Carranza hints at Gifted and Talented program changes due to COVID-19

Remote learning could help to remake the city’s coveted Gifted and Talented programs, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said Thursday night.

Speaking to members of a Queens parental advisory board, Carranza said the Department of Education is weighing how entry into accelerated programs will be handled this year and beyond.

The schools chief said competitive admissions were upended by the coronavirus because traditional metrics like grades and attendance were scrapped when schools closed in March.

“There is an opportunity to innovate here that we do not want to pass by,” he said.

Carranza said the wider adoption of remote learning could allow more kids to experience advanced education. While Gifted and Talented programs have been limited by physical space, he said digital teaching is less constrained.

“In a virtual environment, if you have some criteria, then a student could ostensibly, with a very gifted teacher, have more students having an experience of a gifted experience, not just in one classroom,” he said. “Let’s say you have a really gifted and talented teacher that is willing to have 60 students across five schools in Queens. Now you have the ability to give that experience to more students.”

Gifted and Talented programs — and screened schools in general — have become political flashpoints that have burned especially bright during Carranza’s tenure.

Critics argue that they benefit kids with superior resources and enroll minimal numbers of black and Hispanic students.

Backers say that academically advanced kids should have the opportunity to learn in rigorous environments.

“We’re really trying not to be stuck in what we’ve always done,” Carranza said. “But really think about how we make this available to more in truly an innovative way.”

He added Thursday night that remote learning will likely become a permanent fixture in American education to some degree.

“Virtual learning, digital learning, mixed environments, digital content, digital supports, will always be part of the new normal as we educate students,” Carranza said.

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