Strong Opposition to Notion of Split Schools in South Davis

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It was a meeting attended by over 250 parents, teachers, and community members at Harper Junior High.  The parents, particularly those at Pioneer Elementary School, expressed strong opposition to one recommendation which would combine the two schools – Pioneer and Montgomery – and divide the students by grade level.

Betsy Hyder, the PTA President at Pioneer spoke of “unintended consequences from particular strategies.”  She was not part of the committee who made these recommendation, by choice, saying, “We wanted our parents to be able to speak freely there as parents.”

A separate group was created who “instituted a survey” that had 252 respondents.  These surveys were both written and online, and half of the written responses also had comments.

“What you should know is that two-thirds were impacted by a split,” she said.  “The bottom line is that only 11 percent agree with the idea of splitting and sixty-five percent, as far as an unintended consequence are considering – definitely would or would consider – leaving Pioneer.”

“I think the message I could carry on behalf of a very established, stable, program,” she said.  “What Pioneer has, took time to build.  It has to be built.  It’s not something that could be given away…  There was nothing that indicated that Pioneer wasn’t willing to be flexible… only that if the corrective factor that’s needed is so big… perhaps we’ve broken something that’s important in the district as a whole.”

Jenn Barth spoke on behalf of a grassroots community group on the issue of declining enrollment at Montgomery, “Over the past ten months it has become apparent that declining enrollment at Montgomery is merely a symptom of a much greater challenge.”

“The real challenge facing Montgomery and our a district as a whole is determining how to insure [stet] that all of our children have fair and equal educational opportunities to allow them to reach their full potential.”

She added, “When we learned that one of the potential strategies being considered was to split our school we became convinced that this would not only irreparably harm Pioneer but would harm neighborhood schools district wide.”

“Splitting schools does not grow confidence and community support,” she argued, “It burdens families with young children on separate campuses.  Most importantly it unfairly penalizes children with limited resources and access to transportation.  The very children whose needs we are trying to address.”

Israel Ramirez described himself as a former ESL student and a Civil Rights Attorney.  He said he believes that splitting the school is a terrible decision, and argued that the GATE program, “the way that students are selected right now is discriminatory.”

He described the process involved for selection into the GATE program beginning with a test that is given to all students, “but if a teacher decides that some students have risk factors, for instance, if they’re from a lower socioeconomic status background, or if the student is an English as a Second Language, or if the student has a learning disability… they’re given a second test.”

It is that second test that Mr. Ramirez objects to, arguing, “When that second test is administered what is actually done by the district, and this is unbelievable, is that they require the students with risk factors… to score higher than the students with non-risk factors.  The system doesn’t work.”

A student with a low-SES risk factors, he argued, have to score higher.

Another parent said that at Montgomery, “we have a wonderful diversity that should be the envy of all other schools in Davis.”  He argued that gives all our students a great opportunity for learning and increasing “our social intelligence by interaction with a lot of different types of people.”

He said, having said that there are some groups who are not getting the same benefits in terms of education as some of the other students.  He supports approaches aimed at decreasing that disparity, but said, “I would ask you to view with suspicion approaches that are primarily aimed at engineering demographic changes.”  He suggested, “They will possibly have unintended consequences down the road and you won’t even know that for many years.”

Alicia Matson said, “Teachers teach, schools provide resources but ultimately it is up to the parents to see that their children meet academic standards.  Inserting a child into a well-performing school district does not automatically equal a child who will perform well academically.”

“So not all parents have the ability to give their children that boost and it falls to the schools,” she continued. “However it’s not reasonable to overwhelm elementary schools with that need.”

She suggested busing as a way to distribute that need across the district more equitably so that “no one school’s resources are overwhelmed.”  She went on to say that while it would not address the gap, it might address the “flight.”

Another parent spoke in opposition to dismantling the Pioneer school.  He argued that declining enrollment is the symptom rather than the underlying problem that needs to be addressed – the problems that are causing a decline in enrollment at Montgomery.

“A small group of parents should not have been tasked with solving an educational problem, changing Pioneer will also have unintended consequences,” he said.  “From reviewing the report I did not see any accepted theory or study that showed that moving kids from one campus to another would improve their educational experience, nor did I see a plan to help low achieving students in Davis which should be the real concern.”

“It may artificially help a school’s performance by dispersing children, but I did not see how moving children would have a positive impact on their educational experience,” he added.  He recommended taking no action this year, and task educational professionals rather than parents with coming up with real solutions in the future.

Cameron Smith, a parent from Pioneer, argued that the demographic projections showing a relatively stable student population over the next ten years at both schools.

“I don’t really see any point in trying to split a school,” he said.

He said that he grew up in agriculture, and works in agriculture today with migrant families.  He said, “I think that the money that we would spend in this shuffle to do all of this stuff would be better spent in those programs helping those kids.”

