From ‘88 to the New Millennium: The Rise and Decline of Gifted and Talented Programs

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The term gifted and talented student means children and youths who give evidence of higher performance capability in such areas as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the schools in order to develop such capabilities fully.” (

       Gifted and talented programs have been a part of the American public system since the 19th century. It was once such an important piece of public education that the Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Act was passed in 1988 to monitor, preserve and improve the integrity of G&T programs. However despite this act, gifted and talented programing is declining and nonexistent in some states across the nation.

        What has happened to G&T programs since 1988? In the early 1990s, it was seen as an imperative aspect of the future of  public education. However, due to a combination of confusion about how to define, identify and manage giftedness, lack of funding and program mandates, the proposed vision for enriching G&T programs never fully came to fruition. In large school districts like New York City, this confusion in identification/the lack of funding has resulted in a decline in enrollment and a lack of diversity in the program. As the nation continues to strive to strengthen all public schools as a whole rather than focusing on the top performers, the antithesis of the Jacob Javits Act is occurring. G&T programming is becoming an afterthought and talented children are being left behind.

The Ebb & Flow of  G & T Programming Post-Jacob Javits

The 1983 publication of A Nation at Risk (ANAR) revealed that public education in the United States was failing talented American children.  A Nation At Risk was an assessment of the American public education system that was conducted by the National Commission on Education under President Ronald Reagan’s administration. It used data from various standardized exams like the Standardized Aptitude Test (SATs) and surveys to make a poignant statement. The report was very blunt and simple to read and it outlined ways that the country could improve public education. As one of the world’s superpowers, American children were not performing on the same level as their international counterparts and standardized test performance was dismal (NCEE 1983). For the first time in American history, the report revealed that this generation of students “will not surpass, will not equal, will not even approach, those of their parents” (NCEE, 12).A Nation at Risk pointed out that there was a lack of  “specialists in education for gifted and talented” despite the abundance of regular teachers (NCEE, 20).  Furthermore “ over half the population of gifted students does not match their tested ability with comparable achievement in school” (NCEE, 11). With the use of such disparaging language, the nation needed to make a change in the quality of the public school education – especially for gifted students.A Nation at Risk also states that “over half the population of gifted students do not match the tested ability with comparable achievement in school”  and that “gifted students may need a curriculum enriched and accelerated beyond the needs of other students of high ability (8, 24).

After ANAR, a period of gifted education reform was in place. Three years before the passage of the Jacob Javits Act (in 1985), Carter and Hamilton asserted that schools in the 1980s saw gifted programs as “educational frills” (14). When budget cuts were put into place, many gifted and talented programs were the first to go. Carter and Hamilton explain that “ those recommending the elimination of gifted programs typically believe the gifted can reach their potential without special help” (14). Additionally, there was a fear that “intellectualism may lead to elitism” (Russo,730.)However, these assertions were refuted with the information provided by ANAR. If the America failed to foster the intellectual advancement of its brightest students, it would quickly fall behind other industrialized nations. Advocates of gifted education asserted that these bright students were “a wasted resource” if they were not challenged with tailor-made programs. Carter and Hamilton accurately predicted that school boards would not simply fund gifted programs because it is a “good idea”. Instead, “the decision to fund or not to fund will depend more and more on program effectiveness, as measured by student outcomes” (Carter and Hamilton,14).

          As a result, the Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Act was passed in 1988 as a component of the Elementary and Secondary Act ( Under this legislation, the Javits Act was supposed to change the standard of gifted education. According to the National Association for Gifted Children’s website,

“The purpose of the Act is to orchestrate a coordinated program of scientifically based research, demonstration projects, innovative strategies, and similar activities that build and enhance the ability of elementary and secondary schools to meet the special educational needs of gifted and talented students. “ (

Additionally, the Act intended to use the research from the newly instated National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented (NRC/GT) to improve the identification process of students who are underrepresented in gifted and talented programs. More often than not, poor/minority students were not included in programs due to the entry criteria. Through the money that would be awarded to the program annually by congress, the Javits program would be able to support different state programs that would improve G&T education.

