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“I’m thrilled” was the response I received from public-school parents I called about the news Thursday that Mayor Eric Adams was restoring and expanding the Gifted and Talented program that ex-Mayor Bill de Blasio tried to kill as he was exiting City Hall.
The mayor’s plan creates a new third-grade access point by adding 1,000 seats and inviting the top 10% of second graders to apply. And more important, the plan ends kindergarten IQ testing and adds 100 kindergarten slots.
“This is how we are giving and allowing our young people the opportunity to grow, to learn, to explore their talent and imagination. We are making sure that no child is left behind,” Adams told reporters and a crowd of cheering parents.
As a New York City Housing Authority kid who entered a public-school gifted-and-talented class in the fifth and sixth grades, I’m elated that Adams and Chancellor David Banks are expanding access to G&T classrooms to all 32 city school districts.
Like many parents today, my mom wanted me and my brothers in classrooms that would not only challenge us intellectually but prepare us to get into good high schools and then on to college.
I made the cut for Bronx Science despite a miserable middle-school experience (I think I did more fighting than learning). My two younger brothers chose to attend Adlai Stevenson, where they made the college-bound and honors tracks.
Adams is no stranger to the issue of gifted-and-talented programs in New York City public schools.
Five years ago, he and then-Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. created a task force designed to push for greater access to gifted-and-talented classes and entry to the city’s elite high schools for kids in minority communities.
As the founder of the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice and the Eagle Academy for Young Men network, Banks is fully aware of how much black and Hispanic kids can achieve when challenged, told that failure isn’t an option and given support.
Education activists like Maud Maron said the decision to expand access to G&T accelerated-learning programs starting in the third grade has raised respect for Banks among many public-school parents.
“It shows that he’s listening to voices that weren’t being listened to before,” said Maron.
Lucas Liu, co-chair of PLACE NYC, congratulated the mayor for putting the educational needs of children ahead of ideology. “Every family, not just Asian and white ones, wants access to G&T and a quality education for their children.”
Maron and Liu are right. De Blasio and his chancellor, Richard Carranza, didn’t listen to parents. Fired up by a woke ideology, they were hellbent on dismantling G&T programs, as well as doing away with the specialized-high-schools entrance exam.
While neither de Blasio nor Carranza remains on the scene, we still have city Comptroller Brad Lander to pick up the virtue-signal baton.
On cue, Lander released a statement ripping the Adams plan as “segregating” and leading to “racial segregation” — in the first paragraph.
“Scaling up a program which separates students, often along lines of class and race, is a retrograde approach that does nothing to improve quality education for the overwhelming majority of our students,” Lander huffed.
Meanwhile, our still wet-behind-the-ears comptroller is silent about improving the education outcomes for the vast majority of black and Hispanic students trapped in perennially low-performing neighborhood public schools that are 90% to 100% minority.
I’m sure Lander would stare blankly if asked why for many years pre-pandemic none of the eighth-grade kids in the Bronx’s District 7 scored at Level 4, the highest mark on the state English exam.
Yet like so many progressives, Lander alleges that predominantly black, high-performing charter schools are “segregated” and cherry-pick their students.
No, Brad. That’s just black parents able to exercise choice about where their children are going to be properly educated. And a lottery governs admissions, not cherry-picking.
Lander and other opponents of the Adams-Banks G&T plan don’t believe education equity is achieved by bringing students to the same high standards and levels of achievement. Heck, some of these critics denounce it as “white supremacist” thinking.
On the contrary, they don’t want any standards — for my kids or your kids. They peddle nonsense about equal outcomes being the test of equity. Fortunately, New York families and students who care about access to a quality education have Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks in their corner.
But neither man can afford to rest on the laurels after Thursday’s announcement. They still have the difficult task of improving teaching and learning for the vast majority of kids attending city public schools.
Truthfully, students highly proficient in reading, math, science and writing, by and large, will be OK. Doing something to aid the supermajority of black and Hispanic kids struggling to perform at grade level year after year is where the rubber meets the road — in the form of United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew and his opposition to accountability — for Team Adams.
I expect to cheer those efforts, too.
Michael Benjamin is a member of The Post’s editorial board.