An academic program for gifted elementary students will be phased out of a New York City elementary school. Officials have decided that the program does not properly reflect the diverse make up of the school population.
Mary McDonald, principal at PS 139, sent a letter to parents on Jan. 24 saying that the school would no longer be accepting applications for Students of Academic Rigor — or SOAR — for incoming kindergartners.
“Our Kindergarten classes will be heterogeneously grouped to reflect the diversity of our student body and the community we live in,” the letter said.
Many parents seemed dismayed by the decision.
“Where are they going to put the higher-level students? Sometimes, there are different levels, and teachers can’t handle all the levels in one class,” said one mother who did not want to give her name. She did concede the program had a lot of white students.
Another mother, a Sudanese immigrant, also said SOAR was brimming with white students. Yet, she was hopeful that her daughter, who consistently has high test scores, would join the program.
According to records, PS 139 has about 1,000 students, over half of those students are black or hispanic while only 28 percent are white or Asian-American.
Parent Lisa Draho who has children in similar programs that are also being phased out said she felt like the classes were already inclusive. But she expressed confidence in the decision of the principal.
“Mary is very much a principal who really wants the best for the kids,” she said.
Seeking to reassure parents, McDonald sent a follow up letter to parents on Monday.
“At PS 139, we believe that all children can learn and achieve high standards. We also know that we want all children at PS 139 to have equal access to high quality, challenging curriculum, and to have ample opportunities to master complex material and build academic and personal self-confidence. We also want our classes to reflect the diversity of our community. We believe we can have both: classrooms characterized by rigor and diversity,” the letter read.