In 1993, a follow-up to ANAR entitled National Excellence: A Case for Developing America’s Talent  was released under Richard Riley (the new secretary of education). Even though this was 5 years after the passage of the Jacob Javits Act, the quality of gifted programs across in nation still had major issues.  In the Forward of National Excellence, Riley calls this the “quiet crisis” (1). Although the American public was successfully made aware of the needs of G&T students and there was an increase in the amount of programs, some problems still remained. In comparison to other countries, American students were still being outperformed “at all levels” (National Excellence,1). The report also asserted that although there were some strong gifted and talented programs in the country, they were “limited in scope and substance” and most gifted students were not receiving the attention they needed (National Excellence,4). Special accommodations were not being created to offer gifted students a more rigorous education. Instead of focusing on academic “excellence”, there was too much focus placed on “adequacy” (National Excellence,4). Furthermore, the only available national survey at the time showed that a mere “2 cents out of every $100 spent on K-12 education in 1990” supported gifted students. Once again, due to the lack of a nation-wide mandate to identify and provide services to gifted students, some states failed to provide a significant amount of funding for the existing programs.  For example as shown in Chart 1,

Chart 1 G and T Program Mandates Map of the United States, 1996 (Source: Josten)
Chart 1 G and T Program Mandates Map of the United States, 1996
(Source: Josten)

in 1996 New York provided $14.3 million to G&T programs. In Florida (a state with a similar amount of inhabitants), $146.9 million was provided (Jost, 268).  Consequently, the quality and scope of the programs in these states could be on completely different levels. The $9 million budget of the Jacob Javits program was only used for research and demonstration grants at this time, and was not nearly enough to support or mitigate the disparities across the nation (

In addition, the talents of disadvantaged and minority students were going “unnoticed” and they received “fewer advanced educational opportunities” (National Excellence, 3). Students of color and those with lower socioeconomic statuses were less likely to be a part of the existing G&T programs.This was due to the wide array of identification methods. The term gifted was seen as controversial and all states are not mandated to identify gifted students. The states that have chosen to at least identify students can use any method of their choice (aptitude assessments, teacher recommendations, performance assessments, behavioral checklists etc.) (Brown,9). More often than not, the states use aptitude assessments for identification. These exams may be biased and unable to identify all aspects of giftedness (Brown et. al). Therefore, social stratification can be perpetuated since students of color and lower socioeconomic backgrounds may not perform as well on these exams as their white/more affluent counterparts. Also, Local Education Agencies are not mandated to follow their state’s definition of giftedness so the definition may vary and exclude some students   (  Nevertheless, some strides in G & T programs were made within five years after this report was published. In 1998, the NAGC created official guidelines for Pre-K – 12 Grade students ( The diversity of the existing programs, however, would continue to be disappointing.

By the new millennium, G&T programs began to decrease due to budget cuts, issues with identification methods, and the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). NCLB was passed in 2002 under the administration of former President George W. Bush. American public school students were still not performing at high or proficient levels on national exams. NCLB mandated that all states would have to demonstrate that their students were performing at grade level through stat-administered exams.Otherwise, they would be restructured or shut down if they continually showed no improvement annually over a span of 6 years  ( As a result of NCLB, many schools turned the focus to low-performing students and began to use funding to support them rather than the high-achieving gifted students. According to Stephens and Rigabee,

“As a result (of NCLB), schools are unintentionally guided to focus on remediation rather than on acceleration and enrichment. National budget figures since 1988 reveal that less than one percent of federal education dollars have been devoted to gifted and talented education.” (

The act also revised the Jacob Javits to allow the program to give some funds to statewide grants for G &T programs ( In 2002, Jacob Javits received $11.25 million (a $3.75 million increase from 2001). Five years later, it was decreased to $9.25 million. Although the scope of the act increased, funds for the program would continue to decrease. Although the Jacob Javits program was not created to fund all programs across the country, the variance in allocations shows instability. Therefore, research projects and grants for programming were hindered.

By 2007, very little changed and the picture of G&T programs continued to be bleak. A report conducted by the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) revealed that only 11 out of 29 states that mandated the identification of gifted students “provided funds to school systems to specifically support the gifted” ( The report also showed that 14 states spent “less that $500,000 per year on gifted education, with eight states expending $0” ( Today, G & T programs still face the same issues 24 years later. According to the National Society for the Gifted and Talented website (NSGT) , “An emphasis on raising test scores for under-performing children, the elimination of gifted programs and classes in schools, and an overall tendency in our society to be ambivalent about high academic and artistic performance are undermining the development of children with great potential.” ( The NSGT website also points out that out of 3 million gifted students in grades K-12 in the United States, “only perhaps a quarter have been identified and receive support” ( Furthermore out of this small group (see Image 1), ¼ of gifted students across the nation are Hispanic or African American, while ¾ of them are White or Asian (

Image 1: Gifted Education: National Overview (Source:
Image 1: Gifted Education: National Overview                (Source:

The Jacob Javits program was created in part to help identify  and serve students who are  “disabled, economically disadvantaged and English language learners” and to assist G&T programs who request funds (Bainbridge,  Despite this fact, the Jacob Javits program was defunded completely under President Obama between 2011 and 2013 due to significant budget cuts and the downturn of the economy (Bainbridge, The administration decided that states would still support G &T  programs without the additional funds.

