De Blasio Ends NYC's Gifted Students Program over Equity Concerns

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio visits One World Trade Center in New York, September 23, 2021. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

New York mayor Bill de Blasio will end the city’s program for gifted students in public schools, following criticisms that the program’s admissions standards perpetuated racial disparities.

The students entering the program this year will be the last cohort to do so, with the program to be phased out entirely in coming years, city officials told the New York Times. The city will establish a new screening process for third-graders to determine if they could benefit from accelerated learning, but students would receive specialized instruction within their class of children of all levels, according to Spectrum News NY 1.

The current gifted and talented program admits roughly 2,500 kindergarteners per year, and prospective students must complete a test to be considered for the program. The test has come under criticism because it is administered to students at such a young age.

“The era of judging 4-year-olds based on a single test is over,” de Blasio said in a statement touting the new gifted program, called Brilliant NYC.

Throughout de Blasio’s tenure, progressive activists have pushed him to eliminate the gifted program on the grounds that its merit-based admissions standards constitutes de facto discrimination against racial minorities. The mayor had resisted such efforts for years but is finally caving as one of his final acts in office.

A plurality of students in the gifted and talented program, 43 percent, are Asian, while 36 percent are white, according to Chalkbeat. Just 14 percent of students in the program are black or Hispanic, compared with 60 percent of the entire student body at New York City public schools.

The city’s Panel for Education Policy rejected a contract with the gifted and talented test administrator in January 2021, with panel members citing the racial disparities as one reason for their decision.

The contract is “rooted in and undergirds a white supremacist structure,” panel member Shannon Waite said at the time. Panel chair Vannesa Leug said she needed to “center my decision on the most marginalized.”

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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