Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dinowitz blasts DOE on gifted programs

by John DeSio

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz is furious at the Department of Education's apparent lack of concern for Riverdale's gifted students.
Last week, at a meeting of the Community Education Council of School District #10, Marty Barr, the DOE's director of elementary school enrollment, made some inflammatory statements concerning gifted and talented admissions in The Bronx.
Specifically, Barr implied that the DOE could move the gifted program from P.S. 24 whenever it liked and that Manhattan districts have more gifted programs because parents in that borough have the money to leave public schools and therefore must be placated.
"G&T is not a local program, it is a district program," said Barr last week. "And if it turns out that there is no school in Riverdale that can accommodate the G&T program√Čthen in the long run there may not be any G&T in that part of the district."
Dinowitz was angry, though not surprised that the DOE would so clearly broadcast its hostility to gifted and talented programs in The Bronx.
"The DOE's commitment to gifted and talented programs is almost nonexistent," said Dinowitz. "They don't seem to understand that the needs of all students have to be addressed, and that includes the students who are exceptionally bright."
During last week's meeting the issue was raised as to just how many students applied to District #10's gifted and programs and what schools those students were zoned for.
Andrew Jacob, a spokesman for the DOE, stated that 671 kids were tested for gifted programs in District #10, and 54 students scored at or above the 90th percentile and therefore qualified for gifted programs.
District #10 had two sites for gifted programs, one at P.S. 24 and another at P.S. 54 on Webster Avenue near Fordham Road. So few students accepted a seat in P.S. 54's first grade gifted program that the class was cancelled this year.
It was unclear at press time what schools the 54 students who qualified for the gifted program were zoned for.
"We can give them a big fat 'I told you so' on that," said Dinowitz. "No one from our part of the district wants to schlep to P.S. 54."
Dinowitz said that the appropriate thing for the DOE to do would be to create more gifted programs in District #10, and to base enrollment on not only test results but geographic location, as well.
"We have many more students in our own district who should be in such programs than the department is willing to provide for," said Dinowitz.
Though such a proposition may seem reasonable, last week Barr stated that gifted and talented programs do not belong to any specific community, and that placing such programs entirely in one area of the district would create a hardship for students from other communities.
"G&T is a district program, it is not a Riverdale program," said Barr. "It doesn't belong to any part of the district."
Dinowitz said that he felt it was crystal clear that there was an anti-Riverdale bias at the DOE, and that the agency did not care for the needs of middle-class communities.
"It's very consistent with their policy all along, which seems to be a policy of deliberately working against middle-class communities," said Dinowitz.