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August 22, 2019

NYC can afford to test all students for gifted classes. So why won’t Mayor de Blasio do it?

August 7, 2019

File – NYC can afford to test all students for gifted classes. So why won’t Mayor de Blasio do it? (Barry Williams/for New York Daily News)

Mayor de Blasio can change the lives of thousands of gifted kids from poor neighborhoods if he coughs up a measly amount to fund universal testing across the city, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams charges.

A new Independent Budget Office study commissioned by Adams shows it would cost roughly $1 million to conduct universal gifted testing in city preKindergarten classes, a mere drop in the city schools’ gargantuan $32 billion annual budget.

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But a Daily News analysis of city data shows that money would go a long way in reversing the infamous inequalities that persist in the city’s school system where kids from poor neighborhoods are routinely shut out of the programs and four local districts have no lower-grade gifted programs at all.

Gifted testing data from 2018 shows that on average 20% of students who took entrance exams achieved scores high enough to qualify for entrance for gifted programs.

But in some economically challenged local school districts in the Bronx and Brooklyn only a small fraction of kids take the exam, which is open to all students. In those districts just a tiny trickle of kids qualify for the programs, which are often seen as a ticket to academic success.

Borough president Adams said that’s not fair and de Blasio has a chance to fix the issue in his upcoming city budget which is due to be ratified in June.

Instead of forcing families to sign up for gifted assessments – something that is much easier to do in wealthy schools, critics charge – Adams wants the city to automatically test all pre-k students for gift and talented programs.

If parents don’t want to test their kids, they would be given the option to opt-out.

File - Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams speaks during a news conference in New York, Monday, July 16, 2018.
File – Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams speaks during a news conference in New York, Monday, July 16, 2018. (Seth Wenig/AP)

“An opt-out model for testing the gifted and talented abilities of our youngest students would ensure we identify exceptional potential as early as possible, expand the number of Gifted & Talented seats, and strengthen the pipeline to specialized and other high-performing high schools,” Adams said.

“Funding such a small-budget item with such a big-picture impact is a no-brainer,” he added.

A new IBO tally completed for Adams shows it would cost roughly $1 million to provide the option for all 70,000 city kids now enrolled in de Blasio’s popular pre-K classes.

If the testing were expanded to include kindergarten, first and second grade as well, the annual price tag would top out at about $3.8 million each year, according to the IBO.

Backers of the plan believe it would increase testing and acceptance rates in places like District 23 in East New York, a high-poverty area where only 8% of 1,047 pre-K students sat for gifted assessments in 2018 and only 0.8% of all pre-K students there – just eight kids – received offers to gifted programs.

That’s in stark comparison richer, whiter districts, such as Manhattan’s District 3, where 74% of pre-1,144 pre-K students took the gifted test in 2018 and nearly 27% of pre-K students – 148 kids – got offers.

The disparity was even more glaring at District 7 in the South Bronx, where just 4% of pre-1,144 pre-K students took the gifted test in 2018 and only 0.3% of pre-K students – six kids – had offers.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. sees early access to gifted programs as the beginning of a pipeline to the city’s top schools – including eight highly segregated specialized schools now at the center of a pitched diversity battle – that’s recently engulfed the city.

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“Gifted and talented classes are an important stepping stone to the specialized high schools, and every community must have an equal opportunity to take advantage,” Diaz said. “It is crystal clear that, for a relatively small amount of money, we can ensure that every student has the opportunity.”

Reps for de Blasio declined to comment on the borough presidents’ gifted push.

But city Education Department spokesman Doug Cohen said school officials will review the report on gifted testing costs produced for Adams by the IBO.

“We believe in advancing equity now, and this administration has expanded access to gifted and talented programs, which are just one high-quality option in every district,” Cohen said.? “We’ll continue to work with communities to support programming that meets students’ needs and prepares them for success.”

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