He talked about a scholarship program with disadvantaged kids, and said if you watch the interviews of these kids, “Not one of them says diversity – it was diversity that helped me.  They come up and say that it was I learned English and I learned to assimilate faster and that is what helped me get through.  That’s what helped me get to college.”

Some of the most pointed comments came from Monique Mogulsky (sp) who is a parent and volunteer at Montgomery.

She said, “The quality of education at Montgomery isn’t very good.”

She argued that the API scores which show that we are not doing so poorly is primarily due to the excellence of the staff.  She asked how many people were there at Montgomery and how many wanted dual immersion.  And then she asked how many staff would have to leave if the district implemented full dual immersion.

“That’s the cost of a dual immersion program,” she said.  “You’re going to lose our staff and you’ll likely lose a lot of people.”  She added, “The community doesn’t want it, the staff can’t embrace it, they’ll have to leave.”

She added, “You said it will meet a range of needs, but it won’t meet the needs of my children I know that for sure.”

She was particularly disturbed by what she characterized as a program that was primarily Spanish speaking with a secondary language of English.  “The biggest gift you can give these English language learning students is to teach them English, so that they can embrace this culture as a whole, get good jobs, and advance themselves in their lives.”

“The thing that I find in my daughter’s classroom is telling children every time I’m in there, you gotta speak English when you’re in the classroom.  You can’t speak Spanish when you’re in the classroom.  It’s not appropriate.  You need to be learning English now, this is your chance.  I don’t care what you speak at home, I don’t care what you speak when you’re outside the classroom, in the classroom it has to be English.”

“Until they get that perception… they’re not going to learn.  And putting them in a program that emphasizes the fact that it’s good to be speaking Spanish when you’re in school isn’t going to make it better – it’s only going to make it harder for them to learn in the future,” she concluded.

Connie Steele, on the other hand, was opposed to prematurely throwing the split off the table and spoke to the need for diversity and the lack of diversity that she saw at Pioneer.

She noted at Montgomery there were 81 Spanish speaking students, whereas at Pioneer, a larger school there were only nine.

“The same discrepancy exists for lower socio-economic students,” she added.  “There is so much talk about fixing Montgomery’s problems but I feel we have two schools that are broken.  The two obvious outliers in our district are found in one small area in Davis – and each is becoming more segregated as time goes on.”

“As a parent, I want my children to spend their days at a school that reflects the wonderful diversity of our Davis community,” she said.  “It troubles me that I hear no concern about the lack of diversity at Pioneer.  This to me is just as unacceptable as Montgomery’s overwhelming percentage of at risk kids.”

A mother of five described what 55 percent low socio-economic looks like to her.   She said that she is the one PTA room rep, the only volunteer in the class, the only driver or chaperone for a field trip, “Everybody at Montgomery is wonderful but their plates are so full.”

“When you have a class of 14 either English learners or low socio-economic  students and you’re trying to teach the whole class – it’s such an uphill struggle,” she added.

“The school cannot continue the way it is,” she said, “We have no volunteer basis – except for Spanish immersion – our PTA is probably 75% Spanish immersion parents.”

She said that while the kids’ academic needs are being met, “Our second grader has one peer in his class and he lives in Natomas.  He has neighborhood friends.”

She argued that the district should not have two schools so close together that have such different populations of students.

Diane Mackelhern, whose kids go to Pioneer, said she supports dual immersion and expansive GATE at Montgomery, “as opposed to creating grade split programs or closing a school and relocating students from their neighborhood schools.”

“As acknowledged by the committee, the grade split proposal will not solve the problems of low academic performance among several groups of students at Montgomery,” she added.  “Nor will it take Montgomery out of program improvement status.”

She quoted from the report that said, “The split itself will not address the achievement gap, however we do know there will be concrete negative consequences of splitting the schools.”

A Pioneer parent posted an interesting comment on the Vanguard, “The district’s liberal policy for school transfer played a role in the current state of schools in South Davis. I’ve never heard of a district giving parents such freedom to “shop around” beyond a magnet program here and there. One of the most interesting stats in the SDEC’s report was that roughly 50% (!) of Davis students go to school outside their neighborhood boundaries. When you let every parent choose from every school in the district, you’re creating a free market economy situation for your schools, and just as in the free market, some schools thrive and some schools don’t, and this is what’s happening to MME.”

She continued, “I can’t speak for everyone, but in my personal experience, I don’t see race as driving the more vocal Pioneer parents’ (or anyone who transferred out of MME) unwillingness to consider solutions like school split. This is about class and income combined with an achievement-focused parenting culture, along with a resistance to any compromise at all on the Pioneer side. Not that it makes much difference in the end – it’s still segregation.”