Some parents of gifted students are becoming so frustrated with the lack of programs at neighborhood public schools and they looked for alternatives  (Rogers, 2002). In some cases, some parents “have sued school districts to get assistance through the court system…” (Rogers, xvi). However, Rogers goes on to explain that while the court “can be helpful in those states that mandate gifted educational services”, it was not as useful in states that do not have mandates for gifted students (xvi). In the most recent voluntary survey conducted by NAGC for the 2012-2013 school year, the following information was gathered (

  • Out of 43 states that responded to the question “Does the state have mandate for GT Identification or Services?” , 32 states mandate identification and/or service for G &T students
  • Out of the 32 states that responded the question “What areas are included in the mandate?”, 28 mandate identification, 26 mandate services, 9 mandate “other” programs (not clear what that means), and 1 did not specify
  • Out of the 30 states that responded to the question “Does the state fund the mandate?”, 18 receive partial funding , 8  receive no funding, and 4 receive full funding.

These discouraging numbers highlight the issues with G& T programing.In the states that did respond, we see that there is a range between those who receive full/partial funding and those  who mandate service and/or identification. Without federal mandates, states are not even required to respond to NAGC surveys. Without full participation, how are G &T programs  supposed to make improvements? This shows that G&T programming are clearly no longer a focus and as a result, they are on the decline across the nation. If we look at a specific, large school district like  New York, it is clear there is a plethora of issues that plague the existing  programs.

New York City: A Case of Identification and Funding Issues

As shown in the previous section,there are significant issues with funding, identification of gifted students, and the racial/economic demographics of existing  G& T programs. In New York City,there has been numerous reports of the disparities and social stratification that are present in the decreasing amount of services for  gifted students.This is a major issue in g &t programming, and it plays major role in its decline.

Before looking at some of the most recent issues, it is important to note that there is very little data on gifted programs in NYC. As late as 2013, the state has refused to provide the “racial demographics of the g&t programs and the schools that provide them” (Baker,

Image 2 Showing the Lack of Racial Diversity in Existing Programs (source:
Image 2 Showing the Lack of Racial Diversity in Existing Programs (source:

As shown in Image 2 (from 2008), students in districts that are 1)predominately Black or Hispanic 2)economically disadvantaged do not have as much access to gifted programs in their district (see link to map . As explained by Al Baker’s January 12, 2013 NY Times article “Gifted, Talented and Separated”,  gifted children that are in schools that reflect the racial demographic of the city are predominately white or Hispanic. When I searched on the NAGC website, there was no information on NYC’s current G &T practices since the state did not conduct the optional surveys. According to the Davidson Institute for Talent Development website,

New York does not mandate gifted programing or funding ( Using P.S 163 as an example Baker explains,

“There are 652 students enrolled at P.S. 163 this year, from prekindergarten through fifth grade. Roughly 63 percent of them are black and Hispanic; whites make up 27percent;and Asians account for 6 percent.Yet in P.S. 163’s gifted classes, the racial dynamics of the neighborhood, the school itself and the school system are turned upside down.Of the 205 children enrolled in the nine gifted classes, 97, or 47 percent, are white; another 31 of the students, or 15 percent, are Asian. And a combined 65 students, or 32 percent, are black and Hispanic.In the 21 other classes that enroll the school’s remaining 447 students, only80, or 18 percent, are white.” (

These disparities match the G&T programs across the city. Many critics of the NYC Gifted program argue that the admission standards “favor middle-class children, many of them white or Asian, over black and Hispanic children who might have equal promise, and that the programs create castes within schools” (Baker, The NYC Department of Education has tried to mitigate these issues by changing the criteria in 2008.NYC has both district and city wide programs. District programs begin in kindergarten and continue on the last grade of the school and only take students that live in that district. City wide programs that accept  students from all across the city (

Prior to changes put in place in 2008 by  former Mayor Bloomberg , the city’s 32 districts were able to create their own criteria for admission. According to Baker, “They varied, but educators often took a holistic approach” and   “they looked at evaluations from teachers and classroom observations, relying on tests only in part, by comparing the results of students from within a district” (Baker, However, this changed and the admission criteria became solely based on standardized exams. In 2008, students were offered seats in the gifted programs by scoring above the 90th percentile on the standardized Olsat (reasoning) exam and Bracken School Readiness Assessment. This criteria ” was lowered from 95th percentile because too few children met the higher standard” (Gootman and Gebeloff, However, a study conducted by the NY times showed that “under the new policy, children from the city’s poorest districts were offered a smaller percentage than last year of the entry-grade gifted slots in elementary schools. Children in the city’s wealthiest districts captured a greater share of the slots.” (Gootman and Gebeloff, .

