Many teachers and principals are convinced that there should be ability grouping for the good of the most able and the least able students. But often these same educators are uneasy over the racial isolation that often results. This has put some programs for bright students on shaky ground.
Classes for gifted children are being abolished, for example, at P.S. 152, down the block from Brooklyn College, because even though the school’s enrollment is becoming increasingly black and Puerto Rican, the gifted classes are disproportionately white.
“There is no doubt that our classes for the intellectually gifted would have been totally segregated at that school if we had continued them,” said Dr. Ralph T. Brande, the superintendent of Community School District 22. Nonetheless, most of the district’s schools continue to have classes for the intellectually gifted.
“District 22 is one of the last bastons of the middle‐class — both black and white —in the city,” Dr. Brande explained in an interview. “We have to do something to keep them in the schools. Will they flee the public schools and the city if they lose the classes for the intellectually gifted and the special progress classes at the junior highs?
“I know the word ‘elitist’ is associated with these programs, but the problem that concerns me is whether we can still develop these children if we throw them in with everyene else.”
At least one of the decentralized. districts, District 3, which reaches from Columbus Circle into ,Ilarlem on the city’s West Sides has answered the question;by banning all classes for the intellectually. gifted and operating entirely on what it says is a heterogeneous basis.
“The families in our district are either poor or well off and everyone knows there is a correlation between economic background and how kids do in school” says Joseph Elias, the distriet superintendent. “Until we iriade the change, if You were. white you go into the ‘smart’ class and if you were not ‘,White you got into the ‘dumb’ class, Getting their children into the classes for the gifted was a way for parents to avoid having to spend $3,000 or $4,000 a year for a private school.”