Editorial | NYC public schools are getting rid of their gifted program — Pittsburgh should be next

Three+boys+reading+in+a+classroom.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Three boys reading in a classroom.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced last Friday that NYC elementary schools will phase out the gifted program over the next five years

The gifted program segregates students — sometimes based on IQ tests conducted at an early age. The program is deeply flawed, encourages students to unnecessarily compete against each other academically and often ends up leaving behind students of color. It is time for Pittsburgh to follow New York’s example and eliminate the gifted program from local school districts. 

The Black Lives Matter movement brought many systemic injustices to light, including segregation in schools partly fueled by gifted programs. In-person classes have resumed in Pittsburgh-area schools, and Pittsburgh Public Schools recently named a new interim superintendent. Since many things seem to be changing in Pittsburgh-area schools anyway, now is the perfect time to abolish the gifted program. 

Students at Taylor Allderdice High School, one of the largest schools in the Pittsburgh area, helped start the conversation nearly two years ago. Students worked with the Black Student Union and teachers to examine why the gifted program was still in place. Kashif Henderson, the gifted and talented coordinator at Allderdice, acknowledged the racial disparities within the gifted program. 

According to an article in Allderdice’s student paper, Henderson believes that the gifted program and classes at Allderdice are a “helpful tool for students.” But this tool is not available to all students, so why does it persist? Many parents throughout the country believe the gifted and talented program is just that — a step toward giving their children a brighter academic future and a leg up in college admissions. For students of color, the inaccessibility of gifted programs is just another barrier put in place on top of hundreds others to prevent them from succeeding academically. 

New York City Schools have the right idea. Their new plan is to provide accelerated learning to all students. This eliminates the need for an IQ test to place students academically. IQ tests were and are often used to justify racism and white supremacy, and to continue to use them to segregate students perpetuates this long and dark tradition. 

The plan will not only be effective in working to eliminate segregation within individual schools, but also between schools. Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter spoke on the new plan stating that “This moment is about making sure that you don’t have to cross district lines, that you don’t have to go outside your neighborhood, but that your neighborhood schools can actually provide the support the services the type of learning that your child needs.”

Segregation in Pittsburgh-area schools is a problem that needs to be addressed. It is time to follow New York’s footsteps and abolish the gifted program. 

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