New York’s Answer To Parents Leaving Public Schools May Be To Penalize Gifted Children

To address declining school admissions, New York schools looks to make changes to the enrollment process of specialized schools for the gifted.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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New York schools

Parents are pulling their children out of public schools at alarming rates. According to NPR, few school districts have returned to pre-pandemic enrollment numbers, and the number of withdrawals continues to rise. The decline is felt most in large cities, such as New York City. To address the growing issue New York schools are facing, education leaders recently addressed growing concerns over enrollment policies, especially that of special programs like the gifted and talented.

Last Tuesday night, school Chancellor David C. Banks attended a virtual town hall meeting with members of the education council and parents of New York schools in District 2. Speaking on issues that needed immediate attention, the focus of the Town Hall was on improving enrollment along with growing concerns regarding the city’s acceptance of students into programs for the gifted and talented. One concerned party said he felt the declining patterns in enrollment were no longer pandemic driven, but instead policy-driven. “It is time to change course,” said District President Benjamin Morden.

Many parents believe the enrollment process for students into top New York schools and acceptance into programs for the gifted and talented has long been flawed. Last year, nearly one-fifth of gifted high school freshmen did not receive acceptance into any of their top 12 choices for high school. The problem is something many call a lottery issue. 

New York schools

As it stands, enrollment acceptance ranks students top-down. This year, all students whose grade point average was 85 or higher were put into one large lottery pot of applicants and selected by chance of a draw. District member Kaushik Das called the process a “lottery masquerading as a screen.” And to many, it’s downright unfair.

To further split lines, former Mayor Bill de Blasio wished to end the programs for New York schools gifted and talented. He, like others, thought the program was unfair as it impedes racial equity. However, Mayor Adams and his administration wish to keep the program going, for now. By the end of the virtual Town Hall meeting, Chancellor Banks announced that he and his administration were still finalizing their decisions on whether or not to enact changes to the gifted and talented programs for New York schools. He affirmed that he was making sure every student received a fair and equitable education. 

Following the Town Hall meeting, Banks spoke with NY1 to further discuss his administration’s plans for the future of the gifted and talented programs within the New York schools. Banks announced that in a means to stave off enrollment losses, he plans to expand on the initiative. However, he did tell the news outlet that he would not be making any last-minute changes for the high school enrollment process that had a deadline of last Friday.

New York schools

Going forward, Banks has commissioned a special task force to study admission criteria and the overall application process at New York’s screened schools for the gifted and talented. Currently, there are only twelve high school choices for such programs within the Big Apple. To address the issue, Banks and his administration want to open more specialized high schools in the city. Furthermore, Banks stated that the additional schools would have a “different set of admissions criteria.”

Much like proponents of more school choice, the New York school education department wants to make specialized schools more accessible to all students. Critics of the city’s gifted and talented programs say that it has only further segregated the city’s school system. While Banks said he wasn’t necessarily opposed to screenings, he believes the method could be reformatted. But for now, the program will stay the same.