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Gifted and Talented Programs Coming to Bed-Stuy, Schools Boss Says

By Camille Bautista | March 23, 2016 10:39am
 Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced Monday that School District 16 will receive two gifted and talented programs in the next two years.
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced Monday that School District 16 will receive two gifted and talented programs in the next two years.
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DNAinfo/Camille Bautista

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Gifted and talented programs are coming to Bedford-Stuyvesant, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced Monday.

After years of requests from parents and community members, School District 16 will receive two G&T programs, one for elementary students starting next fall, and another for middle school kids in the 2017-2018 academic year.

The area is currently without a single G&T program for schools in the eastern section of Bed-Stuy and northern Crown Heights.

The Department of Education is giving members of Community Education Council 16 the ability to decide between the option of a traditional kindergarten start for the elementary school program, or a new model that begins in third grade.

Fariña told parents at a town hall Monday that her preference would be for a third-grade start.  

“We would then have an ability to look at the second-graders and really see their performance, rather than depend on kindergartners, who may or may not even know what kind of testing they’re going through,” she said.

“And it also means the second-graders would be much more likely to be successful when they get into third grade.”

As families are still enrolling in schools, the DOE could not confirm where the program would be sited, according to spokesman Harry Hartfield.

The long-awaited announcement garnered applause from audience members, but some parents said they’d like to see a G&T program start younger.

“The District 16 proposed G&T structure to start in third grade does not match citywide norms, so parents who are interested in G&T for their 5-year-olds will just go elsewhere and once they leave, many never return to the district,” said parent Shana Cooper-Silas.

“Not offering kindergarten G&T options will continue the perpetual cycle of declining enrollment in District 16 public schools."

CEC16 will meet with their superintendent, principals, teachers, local elected officials, parent groups, and community members to discuss the choices, CEC president NeQuan McLean said.

The council’s goal is to vote on a decision by their April meeting.

The CEC does not yet have an official stance on the two options, but McLean said he personally felt that the third-grade start would be best for the district.

“It gives us an opportunity to make sure the class is diverse,” he said. “With this broader decision and broader options we have, we have an opportunity to really affect change. We have an opportunity to make sure our students are taught properly.”

Second-graders would be judged on a rubric and assessment for eligibility, McLean said. The DOE did not provide details on testing or methods of student evaluation for the programs.

For years, the neighborhood has been without a G&T program. DOE officials previously blamed the shortage on the low number of qualifying students.

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

City Councilman Robert Cornegy, who has been part of a campaign advocating for a program, had been encouraging parents to request G&T testing to increase demand.

He called Fariña’s announcement an “empowering victory.”

“Our third-graders and middle-schoolers are ready for the challenges and resources that go along with G&T, so the administration should prepare to be wowed,” Cornegy said.

“Nevertheless, we still want more, including the return of a gifted program for local kindergartners and greater equity in the distribution of gifted & talented programs citywide. We’re still in the middle of this fight, not at the end, but it feels great to have a real win.”