Educational Equity · Gifted & Talented · NYC Kindergarten · NYC Parent Voices · NYC School Admissions

Department of Ed Hard Sells BrilliantNYC: Are Parents Buying?

In February of 2021, when New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio announced the end of elementary school Gifted & Talented programming, he also promised:

We will spend the next year engaging communities around what kind of programming they would like to see that is more inclusive, enriching, and truly supports the needs of academically advanced and diversely talented students at a more appropriate age. We will also engage communities around how best to integrate enriched learning opportunities to more students, so that every student – regardless of a label or a class that they are in – can access rigorous learning that is tailored to their needs and fosters their creativity, passion, and strengths.

Then, despite the New York School Talk community generously bringing the engagement to him directly, the Department of Education unveiled Brilliant NYC — without a single stakeholder meeting taking place.

It was only AFTER the program had been announced as a fait accompli that the DOE got around to asking those who’d be affected by it how they felt.

On November 29, 2021, they live-streamed a Brilliant NYC panel which they promoted as “an opportunity to hear directly from national and local experts. These experts will help us better understand the science behind accelerated learning and project-based instruction. The panel will explain what Brilliant NYC could look like in our schools starting next fall.”

Watch it below and please let us know your thoughts in the comments:

But, first, the impressions of some parents who attended:

Isabella G:

So the three “experts” discussed school-wide enrichment programs, acknowledging that children might have different interests and levels, that they should probably be grouped by interest and/or level within the class, that teachers should address the needs of every group and every individual student at their level during the school day. That there might be pull-out sessions, and each school should have a trained enrichment specialist who can work with children individually on their needs in these pull-out sessions.

One of the principals mentioned that in a realistic classroom with so many different levels and so many students, the teacher will be paying more attention to the weakest group, and this is the right thing to do. But it also means that the advanced students will be ignored

This is when things got interesting and the “experts” effectively said “why don’t we plop them in front of the computer and give them problems to solve that someone else developed for their level or, in the best case, someone else is teaching remotely? Let them teach themselves.” Dr. Renzulli went even further and crossed the line of conflict of interest by promoting a potential service that evaluates students and connects them to the online resources appropriate for them. And you probably guessed right: Dr. Renzulli’s company provides exactly this service for a modest fee charged per student. (Ed. Note: Unless former NYC School Chancellor Carranza beats him to the profits… er, punch.)

Another interesting observation is that none of the experts mentioned math education. None of their examples, models, discussions were related to math. Only one principal (NEST+M) talked about math education and gave some examples. This sounded pretty scary. Some of my children’s elementary school teachers were not ashamed to say that they are not comfortable teaching math or that they don’t know math beyond the required curriculum. How are we going to implement this Brilliant NYC with “acceleration for all” in every classroom if many teachers are just not willing to teach math beyond grade level and “experts in gifted education” can talk about education without mentioning math for an hour and a half? 

Carolyn U:

I was surprised that one of the ‘experts’ talked about learning styles, which has been thoroughly discredited by everyone who has ever actually studied it. This sort of makes it sound like not only does the teacher need to plan 32 lesson plans for each 1st grader, but they will have to design lessons with the student’s perceived learning style preference in mind. 

I’m surprised that they think people only think about reading when they talk about acceleration. Really surprised they’re talking about MIT on-line courses as part of Brilliant NYC. I think my kid is pretty clever, but I really hadn’t considered enrolling him in college on-line classes at 5. But I have to wonder if any 5 year old is ready for an on-line college course, or if these supposed experts don’t know anything they’re talking about. 


The 1.5 hour talk started with an acceptance that Siri, Alexa and Google have taken over early childhood. But the conclusion was not to denounce the over dependence and addiction to technology – the request was that we “expand” on this digital dependency and ignore the depression and other issues experts have disclosed it causes and the side effects we already see as parents (irritability, sleep disruptions, loss of cognitive ability, loss of socialization, inability to focus, etc). 

While the phrase “teachers have always accommodated heterogeneous learning” was repeated many times, there was a very honest admission by Dr. Renzulli that a teacher cannot accommodate 26 levels of understanding of Ancient Egypt and therefore we must rely on “the computer”. 

Dr. Renzulli presented that we need individualized strength based profiles that also analyze the preferred learning style and expression of each student. However, the DOE did not mention when this individualized profile will be done and whether it would be at the beginning of the year so that we can accommodate every child’s current learning standard. 

It makes a difference whether this individualized profile will be done September, December or into the Spring and how much time there is to actually use it in the remainder of the academic year. I heard repetition of individualized planning and parent engagement and even extra time and tutoring! How many meetings will there be to discuss the child’s individual progress and for how long? Is DOE proposing they can accommodate similar or more than one meeting for each family? How much time will be put into individualized plans for kids and how many meetings with parents, how much time engaging with parents? (Ed. Note: NYC currently can’t even accommodate all the children with special needs who have Individualized Education plans for their mandated services and parent meetings.)

It was also enlightening that BrilliantNYC involves the teacher separating students into groups based on the teachers’ perception of their capacity. So instead of an objective, non discriminatory test of capability, we will rely on the teacher’s subjective grouping. This can potentially open more doors for discrimination. (Ed. Note: Teacher evaluations have been proven to hinder identifying academically advanced poor and minority students the most.)


They talked about inclusion and integration. There were 13 people in the panel, and not even one person was Asian. Not a good representation to discuss our City’s education, especially when the people who would be affected the most by phasing out the current G&T are Asian people. I feel like Asians are again silenced and ignored.

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