Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday he planned to overhaul New York City’s gifted and talented education system, a sea change for the nation’s largest public school system that may amount to the mayor’s most significant act in the waning months of his tenure.
The mayor’s action attempts to address what the city has known for decades: Its highly selective gifted and talented program has led to a racially segregated learning environment for thousands of elementary school students citywide. The program will no longer exist for incoming kindergarten students next fall, and within a few years, it will be eliminated completely, the mayor said.
Students who are currently enrolled in gifted classes will become the final cohort in the existing system, which will be replaced by a program that offers accelerated learning to all students in the later years of elementary school.
But Mr. de Blasio, who is term limited, will leave City Hall at the end of December. His almost-certain successor, Eric Adams, will choose what parts of the plan he wants to implement — or whether to put it in place at all.
“Eric will assess the plan and reserves his right to implement policies based on the needs of students and parents, should he become mayor,” said Evan Thies, a spokesman for Mr. Adams. “Clearly the Department of Education must improve outcomes for children from lower-income areas.”
Barring any major reversal, the gradual elimination of the existing program will remove a major component of what many consider to be the city’s two-tiered education system, in which one relatively small, largely white and Asian American group of students gain access to the highest-performing schools, while many Black and Latino children remain in schools that are struggling.
Gifted and talented programs are in high demand, largely because they help propel students into selective middle and high schools, effectively putting children on a parallel track from their general education peers. Many parents, including Black and Latino parents, have sought out gifted classes as an alternative to the city’s struggling district schools, and have come to rely on them as a way to set their children up for future success.