New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein may have sounded all the right notes when he pushed to provide equal access to gifted programs for all city children and revamped testing criteria for the sought-after program.
Instead, the number of children entering the city’s gifted classes dropped by half this year — and were less diverse than they were a year earlier, according to the stories in both the New York Times and the New York Daily News.
Data released by the New York City Department of Education show the number of white students in citywide gifted programs jumped from 18 percent in 2007-08 to 52 percent in 2008-09 — exactly the opposite of what the new policy was supposed to accomplish.
Klein defended the city’s efforts, nothing that his program led to more outreach and more testing of students, although he did not specifically say what he would do next. Journalists covering this story should press for answers.
What happened in the nation’s largest school district shows how important it is for journalists to ask for data and follow-up. The data the Department of Education released — and the New York Times analysis of it — clearly shows a program that failed and is a reminder of how numbers tell a story.
Had the press failed to follow-up — and simply reported the Department of Education’s rhetoric and promises — the public might not have learned that nearly half the year’s new gifted students are white. That’s a significant unintended consequence of a program intended to equalize access to gifted minority students in a system where just 17 percent of the kindergarten and first grade students are white.