The Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York (CACAGNY) this week blasted the Department of Education’s (DOE) Gifted and Talented (G&T) program for its lack of seats.
“There are only 2,000 G&T seats across this vast city of 31 school districts, for 8,000 qualified youngsters. No matter what anxious parents do to move heaven and earth, it is preordained that 6,000 qualified youngsters will not find seats. For every kid lucky enough to find a place, the City will deny 3 other qualified kids,” said the CACGNY in a statement.
The G&T program provides special instruction and enrichment opportunities to elementary school students who qualify based on a standardized placement exam. Placement in one of these programs has shown to increase the chances of being admitted into one of New York City’s elite specialized high schools, whose alumni are often accepted to prestigious universities and go on to successful careers.
To many poor families, admission to one of these high schools is seen as a ticket out of poverty.
CACAGNY believes that Asian Americans are particularly impacted by the lack of G&T programs, citing that Asians are the racial group with the highest poverty rates in New York City. In 2017, 24% of Asians lived in poverty, compared to 22% of Hispanics, 20% of Blacks, and 13% of Whites.
The organization alleges the G&T programs are implementing new quotas this year, for geographic and other preferences while the DOE communicated very little of these changes to parents, and provided no guidance to help families navigate the unknown impact of these changes on the availabilities of remaining seats.
CACAGNY pointed to a 2017 education study sponsored by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz that devoted no fewer than 7 of its 9 final recommendations to making G&T Programs more widely available in the City.
The advocacy organization also pointed to a number of proposed state legislation that calls for more G & T programs. This includes Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-Queens) and Assemblyman William Colton’s (D-Brooklyn) bill mandating at least one G&T Program in every school district.
Additionally, Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Queens) and Colton have another bill mandating a variety of G&T programs, not just in every school district, but also in individual schools. The Addabbo/Colton bill is supported in the New York City Council with a bill sponsored by Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens).
The DOE responded that it offers a variety of programs designed to bring better education to students from multilingual and poor backgrounds.
“Our classrooms are stronger when they reflect the diversity of our city, and we are proud to support school-driven Diversity in Admissions initiatives, that are admissions priorities, not quotas, which help to reduce barriers and integrate schools,” said DOE Spokesperson Katie O’Hanlon.
Additionally, the DOE says that it is incorrect that there are 2,000 G&T seats for 8,000 qualified students.
“Gifted and Talented programs are one of many school choices families across the city have access to and in 2019 there were 5,749 Gifted and Talented applicants and we made 3,719 offers.”
Demographic breakdowns by the DOE reveal that the majority of students in G&T are Asian or white, with 28% of G&T kindergarteners eligible for Free or Reduced Price Lunch (FRL). This is in contrast to the general student population, of which black and Latino students make up the majority, and 68% qualify for FRL.