In 2009, when P.S. 85′s program opened as part of an effort to expand gifted education, the Department of Education pledged “to identify nearby middle schools where students in these programs can continue after fifth grade.” But last month, responding to parents’ pleas to make good on the promise, the department informed them that P.S. 85 cannot handle expansion into a middle school because it is already “operating close to 100 percent capacity.” It said students in the gifted program — called the STEM Academy (it stands for Science, Technology, Enrichment and Math) — must go to middle school elsewhere.
STEM is the only citywide gifted-and-talented elementary school program that ends with fifth grade. (It is the only citywide gifted program housed within another school.) Three of the four other citywide programs — Manhattan’s Anderson School and TAG Young Scholars, as well as the Brooklyn School of Inquiry — continue through eighth grade, and Manhattan’s NEST+M carries students through the end of high school.
“The school was meant to be a peer for the other citywide gifted programs, and admission to a middle school program was supposed to be seamless,” said Smith.
STEM parents charge that their program has been neglected because of a shift in priorities at the Department of Education.
Under former schools chancellor Joel Klein, gifted education expanded at a rapid clip, with an eye on keeping young families in the city and choosing public schools.
Now, the office of gifted education, formerly run by Anna Commitante, no longer exists, and the link to it on the Department of Education’s website connects only to information about admission to gifted programs.