Only 9% of students in the gifted program were Hispanic, 13% Black and 28% Asian while 50 % were white. (Gootman and Gebeloff, Additionally, the gifted programs began to shrink in 2008 and only 1,305 kindergarteners and first graders were admitted (a 1,373 decrease from 2007). However, 16,324 students applied for the program in 2008, which shows the high demand of the program and the lack of available services (Gootman and Gebeloff, Gootman and Gebeloff go on to show that gifted enrollment  has been on the decline since there is no wait list for the “most popular programs” as there were in the past (

Currently, the city maintains the 90th percentile cut off for  admission to district programs and a cutoff at the 97th percentile for citywide and district G&T programs .NYC faces a lack of funding and structure for the identification  for the program since  G& T programing is not mandated.Although the Braken School Readiness Assessment was replaced in 2013 with the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test, the number of children (especially students of color ),declined this year (Baker, The NYCDepartment of Education plans to continue to reassess the admission criteria. Only time will tell what will happen to G &T programs as time goes on and if all students will be equally served.

With the focus on raising academic achievement for all students, G&T  programs are losing momentum, funding and enrollment across the country. Until a national mandate is put into place, G & T  students will continue to be left behind and students from disadvantaged backgrounds will continue to be underrepresented.  From ’88 to the new millennium, gifted and talented programs have gone from being a point of focus to an afterthought. After 24 years of ebbs and flows, the goals of the Jacob Javits program have not fully materialized.



Works Cited

Baker, Al. “In One School, Students Are Divided by Gifted Label — and Race.” The New York Times 12 Jan. 2013. Web. 1 May 2014.
Baker, Al. “Fewer Pupils Qualify for Gifted Programs.” The New York Times 4 Apr. 2014. Web. 2 May 2014.

Bainbridge, Carol. “Jacob Javits Funding.” Gifted Children. N. p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2014.
Brown, Scott et al. “Assumptions Underlying the Identification of Gifted and Talented Students.” Gifted Child Quarterly 49.1 (2005): 68–70. Print.
Callahan, Carolyn M. Program Evaluation in Gifted Education. Corwin Press, 2004. Print.
Davidson Institute for Talent Development. “New York.” Web. 1 May 2014.
Gootman, Elissa, and Robert Gebeloff. “Fewer Children Entering Gifted Programs.” The New York Times 30 Oct. 2008. Web. 2 May 2014.
“Gifted Programs in the City Are Less Diverse.” The New York Times 19 June 2008. Web. 1 May 2014.
Jost, Kenneth.”Educating Gifted Students”. The CQ Researcher. 7(12 ).1997. Web. 4 April 2014.
National Association for Gifted Children.2008. Web. 4 April 2014.
National Commission on Excellence in Education.  “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform”. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education.1983.
“National Excellence: A Case for Developing America’s Talent.” Web. 1 May 2014.
“No Child Left Behind? Ask the Gifted.” The New York Times 5 Apr. 2006. Web. 1 May 2014.
NYC Department of Education. “Gifted & Talented.” 2014.
Rogers, Karen B. Re-Forming Gifted Education: Matching the Program to the Child. Great Potential Press, Inc., 2002. Print.Ross, Pat O. C. National Excellence:
A Case for Developing America’s Talent. Washington. DC: Office of
Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Dept. of Education, 1993. Print.
Ross, Pat O. C. National Excellence: A Case for Developing America’s Talent. Washington. DC: Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Dept. of Education, 1993. Print.
Stephens, Kristen, and Jan Riggsbee. “The Children Neglected by No Child Left Behind.” Duke Today. N. p., n.d. Web. 2 May 2014.


Research Proposal: Gifted and Talented

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Research Question:

How has gifted and talented  (G&T) programming transformed from the implementation of the Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Education Act of 1988 to  present day? What are some of the benefits and critiques  of G&T programs in urban cities like NYC?


