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Bill de Blasio has ‘real concerns’ about Gifted and Talented testing for NYC 4-year-olds


Mayor Bill de Blasio, at Richmond Pre-K Center on Staten Island on Thursday, September 5, 2019. (Michael Appleton)

Mayor de Blasio offered perhaps his strongest statement yet Friday on a controversial proposal to upend the city’s elementary school gifted track, flatly stating he doesn’t believe in “a single, high-stakes test for any decision.”

“I’m someone who has real concerns that we need to rethink how we evaluate kids in general,” de Blasio told WNYC host Brian Lehrer in response to a question about whether it was fair to use a test given to four-year-olds to determine who gets into the fast track classes.

“I’m a believer in multiple measures, first of all, and I do not believe in a single, high-stakes test for any decision," he added.

A report from the city-commissioned School Diversity Advisory Group recommended eliminating the city’s gifted program in its current configuration as a way to desegregate schools.

The programs, which take the form of citywide, gifted-only schools and also separate classes in traditional elementary schools, are less than 20% black and Latino even though such students make up around 70% of the overall school population.

Admission to the program is determined by the results of a single test, usually administered at age four.

In place of the current gifted program, the diversity group suggested moving towards a system of school-wide enrichment that wouldn’t screen for academic giftedness or separate students by achievement.

The proposal prompted a swift backlash from some politicians, advocates, and parents, who see the programs as islands of academic excellence. Some opponents of the plan have suggested increasing diversity in the gifted program through other means such as moving the test later, or requiring parents to opt out rather than opt in to taking the test.

So far, the mayor and schools Chancellor Richard Carranza have stayed mostly mum on the proposal, promising to review it and meet with stakeholders during the school year.

But the mayor, who has come out against the use of a single test as the admission screen for the city’s specialized high schools, has increasingly signaled he will at least consider shifting the way gifted programs admit students.

“We also have to think about what’s the right age at which to assess,” he said on WNYC Friday morning. “So we have a lot of different pieces here.”