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Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during press availability after he toured jail complex at Rikers Island on Sept. 27. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday plans to overhaul the gifted and talented program in the city's elementary schools, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The announcement marks a shift away from the highly selective program that has been criticized for exacerbating inequality in public schools in the nation's largest school district, per the Times.

Driving the news: The new plan would create a program that "offers the possibility of accelerated learning to students in the later years of elementary school," the Times reports.

  • The plan also completely eliminates the test currently given to kindergarten students to screen for the gifted and talented program.
  • Elementary school students who are already enrolled in the program will be the last cohort.

The big picture: De Blasio, who critics say has been slow to fulfill his promise of tackling inequality in schools, unveiled his plan with just three months left in office.

  • The gifted and talented program in New York City public schools, which drew mixed reactions, is considered a crucial stepping stone for students to secure a spot in competitive middle and high schools, per the Times.

What they're saying: Some parents say the program made it difficult for children in regular classes to succeed.

  • "If we’re just dumping a bunch of resources into gifted and talented, everybody else suffers because they didn’t know somebody or they couldn’t afford a tutor," said Karla Stenius, a parent in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.
  • Others say the program gives students a pathway out of some of the city's struggling schools, per the Times.
  • One expert, Jonathan Plucker, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, questioned the feasibility of teaching students with a range of abilities in one class, a practice called differentiation.
  • "Differentiation is like a fuzzy blue unicorn," Plucker said. "It would be great if everyone had one; I’m just not sure it’s possible."

Go deeper

Skull found at Philadelphia high school prompts districtwide search

The exterior of the School District of Philadelphia offices on December 31, 2015. Photo: Paul Marotta/Getty Images

The School District of Philadelphia is asking high school principals and other officials to search for skeletal remains in their buildings after the discovery of a human skull at Central High School.

Driving the news: The school district announced the finding of the "human skeletal item," believed to have belonged to a Native American male, on Friday. The district told Axios that a staff member originally discovered the skull in June.

  • Now district officials are working with the Department of Interior and Temple University to repatriate the remains.

Gaming CEO calls on industry to help fight climate change

"Catalyst Black." Screenshot: Super Evil Megacorp

Gaming CEO Kristian Segerstrale is calling on leaders in his industry to take action on climate change, after completing a $1.4 million fundraising campaign this summer.

Why it matters: Gaming's pandemic-fueled boom creates an opportunity, and maybe even an obligation, to do some good.

2 hours ago - World

U.S. releases updated vaccination, testing rules for foreign travelers

Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Foreign travelers will be allowed entry to the U.S. beginning Nov. 8 if they can provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination with a shot authorized by the World Health Organization and a negative test within three days of departure, the White House announced Monday.

Why it matters: The updated guidance, which exempts children under the age of 18 from the vaccine requirement, is intended to provide further clarity for airlines and foreign nationals who have been restricted from traveling to the U.S. since early 2020.