Overcrowding is an old problem in the neighborhood, but parents and school officials are determined to fix it
George Patterson (left), principal of P.S. 308 Clara Cardwell in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Photo: Jerome Bailey
Bed-Stuy’s only gifted and talented program disappeared—somewhat mysteriously—from P.S 308 Clara Cardwell School in 2008. But if 25 kids pass a standardized test early next year, such a program is coming back to the neighborhood.
According to several long-time teachers at P.S. 308, the school had a highly successful gifted and talented program for years. “We didn’t realize it was gone until they stopped testing the students,” said Beverly Hindes-Kirkland, a teacher at P.S. 308. It remains unclear exactly why the Department of Education removed the program.
But now it may return. The deadline for parents to submit a request for testing into the gifted and talented program was Nov. 8, and for students who applied, testing will be administered to K-2 students from January 6 to February 5. A representative of the New York City Department of Education said that even if 25 kids don’t pass the test, there is still a chance to establish a gifted and talented program if a large number of parents push for it in a particular area.
If the program returns to Bed-Stuy, there is no guarantee that P.S. 308 will be selected for it. If the district gains a program, the school that will provide it would be determined at a later date. Bed-Stuy’s District 16 has 36 schools with more than 8,000 students.
But faculty members at P.S. 308 are hopeful. Kirkland, who has been teaching at P.S. 308 for 21 years, taught gifted and talented students for more than a decade before the program was cut. And according to Kirkland, the program went beyond academics. “They were talented in music and the arts. The mindset of the kids was amazing—the conversations, the knowledge. They could basically run the class on their own,” said Kirkland.
P.S. 308 has gone from a D to an A ranking in the two years since George Patterson has been the principal, according to the New York City Department of Education 2012-2013 progress report. “They say we need 25 kids to pass? We could get 50 kids in this school to pass that test,” said Patterson.
He added, “When non gifted and talented students perform at high levels that is significant. It shows that your teachers know what they heck they’re doing.”
April Austin was a gifted and talented student at P.S. 308 in the late 1980’s and has taught there for the last 15 years. Austin says that the program taught her how to be competitive. “If you didn’t exceed standards your peers frowned upon you,” said Austin.
When Austin started teaching gifted and talented kids, neither students nor parents could have excuses, she said. There were certain standards that students had to keep or they could be asked to leave.