Categorized | Bronx Neighborhoods

Bronx School Pilots Mayor Adams’ Gifted and Talented Expansion

The front gates of P.S. 340. Henrietta McFarlane for The Bronx Ink.

On a warm August morning, a class of third grade students were working on their computers, creating animations using the programming language Scratch. Cartoons of animals moved across backgrounds of mountains, seas, and forests on laptop screens. It was only a pre-term meet and greet but the teacher Jayra Sanchez explained that the eight and nine-year olds had already learned about algorithms, debugging, and tinkering.  

This class at P.S.340, an elementary school in Kingsbridge Heights, makes up 21 of the 1,000 third-grade seats being added to the Gifted and Talented program this fall. The program offers accelerated learning to eligible elementary school students.

In April, Mayor Eric Adams announced that the Gifted and Talented program would be expanded. The announcement reversed the decision of Adams’ predecessor Bill De Blasio to phase out the program in 2021 because of the widespread criticism it received for exacerbating segregation in schools.

Of the 1 million public school students in New York City in 2021, about 70 percent were Black and Latino. About 75 percent of the 1,600 students in the Gifted and Talented school classes were white or Asian American. 

In a report released in 2019, the New York City School Diversity Advisory Group recommended that New York City scrap its Gifted and Talented program. The “Gifted and Talented program is unfair, unjust, and not necessarily research-based. As a result, these programs segregate students by race, class, abilities and languages,” the report stated.

Adams’ new plan involves adding 100 kindergarten and 1000 third grade seats and overhauling the screening process. 

“Expanding our Gifted and Talented program to all New York City districts is about giving every child, in every zip code, a fair chance and making sure no child is left behind,” Adams said in April. 

Demographic enrolment data for this year’s Gifted and Talented cohort and from P.S.340 won’t be available until spring, 2023, according to the Department of Education. 

P.S.340’s principal, Alexie Nichols, hopes that having a gifted program will benefit the wider school community, and not just the 21 children in the third-grade pilot class. “It’s not just an isolated classroom, you create a vertical team of third, fourth, and fifth grade teachers as well as out of the classroom administration to think together about how to expand the work,” Nichols said.

Nichols said it is still too early in the pilot to know exactly what this expansion will look like.

Under Adams’ new plan, instead of the screening test that was used to test kindergarten children, the top 10 % of second-grade students in each school were invited to apply to the third grade Gifted and Talented class.

P.S.340’s second-grade teacher, Katie Mendez, had the job of putting forward the names of eligible students before invitations could be sent out. “It’s hard (for parents) to navigate. So, we assist them through the process,” Mendez said. The school’s parent coordinator, Maria Acosta, also helps.  

There was one parent whose child had been nominated for the program but had had issues with the application process, Mendez said. With support from the school “he was able to follow through…his son is now in the class,” she said.

Parents’ reaction to the program was mixed. “Two of my kids were in a Gifted and Talented class at (Bronx school) P.S.7 and they liked it,” said Chris Amargo, who has a younger child at P.S.340. “They got motivated, started to read a lot and now they are honors students.”

Derio Naylor’s son is in the fifth grade and so has passed the Gifted and Talented entry point. “I think each child learns differently. So, I don’t like to pinpoint or separate,” said Derio, who is generally against the program. But if her son was eligible and accepted into the program, Naylor said, “my husband probably would have said yes.”

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