Public School 9 in Prospect Heights has taken a bold first step in eliminating its Gifted and Talented Program.

The school’s leadership voted on the change last June, around concerns that the accelerated model was fast-tracking far more white students than students of color. The program kindergartners based on the results of a single test taken at age four and cultivates the students through the fifth grade.

G&T programs have been criticized in recent months for their racial composition: 81% of students admitted are white and Asian, compared to 35% of all kindergartners.

“On paper we are very diverse, but when you drill down and look at tracking, it was fairly obvious to a lot of us that Gifted and Talented track was pulling mostly white and Asian students,” said Kirsten Cole, the head of the school’s equity committee.

P.S. 9: A class in measurement begins with a yard stick.
Photo: InsideSchools.org

The school’s leadership is opting instead for an enrichment approach across all grades and all levels, and the New York City Department of Education has given the plan a thumbs up.

“The DOE supports schools in making decisions that benefit their school communities, and that PS 9 developed a proposal to begin the phase in of a school-wide enrichment model,” said a DOE spokesperson in a statement.

Now that P.S. 9 has the DOE’s support, it plans to implement the new model beginning fall 2020.

This isn’t the first major change the school has made within the year. At the start of the 2019 school year,  P.S. 9 (formerly the Teunis G. Bergen School) renamed the school The Sarah Smith Garnet School, in honor of the first African-American woman to serve as a New York City public school principal.

The name change came after parents voted in February to remove Bergen’s name because of his family’s history as slaveholders.

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  1. I’m wondering if the school leaders of Prospect Heights found that their Special Education Program or the Title 1 Program was providing services to more, “students of color” than white or Asian students if they would eliminate either of those programs. I’m wondering if they “drilled down” to look at who is, “tracked” into either of those programs? I’m wondering what the head of the school’s equity committee has to say about “equity of services” provided in programs beyond the Gifted and Talented Program? Have the school leaders looked at ways the services from Title 1 or Special Education can be used to support more students as they looked at the School-wide Enrichment model to support more students? Eliminating services for one group of students and spreading those resources across a broader spectrum of students is fine as long as you do the same with services that support each special needs group you service rather than targeting one group.

    1. The school is not a Title I School however the current trend if for Title I to be a school-wide program and therefore all students would have access to the services. The equity committee is a sub-committee of the School Leadership Team and looked at all of the data regarding the students and programs. Special Education students receive mandated supports based on an individualized education plan designed to give access to education for each of those students. You would no more spread those services around that give everyone the same prescription for glasses.

  2. It’s a mistake to eliminate gifted programs. Gifted black kids suffer when these programs are eliminated. White and Asian kids aren’t the only ones who are gifted, but the discriminatory narrow admission criteria for the programs end up disproportionately favoring them. It is fairly simple to make admissions more equitable and more reflective of the racial and economic makeup of the city. For instance, the top 3% of kids from all public schools could automatically be eligible for the gifted programs. Because our schools are de facto segregated by race and class, this approach to selecting students for gifted and talented would mean that we would immediately have a program that reflects the city. There are plenty of gifted black children, they need to be identified and served too.

  3. Celebrate mediocrity. If your child doesn’t qualify for the Gifted & Talented program, eliminate it for everyone. Don’t work harder and aspire to excellence. The children who excel will achieve success anyway without special programs.

    I came to the US from Asia without a word of English at a time before bilingual ed and ESL programs. I was tossed into the 4th grade where the teacher screamed in my face for not understanding her and schoolmates mocked me. I learned English on my own starting with childrens’ books from the public library with my parents coaching me on basic pronunciation. Six months later, I spoke English. In college, I majored in English Lit and graduated magna cum laude and went on to teach English in college. I raised my much younger brother because my parents worked, helping him with reading, and he went on to Brooklyn Tech and Columbia; later he became a Fulbright scholar. Neither of us were in the Gifted & Talented Program. Do what they will, the drive to be the best will not be stomped out by the DeBlasios and Carranzas of this city denying bright minds some so-called educational program to justify racial diversity quotas.

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