Gifted student program overhaul faces backlash

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Pixabay | Pexels

Maham Ayaz

A proposal by School Diversity Advisory Group, a panel appointed by Mayor Bill De Blasio, calls for the complete removal of New York City gifted programs. The initiative attempts to address the concerns that black and Latino students are not being given an equal chance at getting into these programs by overhauling the gifted students program entirely. 

This proposal is currently met with backlash from parents who have children in the program. While the proposal is far from being accepted, it does reignite the issue of the intense segregation in NYC public schools. To completely overhaul the gifted students program does nothing but ignore the root issue of systemic racial inequality within the New York City public school system.

Historically, lower income neighborhoods have been largely made up of black and Hispanic racial groups. When many are living paycheck-to-paycheck, it’s not surprising that families in these areas generally do not have the financial flexibility to give the same test prep services to their children that middle to high-income white and Asian families do. 

Additionally, the schools in these areas tend be lower-performing and under-funded, according to a report mentioned in The New York Times.

In one respect, we must consider that students who are actually in the program have a right to be there and receive an education that challenges them intellectually. All of them took an examination in which they demonstrated that they require a more challenging educational approach compared to their peers. To completely remove the gifted students’ program would do a disservice to children currently in the program and in some ways, deepen the racial divide even more. 

Whenever there is structural change within the public-school system to address the racial divide, like in 2016 when a proposal was made to have kids attend schools farther than their designated zoned schools in the name of diversity, parents protested heavily against these measures. 

To some, they had every right to do so. 

How can one justify sending their kid to a school known to be lower-performing in order to increase some statistics? 

The same backlash will occur now if this proposal passes and it will worsen the racial disparity within not only the gifted students’ program but public schools in general, as middle-income parents will prefer send their kids to private schools.

The current proposal is akin to putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound. White and Asian gifted students in middle-income families are currently excelling because they have the resources to do so.

If reforming the way schools teach in lower-income neighborhoods — like implementing a more individualized approach — can help black and Latino students reach the standard threshold and then past that, over time it can then be possible to have a gifted program that truly reflects the diversity of NYC, the melting pot of the world.