced accusations of exacerbating segregation at a young age for all of elementary school, all while NYC remains the most segregated public school system in the country. 

Cathy Rojas, the socialist candidate for mayor, offers insight on the Gifted and Talented program. “The Gifted and Talented program serves to benefit only a small portion of public school students, namely affluent students from a rich background. Testing four year olds and tracking them for the rest of their elementary school years does not make sense pedagogically nor practically. It segregates students based on perceived ability which often translates to racial segregation in NYC public schools. This is no way to handle public education where all students receive the highest quality learning environments with adequate resources.” 

Using standardized tests on four-year olds, the seemingly fair exam relies solely on socioeconomic advantages to place students. These exams benefit children whose parents can afford private tutoring or have the ability to assist them academically.  Black and Latino children, which make up 67% of public school students, are then segregated into poorly funded, overcrowded classrooms. The 72.8% of public school students who live in poverty are also forced to be in overcrowded and underfunded classrooms.

“The reality is that all students deserve to have their educational needs met. This requires teachers to be trained and supported in providing instruction and schools to be fully funded based on the needs of the students, not on district financing, academic benchmarks or attendance quotas. Testing students, whether 4 years old, 8 years old, or 12 years old, to receive specialized support only benefits the students who have access to test prep. These biased exams judge the intelligence of children with no consideration for differences in culture, resources or ability. They exclude poor, working class families all around the city. Segregating students is not the answer,” says Cathy Rojas.

The Rojas campaign believes students deserve a free, quality education and equal educational opportunities. They deserve an anti-racist curriculum, the elimination of standardized testing, free post secondary opportunities and an end to mayoral control of schools. This can only happen if we remove the profit motive from public education and demand that a quality education become a basic human right.