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Bed-Stuy schools finally getting gifted and talented programs — but maybe only for third-graders

Challenge accepted: The city will introduce gifted and talented programs to Bedford-Stuyvesant schools, such as PS 5 here, starting next year.
Photo by Louise Wateridge

Bedford-Stuyvesant elementary schools must offer gifted and talented programs for kindergarten students so they don’t get left behind the rest of the city, local parents told education honcho Carmen Farina during a town hall meeting on Monday evening.

The public schools czar announced the scheme will finally come to the neighborhood this fall, but may first launch it with only third graders, as their intelligence is easier to gauge. But some residents said that still won’t help their kids stay competitive with other districts, which already have the program and are testing tots when they are still too young to tie their own shoes.

“We just want to be competitive and the sooner we can be competitive I think that’s better for everybody,” said Caitlin Hoop, whose 4-year-old son will start kindergarten this fall. “The longer we wait to start, I think we’re at a disadvantage.”

Families in District 16 — which covers most of the nabe and part of Crown Heights — last year grilled Department of Education honchos about why they were one of the few in the city without the academically rigorous program, which places students who score high marks on an option exam into advanced classes. Young Bedford-Stuyvesant brainiacs who make the grade currently have to bus over to other districts if they want to take part.

But officials responded that there weren’t enough local whiz kids acing the quiz for it to be worthwhile, so parents rallied to register more pupils to sit this year’s exam and increase the odds.

The department refused to reveal how many ultimately sat or how many passed before families are notified of their acceptance, but it was evidently enough for the agency to extend the accelerated classes to some local elementary schools for the 2017 year, and middle schools starting in 2018.

The city says it will work with the parents on District 16’s Community Education Council to ultimately decide whether to start the program with third graders or younger kids, but Farina said she strongly preferred the former option, because it is easier to identify clever kids when they’re old enough to grasp the concept of a test.

“We would have the ability to look at the second graders and really see their performance, rather than depend on kindergartners who may or may not know what kind of testing they’re going through,” she said.

Local parents aren’t alone in demanding an earlier start, however — Borough President Adams believes every student entering pre-kindergarten should have to sit the test to ensure minority kids are put on an early path to the city’s top specialized high schools, which this year offered just 10 percent of places to black or Latino teens, he wrote in a recent opinion piece for the Daily News.

The education department will now have to find teachers to lead the programs in the area, and will introduce training programs for educators interested in conducting the new classes.

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