Gifted individuals are those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude (defined as an exceptional ability to reason and learn) or competence (documented performance or achievement in top 10% or rarer) in one or more domains.  Domains include any structured area of activity with its own symbol system (e.g., mathematics, music, language) and/or set of sensorimotor skills (e.g., painting, dance, sports).” (

According to the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC),  Gifted and Talented programs have existed in some form since the early 19th century ( As explained in the definition above, gifted students are those who are considered to be exceptionally skilled in one or more academic or extracurricular  areas.  In 1988, the Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Act was passed to create the NAGC and to ensure that annual research on the state of G&T education is conducted and provide monetary grants. However, the nature and scope of G &T programs have changed immensely due to 1) there is no nationwide mandate for all public schools to have special G &T programming 2)budget cuts to spending on existing G & T programs and 3)new assessment practices for giftedness. With all of this in mind, it is important to look at how G & T programming has evolved from 1988 to present day. In 1988, G &T programs were at the forefront of education  reform due to the publication of the 1983 report A Nation At Risk ( However, this no longer seems to be the case in a lot of states.  What happens to the students who are gifted in schools that do not offer accelerated learning opportunities? Especially in this new movement of alternative, charter/magnet schools, how have these programs changed? I would like to know if gifted students in regular classes are negatively impacted by the decrease in programming.

Research has proven that some students  benefit greatly from G &T programming. However, the assessments of G & T programs also tend to be somewhat exclusive. With my second research question, I plan on looking at how students in urban areas are reached with this program. In the past 10 years, there have been studies that have shown that these programs are neither diverse nor inclusive for students of color. It is imperative that this issue is a point of focus for this project since it shows how some programs with good intentions still help to perpetuate social stratification.  I plan to look at a specific school district like NYC since  G&T programs are still apart of public elementary school education.

Research Process:

I searched for articles and scholarly journals by using the Education Full Text Database.  I used terms like “gifted programs” and “urban” “students of color”. Then, I used google scholar to find more books that provide G&T history and different practices.  I also used the National Association for Gifted Children website since it is a reputable site that provides a lot of context,external sources, and links to several studies that have been conducted. I also looked at the NYC DOE website to see what is in place for G &T assessments. Lastly, I will be working with Katy Hart (research librarian) to find more sources through older periodicals like the NY Times to find articles on Gifted and Talented programs that was highlighted in the news. This will show how G &T has been viewed in the past and present.



Clark, Barbara. Growing up Gifted. Columbus: Charles E. Merrill.1988.

Frasier, Mary ,Jaime Garcia, Harry Passow. A Review of Assessment Issues in Gifted Education and their Implications for Identifying Gifted Minority Students. The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented. 1995.

Gootmen, Elissa and Gebelboff Robert. “Fewer Children Entering Gifted Programs”. The New York Times: 28 October 2009. Web. 4 April 2014. <>

Jost, Kenneth.”Educating Gifted Students”. The CQ Researcher. 7(12 ).1997. Web. 4 April 2014.

Luninski, David et. al “Top 1 in 10,000: A 10-year Follow-up of the Profoundly Gifted. Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol 86(4) 718-729. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.86.4.718.2001. Web. 4 April 2014. <>


Mazie, Jenna. “Equality, Race and Gifted Education: An egalitarian critique of admission to New York City’s specialized high schools” Theory and Research in Education 7.1 .2009: 5-25. Web 4 April 2014.

National Association for Gifted Children.  “State of the nation in gifted education: A lack of commitment to talent development: An executive summary of the 2010-2011 State of the States Report]”. National Association for Gifted Children. 2011.National Association for Gifted Children. 2008. Web. 4 April 2014. <>

NYC Department of Education. Gifted and Talented Programs. 2014.Web. 4 April 2014.




The Lottery: Parents Want and Deserve More for their Children’s Futures

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The Lottery by Madeleine Sackler is a documentary that captures the dire state of public education in  Harlem, New York. Sackler presents  statistics that show that the achievement gap between African-American and white students is constantly growing. As a result of thousands of parents’ interest in a high-quality education for their children, successful charter schools like Harlem Success Academy are mandated to hold lotteries and turn away families every year.  Through the presentation four hopeful families vying for a spot in Harlem Success Academy, the film reveals that the public school system is failing and children essentially have to be “lucky” to receive a good education.  Although the film may appear to be a charter school advocacy film, The Lottery underlying purpose is to shows that parents want and deserve more for their children. In order to make it possible, the flaws of the public school system need to be addressed.

Statistic of the Achievement Gap (Sackler,2:49)
Statistic of the Achievement Gap (Sackler 2:49)

As shown in the opening scenes in the film, the average black 12th grader is performing at the same level as a white 8th grader (Sackler, 4:45). 58% of black 4th graders are functionally illiterate (Sackler, 3:08). Who is at fault for this significant achievement gap? Is it the students, the parents, and/or the teachers? According to Sackler, it is a combination of the bureaucratic, failing public school system and the false belief that parents in urban neighborhoods do not care about their children’s education. Teachers, principals, and education reform advocates appear in the documentary to share their view of the issues with public schools. By using Harlem Success Academy, Sackler and charter school advocates show that it is possible for minority children to attain academic success in public school. The film shows that although successful charter school models are painted as a threat to the community, the number of applicants for 475 seats at Harlem Success Academy continues to increase each year (Sackler).

