Klein to bolster nonwhite enrollment in gifted programs

Elizabeth Carson
Co-Founder, NYC HOLD

December 6, 2003

From: Elizabeth Carson [mailto:ecarson@nyc.rr.com]
Sent: Saturday, December 06, 2003 3:51 PM
To: Joel I.Klein, Chancellor
Subject: : Klein to bolster nonwhite enrollment in gifted programs

Moving beyond the DOE spin in the Daily News report forwarded below.....

In the 1997 US Dept of Education Office of Civil Rights complaint of widespread racial discrimination in the NYC gifted programs, referenced in the Daily News article, District 2, among some other districts were cited many, many times. No big surprise there.

We (myself and another District 2 parent) brought the text of a subsequent letter from the US Department of Ed Office of Civil Rights to NYC regarding their concerns with noncompliance with the Memorandum of Understanding between NYC and the Office of Civil Rights, to the attention of School Board 2 way back in 1998. We did so, because the letter included an inordinate number of District 2 citations. Additionally we wanted to bring to School Board 2 what was glaringly evident to us at the time, that the special admissions policies of most of Alvarado's small schools and gifted and talented programs had led to racial and economic stratification across District 2 schools (a litle secret Apartheid of our own) - a middle class and predominantly white ( aka primarily European descent, ) demographic existed in the schools with special admissions. We thought the admissions policies needed close scrutiny and revamping.

School Board 2 members claimed to be unaware of the letter and most claimed to be unaware of the Office of Civil Rights MOU with NYC. Board president Karen Feuer even asked us for copies! The Board subsequently did absolutely nothing about it. The issue was not once even entered onto a subsequent meeting agenda.

We also provided that night references to the three ACORN reports, Secret Apartheid I, II and III (not yet available at that time I believe). (interestingly, one board member, Helaine Doran, had actually worked on the first the ACORN reports)

It was ACORNS' evidence of the lack of equity in the provision to all parents, fair access to the range of programs in the schools that captured the attention of the regional office of the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. Ultimately, the claim ACORN filed with OCR resulted in the resolution agreement (MOU) with the Board of Education which compeled the Board of Education to institute concrete measures to democratize access to information about the schools and their programs.

Secret Apartheid I (1996)
Secret Apartheid II (1997)
Secret Apartheid (1998?)

The problem with access apparently still remains unresolved to this day.

It looks like Lam, rather than ensure equal access to quality gifted and talented programs in NYC schools, plans to institute changes to "the definition of what it means to be gifted and talented."

That is a very very different thing, and to my mind, reflects a profoundly racist presumption on the part of Ms Lam, as to who would qualify and benefit from traditional rigorous talented and gifted education, which she so clearly seeks to eliminate, in the name of equity.

She's already dumbed down the reading and math curriculum in the extreme, that most city children receive. My guess is her "redefinition" of talented and gifted will be more of the same.

Elizabeth Carson

New York Daily News article:

Talent for reaching out
Klein to bolster nonwhite enrollment in gifted programs

Daily News Staff Writer

Chancellor Joel Klein plans to change the face of the city's elite gifted and talented programs, a top aide revealed yesterday.

The city is weeks away from unveiling changes that would keep the programs from being dominated by white children, Deputy Chancellor Diana Lam told an audience at New York University.

"We are very much aware of issues of accessibility and expectations in our gifted and talented programs," Lam said.

Lam declined to give specifics but said the Department of Education will "expand the definition of what it means to be gifted and talented."

The city Education Department declined yesterday to reveal the racial makeup of gifted and talented programs.

The changes would settle a complaint filed with the U.S. Education Department's Office of Civil Rights in 1997 charging widespread racial discrimination in the programs, Lam said. The federal department would say only it is still negotiating.

But the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, which filed the original complaint, was skeptical.

Former Chancellors Rudy Crew and Harold Levy also tried to change admissions requirements but had little effect, said legal director Foster Maer.

"We're very concerned that the situation hasn't improved," Maer said.

Giving gifted and talented programs a makeover is one of the thorniest issues in the school system.

Minority parents complain their children are often shut out of the program before they even know if they qualify.

In 1996, a study by the activist group ACORN found whites were twice as likely as minorities to be given tours and enrollment information about gifted programs.

Many middle-class families see the program as one of the few tempting things about the city's public schools.

Christine Mundy, a parent at Public School 193 in Midwood, said her family had been considering buying the apartment it rents in Brooklyn but began having second thoughts this year after rumors started swirling that the gifted program was in jeopardy.

"We're already looking at moving to New Jersey," Mundy said.

Originally published on December 6, 2003

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