Friday, May 21, 2010

Segregation in Gifted Programs?

No, not the issue people normally complain of -- that children in gifted programs are disproportionately Asian or white. In New York City, a different form of segregation, within gifted programs, seems to be taking place.

The New York Times has a long story about the TAG School in East Harlem. One of three city-wide schools for gifted elementary school students, the school is open to kids who score at roughly the 97th percentile or above. It is located in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood which turns out to be a bit, well, scruffy. The other two city-wide gifted schools are located in much nicer areas. What this has all resulted in is that white parents have chosen to send their gifted young children to the other two schools. And, it seems from the articles, some black and Hispanic parents prefer to send their kids to TAG because they like its demographic make-up better.

In other words, the gifted programs are fairly segregated. Unfortunately, as part of being in a scruffy neighborhood, the TAG school is also not as nice as the other schools. Parents are banding together to do something about that, but the average income in TAG is lower than in the other gifted schools, which makes fundraising more difficult. And since it's located right beside other schools, there is always the issue of gifted kids getting "better" facilities than their neighbors.

It's a tough issue, defying easy answers, and gives an insight into some of the problems school districts still face when trying to serve diverse students. But we can at least be grateful that NYC is trying. Having three schools for gifted students, even if one is not in a great neighborhood, is much better than most cities do!


Anonymous said...

The easiest answer to segregation would be for the DoE to dump a boatload of money on TAG for a number of years. The greater resources likely would attract a more diverse student body and over time perpetuate a virtuous circle over the present vicious one.

Anonymous said...

I would love to send my children to a school TAG, despite the challenges that the school faces, a place where their talent would not be constantly questioned and tested because of “bell curve bias”. However, the most disheartening issue with this article, in my eyes, is the lack of ability to generate funding. If we look at who is most able to help those communities that are most affected by poverty it is those who come from those communities themselves (such as Geffory Canada
archives/1bowdoincampus/006931.shtml). Here is the opportunity to provide a safe place for those who can make a significant difference in the future of Harlem and I am sure the cost of providing this compared to the cost of services, such as jail, for those who have not bought into the system is minuscule.

Anonymous said...

I don’t think the problem, as presented in the article, is the segregation as much as it is the lack of access to funding.

Quotes from the article:

Friends of the Anderson Program, a parent-led group, raised $530,000 in 2008, its latest public 990 form shows. This year, TAG raised $12,000, up from $6,000 last year and $4,500 the year before.

Ms. Cesar said she believed that the racial composition of her school was a result of parent choice and geography, as parents seek a place where they and their children feel comfortable.

The issue works both ways. On the prospective student tour, the white parents focused the most on security concerns. One father, whose wife later asked that he not be named, said he would feel uncomfortable if his son were the only white child in his class.

But Stephanie Thacker, whose son, Elijah, is in the sixth grade, said she chose TAG over Anderson four years ago in part because she wanted her son, who is black, to feel like he could be himself. “This is a school that is as good as any other,” she said.

Steven A. Sylwester said...

Please read my Comment 26 to Bob Herbert's recent column in The New York Times titled "A Very Bright Idea" at:

Also please read the blog I have dedicated to my proposed "NASA Academy of the Physical Sciences," a nationwide school which would create a special opportunity for gifted high school students at 150 public research universities across the United States:

Spread the word!

Steven A. Sylwester