The public school featured in this podcast, School for International Studies (SIS), was partly driven into segregation because of white parents lobbying for "gifted" programs. In this snippet you can hear directly from a member of the school board and one of SIS students about the programs' impact.
Publish Date: Feb 14, 2021
Okay, so there was something happening behind closed doors, and the local community school board was part of it. I took these claims to Norm Fruchter. He was on the local school board around this time, although I figured it was unlikely he'd say, Well, yes, we did have a secret plot to steal to 93 is high achievers and white kids. And yet that is basically what he said. There was a lot of trepidation, particularly at the middle school level, as to whether white parents would stay. Norm says white parents had left his district in the 19 seventies. They left the public schools entirely or moved out of the city. Black families were also leaving in large numbers, but the school board was completely preoccupied by the white flight. Norm says. Board members saw decline in white students as a serious threat. They equated that with school quality. If you lost white students, your achievement levels would go down right. Your schools would be less attractive places for teachers to come into, because when they thought teachers, they thought white teachers, that and a whole bunch of spillover effects, what happened, what the graduation rates would look like their solution. A gifted program. The district started the program explicitly. Thio maintain a white population. That was the explicit goal that was explicit because the unspoken assumption off the administration hard district in every district was that if you had a gift, the program it would attract like parents to get into gifted programs, you have to take a test. Gifted kids would be taught in separate classrooms. They opened gifted programs in select elementary schools, and a new gifted program opened in a different middle school, a school called M s 51. This is part of what the people at IHS to 93 we're seeing. Their strongest students were being siphoned off. Wait. Parents, even when they were not inside to 93 were beginning to change the school because what you were creating was a predominantly white track within the schools on they would their kids would get in, no matter what kind of testing you used. Parents who were committed to getting their kids in the gifted program could do it. White parents. Yeah, what about non white parents who are committed to getting their kids into the kitchen? What you have to also do what there's a fair amount of bias in the testing administration, Norm says. There were kids of color who were clearly qualified, but we're not in the gifted program. And he says this was because the questions were biased and the people administering the tests were sometimes biased. Kiesa says parents were hiring their own psychologists to test their Children and paying for test prep. But also there was another reason black and Latino kids were not in the gifted program. Third, yes, I was honest. Student Nadine Jackson might have been one of those kids who would have qualified as gifted. She was a student at Ice to 93. A black kid from the Guan is projects. E was never absent math on a roll. All the time I was on the dean's list. I mean, I was that nerdy child. I've always wanted to be a professional. I've always wanted to be someone of importance. You've always wanted to be someone of importance. Always, always, I wanted to be an actress or a teacher. Nadine was not kept out of the gifted program because of bias or lack of test prep. She simply had never heard of the program. She went to the school. Everyone else went thio. She started seventh grade at Ice to 93 in 1993 and Nadine was eager to jump in, ready to be delivered to importance with hard work, which he put in. Nadine studied computer technology. She played first clarinet in the band. She played Whitney Houston. I have nothing on clarinet over and over. In her first year, the eyes to 93 band went to perform at another middle school nearby M s 51 the school with the gifted program. When Nadine arrived there, she walked right into an experience a lot of kids have when they leave their school and enter a world of wealthier kids. We were amazed at just the way they operate was completely different. Um, they had a huge orchestra there. We had a small one here, and we were just amazed how they were just outshine us. I mean, they have better. Resource is they have better equipment. They have better instruments. Um, everything was top notch and us. It was more like second classic Hand me Downs M s 51 s 2. 93 were in the same school district. They were governed by the same local community school board, and they were a mile and a half away from each other. When I asked Nadine the same question, I'd ask previous graduates of ideas to 93. What was the school like? She described the feeling of being trapped. She told me it was normal at 2 93 to have 42 kids in a class, she said. Teachers came and went frequently in the middle of the school year. She had six or seven social studies teachers in one year. I was skeptical about the numbers, but I looked into it, and all of this seems entirely plausible. For those years, there was a recession. School budgets were decimated. In 1991 New York City proposed $250 million in educational spending cuts. In 1992 600 million school programs were being cut. Mid year class sizes ballooned. Teachers were moved around a lot. At the same time, Nadine's district was supporting gifted programs, bussing white kids out of their zone schools, hiring separate teachers, administering special tests, running an entirely separate educational track at M S 51 the gifted middle school. There were not 40 plus kids in a class. There were 30. The school was written up in a book from the 19 nineties called New York City's Best Public Middle Schools. It describes the school's leaders as masters at developing faculty talent and enthusiasm. Theo M. S 51 principle is quoted saying, When we started the gifted program, we got parents who were more involved, more inquisitive. He then goes on to say the gifted program shifted his whole educational approach. It made him recognize that Children and early adolescents need close contact with nurturing adults, and he began to hire teachers who he saw as quote warm and comforting. I asked to 93 M s 51. We're both public middle schools. But that day she visited M S 51. Nadine felt like this school thistles. The school that's preparing kids to be someone of importance. The education system is better there. The way, the way, the way they talk is different. They were so smart. The Children there they were taken, um uh, their regions at a very early stage regions are state tests kids normally take in high school. Then it's like, Oh, my goodness, uh, waiter students carry themselves was different, as if they knew something that we didn't know, like we didn't like. They had a secret that we didn't know off. And when were we going to find out? After Nadine's at M S 51 she says, it made her see her own school differently. I assume 93 to her looked like a school for chumps. This is where we all went. That's what we knew. That's what our parents knew. It really makes you wonder. Do we even have a chance? You're trying to figure out who you are? How do I fit into society? Where do I put myself that it was hard? It made me feel dumb. In a sense, I didn't know anything. In the 19 eighties, when the district started creating specialized programs at other schools, I asked to 93 parents fought back. But Norm Fruchter, the school board member, told me once the gifted programs were in place, they were there to stay. The board was serving a constituency of white parents who believed their kids deserved a program to serve their unique needs. And, he says, those parents wielded tremendous power. There were huge pitch fights in the school board meetings. Whenever we put a resolution on the agenda to change the gifted program, they could mobilize 500 people from meeting so you could fill um, elementary school auditorium with gifted program. Parents are as a Z, we used to say in the district, gifted parents, as if somehow that you did this got passed up toward them, and they called themselves that as well. One of the many things they argued was that it was important to maintain the white population in the gifted program in orderto have some semblance of integration in the schools and that there were benefits that would flow from the gifted program to the rest of school. Who argue that the parents, the gifted parents yes, yeah, they argued that the gifted program designed to serve white families was actually an integration program when in fact, it was a separate track in the school that kept black and brown kids from Resource is from special programs, which is what segregation was designed to dio to separate. This was its latest adaptation, and it wasn't the last