NYC's Gifted and Talented program testing for rising kindergartners set to end

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The "Gifted and Talented" program in New York City is coming to an end.

The Department of Education is phasing out the controversial exam that fast tracks some gifted elementary school students.

A school diversity advisory group recommended the city move away from the exam and toward a system where all students get additional enrichment programs.

"There are children in New York City who have the capabilities to do more and to do more difficult work but you don't do that by putting them in a special program and saying only these students get to do those types of assignments or have those types of experiences," Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said.

The Department of Education released a statement that said, in part, "We believe there is a better way. We will spend the next year engaging communities around what kind of programming they would like to see that is more inclusive, enriching, and truly supports the needs of academically advanced and diversely talented students at a more appropriate age. We will also engage communities around how best to integrate enriched learning opportunities to more students, so that every student - regardless of a label or a class that they are in - can access rigorous learning that is tailored to their needs and fosters their creativity, passion, and strengths."

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Mayor Bill de Blasio says a new approach will be announced by September.

"The gifted and talented test is the definition of a high stakes test, a single test, that determines so much," he said. "This approach to testing is not something I believe in."

However, for this year, the test will be given in April, and families will receive their scores early this summer ahead of fall 2021.

There are a combined 2,500 kindergarten seats for 15,000 applicants, and approximately 65,000 rising kindergarteners across the city.

"Do you really believe that out of 65,000 kindergartners in the city, only 2,500 of them are gifted and talented?" de Blasio said. "That's ridiculous."

Students currently in the Gifted and Talented program, and those who begin in the fall, will be able to complete their elementary school program.

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Not everyone is in favor of getting rid of the test, however. Dr. Rebecca Mannis, a learning specialist, says the test is important for identifying learning capacity and achievement and shouldn't be abandoned.

"I think it's a huge mistake," she said. "I do believe we are throwing out the baby with the proverbial bath water, when this is an opportunity to fine tune to make sure all students are gifted to get what they need."

Mona, the mother of second grader in the program, is thrilled with her son's education. If anything, she'd like to see it expanded.

"I think taking away something is very different that improving something," she said. "That would be awesome."

The mayor has tried to level the playing field when it comes to gifted programs before, when he tried eliminating the entrance exam for Stuyvesant High School. That effort failed. And as this is his final year in office, it is unclear whether these proposed changes will stick.

Just last month, Mayor de Blasio announced major admission changes to its selective middle and high schools to address segregation issues.

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