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New York City Unveils Plan To Phase Out Gifted And Talented Program In Favor Of 'Brilliant NYC'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter Friday unveiled their plan to phase out the city's current Gifted and Talented program and replace it with a new one called "Brilliant NYC."

"You want kids to learn, you got to offer a curriculum that f its them well," parent Phil Wong told CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas.

Wong's daughter got a coveted spot into the city's Gifted and Talented program, a program Wong acknowledges needs reform.

"If they want to provide a different admission requirement, then you've got to hear it from the parents. OK, we'll do something else, but cancellation is not the solution," he said.

Students who are currently in the Gifted and Talented program will not be affected, but new students entering school next year will not take the Gifted and Talented test.

De Blasio and former Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza announced in January that the city would phase out the test for the Gifted and Talented program.

The program sparked fierce debate and a lawsuit as data showed it overwhelmingly benefited white and Asian students, leaving Black, Brown and low-income students with no advanced options.

"This moment is about making sure that you don't have to cross district lines," Porter said. "Your neighborhood school can actually provide the supports, the services, the type of learning that your child needs."

Students will no longer be in separate classrooms under the new plan. In third grade, all students will be screened, giving those who are ahead access to additional programming in more schools.

"They don't have to take a test. The parents don't have to shell out money. This is going to be a much, much more inclusive mode," de Blasio said.

Officials say the "Brilliant NYC" plan involves accelerated instruction in every elementary school classroom, impacting 65,000 students, instead of the 2,500 currently in the Gifted and Talented program.

"The era of judging four-year-olds based on a single test is over. Brilliant NYC will deliver accelerated instruction for tens of thousands of children, as opposed to a select few," said de Blasio. "Every New York City child deserves to reach their full potential, and this new, equitable model gives them that chance."

"As a life-long educator, I know every child in New York City has talents that go far beyond what a single test can capture and the Brilliant NYC plan will uncover their strengths so they can succeed," said Porter.

New teachers will be hired while existing teachers will be trained, a move the union supports with some changes.

"We don't want to hold back children who are learning at a rapid rate," United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew said. "I do believe that in every school in New York City, we have enough children who are gifted and talented that we could set up classrooms specifically for them."

This major move, years in the making, comes just three months before de Blasio leaves office.

"He could've done better. In fact, he should've done better. It's morally disingenuous," said Henry Choi, with Community Educational Council District 24.

Parents were outraged that input wasn't sought before the plan was announced.

The full plan will be rolled out in December, after forums are held to hear from the community in all 32 school districts.

The move to eliminate the test and Gifted and Talented classes is drawing reaction from the candidates who hope to be the city's next mayor.

Republican Curtis Sliwa called the move "disgraceful," pledging to re-implement the program if elected, and increase testing resources for all students.

"Eric will assess the plan and reserves his right to implement policies based on the needs of students and parents, should he become mayor. Clearly the Department of Education must improve outcomes for children from lower-income areas," a spokesperson for Eric Adams said.

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