To drive this point, Sackler frames the discourse around of the stories of four out of 5000+ families who enter the charter school lottery. This allows the audience to take a glimpse into the trials and tribulations in the lives of those who desperately want their children to receive a high quality education. The four 5-year-old children (Eric Roachford, Gregory Goodwine Jr., Christian Yoanson and Ameenah Horne) tug at the audience’s heart through their innocence and wit. The stress of being a part of an arbitrary, life-changing process was clear as the parents’ hopefully waited for their children’s names to be called. In the end, Ameenah and Gregory are the only two students out of the group who were lucky in the lottery.

The film seems to be targeted towards viewers who do not know a lot about education reform or the charter school movement, and it explains everything at a rudimentary level. Eva Moscowitz (the founder of Success Academy) explains “On our practice exams, 100% of the students ace the exam. There is no school in Harlem that has more than 58% of students passing” (Sackler, 15:19). Unlike most public schools, Harlem Success Academy wants their students to graduate from college rather than simply passing standardized exams. By presenting these statistics, Sackler dispels the belief that poverty is the main reason students of color are not doing well in public school. These statistics are powerful and numbers truly speak louder than words. Moscowitz  goes on to pose the question  “If we in the charter school movement can provide education at equal or less per pupil spending, why can’t the other schools do it? “ (Sackler, 18:17). From this point, Sackler begins to highlight the bureaucracy of the Department of Education and why many  public schools are unable to provide a high quality education for students.

Harlem Success Academy faces opposition from public officials and public school administrators because it causes parents to question the status quo. If parents see children going to a public, charter school that boasts high academic achievement, they begin to want the same in their zone schools. We see the extent of this opposition in one of the most crucial scenes in which Moscowitz tries to get the space to open a second school and ‘community members’ vehemently protest outside of P.S 194. However, the documentary reveals that United Federation of Teachers (UFT) hired these protesters through the ACORN group. For the remainder of  the documentary, UFT is painted in a negative light and is pin-pointed as one of the many reasons some public schools are failing.

Although the focus on the UFT strayed away from the Shackler’s main point of the film, it is important to see what is one the underlying cause of the educational disparities in public schools. Moscowitz  explains that the teacher’s union contract is “600 pages in length”, and prevents meaningful change from occurring in the classroom (Sackler 27:13). Sackler implicitly and explicitly places the blame on administration that is more concerned with their jobs than the future of the children.  Joel Klein (NYC superintendent) adds to this point by explaining that shutting down ineffective public schools becomes controversial due to  “adult politics” since school staff may not “be able to find jobs immediately…” (Sackler 48:00 ).

With statistics of the flawed public school system and evidence of the UFTs questionable tactics, the film seems to be one-sided since it primarily presents the views of charter school advocates. In a 2010 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Sackler explains, “On day one, of course, I was very interested in all sides. I was in no way affiliated” and she tried to speak to someone from the UFT ( However, they refused and did not allow her to “film inside a traditional public school”. Due to their refusal to participate, the UFT’s voice was left out of the film and the charter school advocates’ opinions were placed at the forefront.

The documentary also fails to show all tenets of how charter schools like Harlem Success Academy function and does not delve into the school curriculum at all.  At times, it seems as though Sackler attempts to capture too many issues in the one hour and thirty minute time frame. Besides a few scenes with the founder of Achievement First (another charter school model), the documentary does not include charter school leaders outside of Harlem. This can be viewed as a flaw since audience can be left with the impression that all charter schools are flourishing like Harlem Success Academy (which is not the case).

The narrative is significantly enhanced by Wolfgang Held’s simple cinematographic techniques. When filming the families, close-up shots and wide-angle shots are used to make the audience feel as though they are with them as they go through their day-to-day lives.

Joel Klein and Graduation Rate Statistics of poor-performing schools in NYC (48:08)
Joel Klein and Graduation Rate Statistics of poor-performing schools in NYC (Sackler 48:08)

Contrastingly, the charter school advocates, school administrators, union leaders etc. are captured from the chest-up with a black background. This makes the documentary seem like a dramatic, personal conversation with the audience. Additionally, the clear presentation of the statistics on the black backdrop allows  them stand out as important facts for the audience to keep in mind.

