Bed-Stuy parents: Our kids deserve gifted and talented classes

Bed-Stuy parents: Our kids deserve gifted and talented classes
Photo by Allegra Hobbs

The Department of Education must bring its gifted and talented program to Bedford-Stuyvesant elementary schools — one of only two districts in Brooklyn without the advanced classes — so local brainiacs have access to the same opportunities as other kids in the borough, say local parents.

“Our children deserve everything that is available to children in other districts,” said Anna Shenk, vice president of the local community education council, which passed a resolution demanding the department create at least one gifted and talented program for pint-sized Pointdexters in District 16 — which encompasses most of Bedford-Stuyvesant and the small part of Crown Heights — at a meeting with city reps and concerned parents on Tuesday night.

The program funnels whiz kids who score high marks on an optional entrance exam into advanced classes. Parents can sign their youngsters up to take the test from kindergarten through third grade, and if they pass, they can either join a district-specific program — one that carves out special classes in regular schools — or shuttle off to a school outside the district that drafts from all over the city.

The city says it hasn’t implemented a program in District 16 in the past because not enough students have passed the test, according to department reps — at least 25 students must be eligible for it to create a program, but city data shows only 16 students passed last year and 20 the year before.

But the council members claim few kids bother to sit the test because no schools in the area offer the program in the first place, so parents don’t see it as an option — roughly 100 students sat the exam in each of the past two years. And the youngsters who do take the assessment and pass have to ship off to schools in other neighborhoods if they want to participate, creating a brain drain in local institutions.

If the district had just one gifted and talented program, it would inspire more kids to take the test and lead to more high-achieving students at local public schools, they said.

“We need to start small,” said Community Eduction Council 13 president NeQuan McLean. “Why not start with having one here?”

But lackadaisical parents must also take responsibility for the lack of opportunities — the program will only succeed if enough parents rally behind it and put their kids through the testing process, said another group member.

“You can’t be angry and frustrated about what’s happening when no one is taking the steps to do anything,” said Anika Caesar, whose two kids attend the district’s Brooklyn Brownstone School, citing shoddy turnouts at previous council and parent teacher association meetings.

Parents have until Nov. 9 to register their kids for the test, which will take place in January. If enough kids pass, they will be eligible for the fall 2016 program.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobbs@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.