Good company and good discourse are the very sinews of virtue.
-- Izaak Walton
No administrative device proposed for education of the gifted is argued more frequently or more heatedly than ability grouping. Polls of teachers' opinion, particularly at the secondary school level, indicate strong support for such practice. If educational problems could be solved purely by processes of ratiocination, no solution would appear more reasonable than grouping children in special classes according to their academic potential. Almost without exception, professional and lay advocates of intensified programs for the gifted call for ability grouping. On the other hand, many leaders of the educational profession in universities and school systems emphatically oppose ability grouping on social and philosophical grounds. Differences are not resolved by research evidence which is inconclusive. No consistent support can be found for either position, and reports from study to study are in conflict with each other.
Problems associated with grouping are complicated by disagreements on definition of the gifted and by questions of feasibility of grouping in most communities. The typical American school district operates with a single high school enrolling fewer than five hundred students, a junior high school of comparable size, and two or three elementary schools. In many cases further consolidation of school districts is not a practicable solution because of distances involved in transportation of children. A school district with some three thousand children (far larger than average) would normally enroll only fifteen students in 12 grades who fall in the top one-half of 1 per cent of the intelligence distribution. There