Though the mayor has long promised to tackle inequality in city schools, he has been criticized by some for not taking more forceful action on desegregation until the end of his mayoralty. His schools chancellor, Meisha Porter, who was appointed this year, has been instrumental in pushing him to fundamentally alter the gifted and talented program, according to people with knowledge of the last several months of intensive negotiations on the issue.
The change also presents an unwelcome challenge for Mr. de Blasio’s almost certain successor, Eric Adams, the Democratic nominee for mayor, who would have to implement an entirely new gifted education system during his first year in office.
Mr. Adams has endorsed a very different approach to gifted and talented: keep the classes, but increase them in low-income neighborhoods. Though that idea has been questioned by researchers, who have said it would do little to integrate the programs, it is popular with some parents, including Black and Latino families who want more gifted options.
The next mayor could technically reverse Mr. de Blasio’s plan next year, but doing so will be difficult. Because the high-stakes admissions exam for young children was unpopular and criticized by experts, Mr. Adams would have to come up with an alternative admissions system within the first few months of his tenure, a complex and politically fraught task.
It’s likely Mr. Adams will make some changes to the plan, but barring any major reversal, New York City will no longer admit rising kindergarten students into separate gifted classes or schools starting next fall. Instead, the city will train all its kindergarten teachers — roughly 4,000 educators — to accommodate students who need accelerated learning within their general education classrooms. The city does not yet have an estimate for how much the training will cost, though it is expected to be tens of millions of dollars.
The final group of students who are labeled gifted and talented will progress through the system over the next five years without any major changes, a significant concession on Mr. de Blasio’s part to the many parents who have expressed concern that their children’s education would be upended midway through elementary school.
But almost every other aspect of the current gifted system will change. The city will permanently eliminate a much-criticized admissions exam that sorted 4-year-olds into gifted classes before they even entered the public school system. Some parents paid for test preparation in the hopes that their toddlers would ace the exam. Mr. de Blasio kept that test in place for most of its tenure, despite a nearly universal push from researchers who study gifted education to remove it.