Sackler successfully intertwines the stories of the 4 families throughout the entire film in the midst of the drama between the unions, city officials and Moscowitz. Whether it is in the scene that  captures Ameenah  relaying what her hearing-impaired mother is saying in sign language or when Gregory Jr.’s imprisoned father is crying as he explains why a good education is important for his son, the reality of the film is tangible and powerful. Sackler also includes the opinions of parents who were not advocates of charter schools in the public space hearing at P.S 194. However, it  was evident that the parents that opposed the charter school were portrayed in a negative light. All of the scenes  showed them emotionally yelling while the Success Academy advocates spoke calmly and rationally (Sackler 29:00). With these  biased edits, the message  of the film becomes muddled.

Parents at the Harlem Success Academy Lottery (Sackle 1:07:35)
Parents at the Harlem Success Academy Lottery                 (Sackler 1:07:35)

At the end of the film on the day of the lottery, thousands of families  from various backgrounds are shown wishfully looking at the screen together waiting for their children to be called. Sackler uses these scenes to serve as a reminder that parents truly care and are invested in their children’s educational futures. In a Huffington Post blog post entitled “The Lottery: Looking Past Distractions to Solutions” , Sackler writes, “Despite this reality, it is the parents’ voices that seem to be left out of the conversation…Parents do not care if a school is unionized or not, or if the school is called charter or not. All they care about is that the school is educating their children at high levels.” (

Although The Lottery may appear to be a charter school advocacy documentary on the surface, it was intended to be a presentation of families who desperately want what is best for their children. Sackler could have limited  the details about the UFT and focused more on her initial goal of giving the parents a voice. Nevertheless, the important thing to remember  is that children should not have to be lucky to receive an excellent education. Sackler did a fairly good job of introducing some of the flaws of the public school system and the thousands of parents who partake in lotteries each year.

The film implicitly urges the community to fight for improvements in all public schools. As Sackler states in Thelma Adams’ “Charter Schools: Q&A With The Lottery Director Madeleine Sackler,  “the most “critical element” of education is “the fact that the public education system is under-delivering in certain communities.” ( The Lottery shows that high quality education is needed in all schools, and there are parents who are trying their best to give their children the opportunity to succeed in the midst of the bureaucratic public school system.  Regardless of what side of the education reform debate anyone is on, it is important to remember that children should come always come first.

Works Cited:

The Lottery. Dir. Madeleine Sackler. Variance Films, 2010. Online Viewing.

Adams, Thelma.“Charter School Controversy: A Q&A With The Lottery Director Madeleine Sackler.” The Huffington Post. Web. 22 Feb. 2014. <>

Sackler, Madeleine. “The Lottery: Looking Past Distractions to Solutions (VIDEO).”  Huffington Post 4 Nov. 2010. Web. 22 Feb. 2014. <>

Weiss, Bari. “Storming the School Barricades.” The Wall Street Journal Online. N.p., n.d5 June 2010. Web. 22 Feb. 2010. <>.

Avoiding Plagiarism Exercise

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Step 1: Plagiarize any portion of the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.


The New York University economist Sean Corcoran studied the teacher evaluation systems in New York City and Houston.


Step 2: Plagiarize any portion of the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.


A teacher who gets a certain ranking the first year is likely to get a different ranking the following year. These rankings will always have instability.


Step 3: Plagiarize any portion of the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, with a citation the original source (using any academic citation style). Remember, even if you include a citation, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.


The is no perfect measure, but the estimates of value-added and other models that try to isolate the effect a teacher has on his or her students’ test scores is prone to error every year. Sean Corcoran (a New York University economist) studied the teacher evaluation systems in New York City and Houston (Ravitch, 270).



Step 4: Properly paraphrase any portion of the original text by restating the author’s ideas in your own diction and style, and include a citation to the original source.


As explained by Ravitch, the margin of error and instability that is present in performance rating models makes them unreliable (271).


Step 5: Properly paraphrase any portion of the original text by restating the author’s ideas in your own diction and style, supplemented with a direct quotation of a key phrase, and include a citation to the original source.


As referenced by Ravitch, Sean Corcoron (a New York University economist) conducted a study of Houston and New York City’s teacher evaluation systems (270). His results astonishingly revealed that on average, “the ‘margin of error’ of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points” (Ravitch, 270).

Works Cited

Ravitch, Diane. The Death and Life of the Great American School System. New York: Basic Books, 2011. Print.


HPL Hosts American Promise Panel Discussion: Is Private School the Answer?

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Audience members watching the documentary American Promise
Audience members watching the documentary American Promise at Hartford Public Library

On February 8, 2014, Hartford Public Library (downtown) hosted a screening of the documentary American Promise and a panel discussion at the Center for Contemporary Studies. Around 25 people were in attendance. As the audience viewed the film, a central question began to unfold and become the main topic of discussion.  In the quest for the American dream, is private school the answer to attain success?  American Promise shows that for students of color, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and private institutions can fail to make them feel included.  The interactive discussion that followed the screening unpacked the benefits and downfalls of private school education and what public schools can learn from them.

