n a city where residential patterns have made the student bodies of nearly half the public schools predominantly nonwhite, the effective integration of the special schools, and the maintenance of their high academic standards, should be cause for celebration, not condemnation. The Office of Civil Rights may not realize that, racial issues aside, the special schools have been under recurrent attack from those who abhor Jefferson’s “aristocracy of talent” as an affront to egalitarianism. They are dangerously wrong. New York’s special schools are not an aberration but the guiding beacons of public education.
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.
This is where NYC’s infamous Gifted & Talented program all started.
The city school system will get its first program for teaching gifted elementary ‐school children this fall, following a vote to set up the program by’ the central Board of Education last night.
A grant of $60,000 from the Vincent Astor Foundation will finance two experimental “early ‐learner” classes, in Brooklyn and Manhattan, for especially bright children aged from 4 to 6 years.
And 2 years later…
The two existing experimental classrooms for 4‐to‐6‐year‐old pupils are situated in Public School 116 at 210 East 33d Street in Manhattan and P.S.
A special committee appointed by School Chancellor Harvey B. Scribner has recommended that the city’s four specialized high schools abandon their traditional policy of basing regular admissions solely on competitive entrance examinations.
The 26‐member, broad‐based committee said admissions to these schools “should be based on multiple criteria that are objective and equitable in nature.” It called for a revision in state law to make possible such an admissions policy.
Archive of the original NYTimes news article from 1971
Without debate, the Senate and the Assembly gave final legislative approval today to a bill designed to limit the New York City Board of Education’s power to alter the city’s four specialized high schools.
This was enough to convince many of the schools’ supporters that a lowering of standards was in the making. Such fears were aggravated by the fact that, for several years, some gifted and highly motivated disadvantaged youngsters — most of them black and Puerto Rican who might not have done sufficiently well in the standard tests—had been admitted as part of a “Discovery” program, similar to those long used by many elite colleges. Last fall, the four schools admitted 3,484 regular contestants in the competition plus 352 Discovery students.
But to say that these schools should be preserved must not mean that they are a petrified preserve, immune to review and reform. Neither their admissions process nor their curriculum is sacrosanct. Enactment of the bill by the State Senate would be a flagrant violation of educational home rule.
This is one of the original New York Times articles reporting on the passage of the Hecht-Calandra law.
New York City Democrats split into emotionally charged camps to day as the Assembly passed a bill designed to limit the Board of Education’s power to alter the city’s four specialized high schools.
The measure passed, 107 to 35, and was sent to the Senate after minority‐group members led the opposition and accused white colleagues of seeking an exclusionary racial quota at the schools.
School Chancellor Harvey B. Scribner announced last night that he would soon appoint a broad‐based committee to examine all the admission policies and procedures of the city’s four specialized academic high schools.
The high schools, all of which require a special entrance examination, are Bronx Science, Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Technical and the Nigh School of Music and Art.
The tests, especially those for the three more technical schools, have been the subject of recent criticism that they discriminate culturally against blacks and Puerto Ricans.
A Manhattan community school board charged yesterday that an admissions policy based on entrance examinations made the Bronx High School of Science the most segregated school in the city.
Members of the board, of District 3 on the West Side, said they would meet with lawyers on Monday to plan legal action aimed at nullifying the entrance examinations given at the school this week.
The community board and its superintendent, Alfredo Mathew Jr., said the Bronx High School of Science was a privileged educational center for children of the white middle class because “culturally” oriented examinations worked to “screen out” black and Puerto Rican students who could succeed at the school.