Late last month, in a fit of woke rebellion, the New York City Department of Education’s Panel for Education Policy (PEP), voted down the contract for the city’s gifted and talented (G&T) test. The test is given every year to students entering Kindergarten to third grade who are interested in enrolling in a districtwide or citywide G&T program. This program has been enormously successful and has benefited many Gotham children.
Previously, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D - New York City) and Chancellor Richard Carranza (D - Dystopia), never shy to virtue signal, announced they were going to sacrifice gifted children on the altar of social justice by eliminating the G&T program, but would administer the test, one last time, this spring for parents and children who were planning on having this opportunity available. Unsatisfied with waiting for their social justice, the PEP voted to end G&T immediately, completely pulling the rug out from under these parents and children.
At the start of the fateful meeting, Chancellor Carranza expressed his opposition to the test by raising a red herring about how testing four-year-olds has no value. This is wrong on two levels. First, Carranza makes it seem that admission to G&T programs is restricted to four-year-olds. This is untrue, as the DOE has been testing four-to-eight-year-olds for admissions to G&T programs. Every child who qualifies for G&T should be provided a seat no matter their age, and a G&T program should be available in every school district.
Saying testing four-year-olds has no value flies in the face of overwhelming real-life evidence as it has benefited many children. My daughter took the G&T test when she was four years old and was admitted to the Beacon Program at P.S. 153 in Maspeth Queens. That 2005 Kindergarten class consisted of 25 students, all admitted based on the test. Out of those 25 children who graduated high school in 2018, three were accepted to MIT. This was not a fancy prep school on the upper east side of Manhattan, but a class in a school located in a working-class/middle-class neighborhood. The class was nearly majority minority and 60 percent children of immigrants. You can look at whole school districts in posh suburban areas but be hard-pressed to find one with three students accepted to MIT.
At the virtual PEP meeting, many activists spoke, calling the G&T test racist and supporting white supremacy. This, despite demographics of the entire NYC program being 43 percent Asian and over 60 percent nonwhite. At the meeting, many parents of children in the G&T program spoke with an accent and pleaded to keep the program so their younger children would have an opportunity for a good education. One of those parents, Milen Petkov passionately expressed his support for gifted learning and America’s ideals. “Coming from a different country, I came believing in the American Dream. Working hard to build a life from scratch because I believed the American Dream is real. But, I also believe the American Dream is not for immigrants only. The American Dream is for everyone. My kids, born here, I teach them about the values of the American Dream. The people have opportunities, that’s what it’s all about. Having opportunities to achieve your potential.” Referring to the anti G&T speakers he said, “We heard a lot of passion about ruining something but not what we can do to make things better,” adding, “Killing G&T programs prematurely is not going to benefit anyone.”
George Lee, an immigrant, who sent four children to the NYC public schools and who all attended NYC’s prestigious Stuyvesant High School, had this critique of the meeting, "It was disgusting how the anti-G&T speakers kept talking about G&T being for White supremacist, followed by immigrant parents saying "but I am neither White nor rich" -- and the next anti-G&T speaker continues ranting about G&T being for White supremacist. The woke want to "disappear" immigrants." Why are we trying to destroy opportunities for children of immigrants instead of improving education for all children?
Tested G&T works and should remain, but that does not mean it is all we should do. New York City has a long history of providing advanced and honors classes. We can have both tested and non-tested G&T so that more children can benefit, and excellence can be amplified.
We need to make sure every child is challenged to their ability. We should be raising all children up, not pushing any child down. Gifted and talented programs should be expanded and accessible to all neighborhoods so all academically advanced children benefit. For generations, G&T has served New York City well. Let’s not destroy that.
Charles Vavruska is a Queens-based parent activist and evangelist for New York City’s Specialized High School Admissions Test.