Over a span of 13 years, Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster’s documentary captured the educational triumphs and trials of their son Idris and his best friend Seun. These parents decided to send their children to the prestigious Dalton School because it would provide them with  an education that would allow them to be successful. As two of the few black students, Idris and Seun faced issues that spanned beyond the classroom. The implications of race and class in a predominately white institution were prevalent throughout the film, and it clearly impacted the boys’ intellectual/personal development. Furthermore, the self-esteem issues that Idris and Seun faced made the value of this experience questionable at times.

At the age of nine, the Dalton teachers described Idris as a “hard to manage” student who was often disruptive. Seun was seen as a student who was “bright”, but had difficulty focusing on tasks at hand. The documentary captured the transition of the boys from doe-eyed, color-blind six-year-olds to young men who realized that they were not like the other kids and the treatment they received from faculty was different. Due to feelings of isolation and their parents’ inability to afford the privileged lifestyles of the other students, Seun and Idris had a difficult time performing in school. Seun crumbled under the pressure of dyslexia. Even with extra tutoring, his sense of self and motivation diminished over time at Dalton. Ultimately, he went to public high school in Brooklyn. Idris was able to graduate from Dalton with countless hours of extensive, extra help from his parents and proper management of his newly found ADHD. Both of the boys were able to go on to college.

For the sake of the fantastic opportunity at Dalton, Seun and Idris’ parents tried their best to be pillars of strength for their children as the boys lost self-confidence in private school. For students of color who are seeking out the best opportunities, is private school the answer? What can public schools learn from them?

Stan Simpson, a current affairs talk show host and a former columnist for the Hartford Courant, moderated the panel discussion.  The panelists included Milly Arciniegas (Executive Director of the Hartford Parent University), Lee Huguley (Dean of Students at the Westminster School) and Adam Johnson (Director of Secondary Education for the Capital Region Education Council).  Stan Simpson kicked off the panel discussion with the question  “What’s the secret sauce of private schools and why can’t that be duplicated in public schools?”  Lee Huguley dived into the question by explaining, “Students and faculty at private school have a different type of connection. Specifically from my experience in private boarding school, there is a lot of contact time with the students.”  Lee followed up by asking  “Do you think the success of private schools stems from a pool of high achievers and active parents as we saw in the documentary?” Lee disagreed and explained that seeing the kids in their own environment allows faculty to really know who they are both inside and outside of the classroom. Johnson added that private schools are able to “remove kids from negative, outside influences” and “allows students to establish and draw on networks for the rest of their lives”. These factors create a very rich learning environment for the students. As a champion for public schools, Arciniegas explained “public schools have gotten away from accountability. Public schools need and should have the best and parents have to want more”. She elaborated by explaining that if there were faculty members in private schools that weren’t doing their best, they would be fired. Public schools should be doing the same.

As the discussion continued, the panelists agreed that private schools should not be seen as the only option for students to get the best education. However, in order for public school students to perform to the highest standard, a combination of things must be in place. Johnson pointed out that leadership in schools is key. When he was a principal at Law & Government Academy, he wanted to make it the best experience possible for the students. Arciniegas went on to assert that parents also play an active role in their children’s educational development. However, the kids should drive their own success and parents should be there for inspiration. Arciniegas felt that Idris’ parents were not allowing him to develop due to their strict control of his life.

Regardless of whether children of color attend private or public schools, the panelists explained that perception of self is the key to success.  For minority students, many of the hardships that may come from attending a private school stems from feelings of inadequacy in the new culture. Huguley noticed that there was a lack of mentors in the documentary, which is particularly essential for the students’ adjustment. He explained that boys like Idris and Seun (whether they are in public or private school) need someone in school that they could count on for motivation.

In conclusion, students of color can attain success in any type of school. It is a combination of external and internal factors that can either make or break a student.  All schools should have the best in order to provide an environment that is conducive to high achievement. As pointed out by the panelists and the experiences of Idris and Seun, there is no one-size-fits-all model. Private school is not necessarily the answer.


 XRS (Class of 2014) is a sociology major with minors in French studies and community action. She is from Brooklyn, NY and attended public schools before going to Trinity College. 

Ed 300: Learning Goals

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I would like to learn more about the education reform policies that have been put in place throughout history. As a Community Action minor with a concentration in Education and Social Change, I am particularly interested in learning more about the formal pros and cons of the charter school/lottery system in urban cities.