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Lack of Gifted & Talented Programs in District 16 Is 'Embarrassment': Pol

By Camille Bautista | October 1, 2015 12:58pm
 There are currently no gifted-and-talented programs in school District 16, which covers eastern Bedford-Stuyvesant and northern Crown Heights.
There are currently no gifted-and-talented programs in school District 16, which covers eastern Bedford-Stuyvesant and northern Crown Heights.
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DNAinfo/Nigel Chiwaya

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — The absence of a gifted-and-talented program in a central Brooklyn district is an example of the "glaring disparity" in students’ access to quality education, according to one councilman.

Brooklyn's District 16, which encompasses schools in the eastern part of Bedford-Stuyvesant and a section of northern Crown Heights, is currently without a gifted-and-talented program.

"Our children are not given an opportunity and this is actually an embarrassment and blemish on how we’re conducting the business of education in New York," said Councilman Robert Cornegy, who represents the area.

Cornegy, along with community members, has long advocated for G&T programs in Bed-Stuy.

Neighborhood parents are finding their way into other districts to provide educational opportunities for their children, the councilman said.

"It’s absolutely wrong that those parents have to go somewhere else," he said. "This is the biggest degree of segregation you can possibly imagine."

There are 30 traditional public schools within District 16, according to the state’s Department of Education.

A total of 7,812 students enrolled for the 2013-2014 school year, most of whom were African-American and Latino.

Compared to other districts, such as District 20 — which has nine G&T programs — the lack of them in central Brooklyn is a "biggest embarrassment," Cornegy said, noting the empty swath on DNAinfo’s map of the city’s G&T programs.

"This is an access question," he said.

"If we don’t have access to the pipeline that produces gifted-and-talented programs in the city and ultimately produces our forward thinkers in the world, it’s almost a civil rights violation."

The absence of G&T programs in District 16 leaves students unable to compete with counterparts throughout the city for spots in specialized high schools and beyond, he added.

Cornegy said some educators in District 16 already have the resources and structure for G&T programs, but just need the go-ahead from the city.

Students entering kindergarten through third grade can participate in G&T admissions, and must excel on a test to be eligible to apply. They can attend their district elementary schools, or citywide G&T programs that take students from all boroughs without district-based priority.

"Every student — no matter what zip code they live in — deserves a fair shot at gifted-and-talented programs, and we have worked to increase the number of test-takers in areas like District 16 by sending postcards to families and providing hard copies to G&T directors at pre-K programs," DOE spokesman Harry Hartfield said.

In 2015, a total of 16 students entering kindergarten qualified for a district-wide program, and 20 qualified in 2014, according to DOE data.

These numbers were not high enough to open a G&T program in the area, officials said. 

Pre-K students in the district who qualified and submitted an application last year were given offers to a program in a neighboring district, Hartfield added.

"We will continue to monitor the number of qualifiers in the district and engage with stakeholders around the possibility of a G&T program in District 16," he said.

For Cornegy, calling attention to the absence of such programs is an ongoing campaign.

He said he plans to talks with Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña to demand education equity and a localized approach for G&T programs.

“When we see this huge disparity glaring in our faces, we should want to do something,” he said.

“This is not rocket science.”