Expanding Gifted & Talented, Immediate Action Towards An Ideal Future


In January 2021, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his school chancellor announced that the Department of Education (DOE) would reimagine the NYC Gifted & Talented (G&T) program by September 2021 and promised to engage stakeholders and the broader community in defining the revised program. That engagement never happened. Instead, on October 8th, the Mayor announced the end of G&T to be replaced by the “Brilliant NYC” plan. It has become clear that the DOE had already decided to move forward with the recommendation made in 2019 by the Mayor’s School Diversity Advisory Group (SDAG), which was to replace G&T with a Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM). This model, developed by educational psychologists Dr. Joseph Renzulli and Dr. Sally Reis, focuses on methods of educational enrichment as opposed to accelerated content.

Brilliant NYC will not adequately meet the needs of accelerated learners. PLACE NYC is deeply concerned that the DOE is moving to a full system-wide rollout without piloting this program and showing evidence of its efficacy. As Mayor de Blasio failed to include parents and other gifted education researchers prior to developing its plan, PLACE NYC decided to take on this important outreach ourselves. We contacted a number of the country’s top experts in gifted education and conducted a survey of current and prospective G&T families to provide research and community-backed recommendations to improve access and inclusion within G&T without dismantling these successful programs.

Additionally, we will have a new Mayor on January 1, 2022. The decision around the future of G&T should be left with Mayor-elect Eric Adams’ administration. We recommend that the DOE halt the implementation of Brilliant NYC to provide adequate time to pilot the Brilliant NYC model and work with parents and key constituents to improve upon, not eliminate, the existing G&T program. 

We have organized our recommendations into 1) immediate action steps that Mayor-elect Eric Adams and his education team should implement quickly for the 2022-23 school year to ensure that highly successful gifted programs continue to fully function and are replicated; and 2) our long-term, best practice solutions for how education for academically gifted learners can be reimagined within NYC.

Immediate Action Steps (over next six months)

  • Immediate halt to Brilliant NYC until a pilot program can be successfully implemented that shows evidence of its efficacy.
  • In the spring of 2022, universally screen all students at DOE-run and -funded NYC schools from PreK to 2nd grade for academic giftedness using a national standardized measure (with the right to opt-out) to ensure continued enrollment under existing G&T district and citywide programs.
  • Screening should include use of local norms so economic and other disadvantages do not preclude academically gifted students from being identified.
  • Create “G&T Access & Identification” task force that re-evaluates prior G&T test format, and provides recommendations for following Fall 2023 admissions that includes solutions to reduce cultural bias and expand identification criteria.
  • Significantly increase the number of G&T seats (classrooms) using current empty classrooms and physical locations across all districts particularly in underserved communities like the Bronx, parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island. 
  • Guarantee that any student who qualifies for services for academically gifted learners but not matched with a G&T program for 2022-23 will receive a seat in 2023-24. With a better knowledge of the  number of qualified kids and 1½ years to prepare, the DOE should have no problem providing services to all qualified children by 2023-24.

Best Practice Solutions for 2023-24 and Beyond

  • Identify multiple optimal grades for continued universal screening (with an option for opt-in screening at other times) within all DOE-run or -funded schools. Universal screening should begin at regular intervals in Kindergarten or earlier to ensure accelerated services are given as early as it is beneficial. 
  • Incorporate local norming best practices to ensure academically gifted kids from disadvantaged, ELL and Special Needs backgrounds are fully identified. Create a multimeasure identification process so screening is one, but not the only part of identifying accelerated learners.
  • Create a “continuum of services” that would range from subject-specific grouping within General Education (GenEd) classrooms to standalone district and boroughwide G&T classrooms.
  • Greatly expand G&T capacity so all students who qualify are guaranteed access to a program within their neighborhood or yellow bus ride of ideally 30 minutes or less.
  • Develop a robust outreach program in underrepresented communities to educate parents on G&T.
  • Create DOE G&T curriculum standards and/or guidelines that ensure that all programs prioritize acceleration, not just enrichment.
  • Ensure all teachers in an accelerated learning service are trained and credentialed appropriately.  
  • If the Brilliant NYC pilot program proves to be effective, it should still be rolled out to all classrooms as a way to improve learning outcomes for all NYC students. Brilliant NYC can exist alongside G&T, but it is not a substitute for services designed to meet the unique educational needs of accelerated learners.

Read the full position paper: