Stopping the City School Brain Drain

For decades, the ‘gifted and talented’ program has given some of the sharpest young minds in the New York City public school system a chance to challenge themselves, hone their skills and cultivate their minds to their fullest potential.

But if a group of education reformers whispering in the ears of Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza have it their way, the gifted and talented program will soon be a thing of the past.

The School Diversity Advisory Group recommended last month that the Department of Education (DOE) dismiss the program in the name of equality. They claim that the screening system in place disproportionately leaves out students of color, and contributes to segregation in the nation’s largest public school district.

But the group’s assertion that the gifted and talented program, by itself, is the cause of segregation is a deeply flawed argument. It’s also the same argument made by those seeking to eliminate entrance exams for the city’s specialized high schools, for the very same reason: a lack of equality and opportunity for all.

Make no mistake, there is a troubling lack of equality and opportunity in New York City public school education. A shameful segregation indeed persists to this day in classrooms across the most progressive city in America.

But specialized education programs or standardized tests are not to blame for this condition. Decades of failed education policy in New York City, rather, have left behind public school students across the city.

Simply put, this city has not invested enough in its future. It has not provided enough resources to public schools in every corner of every borough to operate at its optimum level. It has not provided enough in the way of after-school educational programs and free tutoring for students to achieve high marks and qualify for specialized schools or the gifted and talented program.

To turn things around and truly open up opportunity for all public school students, we need to invest in them. That costs billions of our taxpayer dollars, of course, and requires a steady amount of work to ensure that everything goes according to plan.

In short, it’s hard. It requires work, patience and diligence. It’s not an easy remedy. But it just so happens to be the right one.

Getting rid of programs such as gifted and talented risks a tremendous brain drain in New York. If the city cannot help its sharpest young minds reach their full potential, and if the city cannot help all of its students reach their full potential, they will wither away from boredom and neglect. Likewise, if the city cannot solve its segregation problem without investing in better schools, better teachers and better programs for all its students, it should expect more of the same, regardless of reforms made.

Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza must do the right thing, for once, and invest in the city’s future, rather than tear it down.

Robert Pozarycki

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