She said she was one of the 11 percent of Pioneer parents who supported the school split scenario.  She argued, “This would address the segregation problem, but is there any research out there that demonstrates that this would help the English-learning kids academically?”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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60 thoughts on “Strong Opposition to Notion of Split Schools in South Davis”

  1. wdf1

    Vanguard: [i]She asked how many people were there at Montgomery and how many wanted dual immersion. And then she asked how many staff would have to leave.

    “That’s the cost of a dual immersion program,” she said. “You’re going to lose our staff and you’ll likely lose a lot of people.” She added, “The community doesn’t want it, the staff can’t embrace it they’ll have to leave.”[/i]

    For ELL students, there already is an English Immersion component in place at Montgomery. What a dual immersion program entails is building up over time the current Spanish Immersion program to run to 6th grade. There already is a K-3 SI strand at MME. To build up the SI program at MME would mean starting with adding one or two more kindergarten classes the first year, then one to two more 1st grade classes the next year, etc. It would mean shifting non-bilingual teachers to other assignments in the district. This would happen over a 6-7 year period.

    My issue with the comment above is that it suggests that the dual immersion option would result in an instantaneous shift from one year to the next.

    Going with the dual immersion model would help to satisfy overall demand in the district, but it might ultimately drain enrollment away from the remaining pure neighborhood school left in the district — Patwin. So a few years down the road, we could be dealing with dwindling enrollments at Patwin, not because there aren’t enough families in that neighborhood, but because so many families in that neighborhood opt for GATE, Montessori, or SI at another campus. That alone isn’t a reason to reject the dual immersion model outright, but it is a potential consequence that must be considered at some point.

  2. E Roberts Musser

    It is not clear to me why a split in the schools, so that one school houses grades K-3 and the other houses 4-6, would in any way address the problem of an overabundance of children with learning difficulties. Why not bring the proper resources to the students/neighborhood school that needs it, period? The chances are the children with learning difficulties require more one-on one attention, no matter which school they are in. If MME is smaller, that will allow for more individualized attention for students that apparently would benefit from it. Develop a super-excellent ESL program, just as the one located at Valley Oak that was lost when the school closed. One has to wonder is this school split idea a solution in search of a problem? Am I missing something?

  3. wdf1

    Vanguard: [i]She said, “The quality of education at Montgomery isn’t very good.”

    She argued that the API scores which show that we are not doing so poorly is primarily do the excellence of the staff.[/i]

    This is a puzzling, somewhat contradictory statement.

  4. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Going with the dual immersion model would help to satisfy overall demand in the district, but it might ultimately drain enrollment away from the remaining pure neighborhood school left in the district — Patwin. So a few years down the road, we could be dealing with dwindling enrollments at Patwin, not because there aren’t enough families in that neighborhood, but because so many families in that neighborhood opt for GATE, Montessori, or SI at another campus. That alone isn’t a reason to reject the dual immersion model outright, but it is a potential consequence that must be considered at some point.[/quote]

    So perhaps the problem is with the GATE program itself, and how GATE students are dispersed throughout the schools?

  5. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Israel Ramirez described himself as a former ESL student and a Civil Rights Attorney. He said he believes that splitting the school is a terrible decision, and argued that the GATE program, “the way that students are selected right now is discriminatory.”

    He described the process involved for selection into the GATE program beginning with a test that is given to all students, “but if a teachers decides that some students have risk factors, for instance, if they’re from a lower socioeconomic status background, or if the student is an English as a Second Language, or if the student has a learning disability… they’re given a second test.”

    It is that second test that Mr. Ramirez objects to, arguing, “When that second test is administered what is actually done by the district, and this is unbelievable, is that they require the students with risk factors… to score higher than the students with non-risk factors. The system doesn’t work.”

    A student with a low-SES risk factors, he argued, have to score higher.[/quote]

    What is this all about? If there truly is a second test w a different set of standards for one group of students than another, it would be unconstitutional. Does anyone know anything about this little nugget of info?

  6. Ryan Kelly

    West Davis Elementary (K-4) and West Davis Intermediate (5 & 6) did very well for a whole generation of students in the 60’s and 70’s. The kids seemed to do well with it, even benefited from it. Children knew every child their age on the West side of town from Oak Avenue to Stonegate and established connections that lasted into Junior High, High School and beyond. I think that it would be a healthy change for South Davis. I don’t know what the Pioneer folks are afraid of.

  7. David M. Greenwald

    ” One has to wonder is this school split idea a solution in search of a problem? Am I missing something?”

    I think the initial problem was one of shoring up declining enrollment. The seems to be a secondary concern about the distribution of resources and the concentration services for at risk kids.

    I won’t pretend to know if this is the ideal solution. But as the one parent pointed out, both MME and PE are outliers in the district.

  8. Don Shor

    I disagree with the statement by Mr. Ramirez. In fact, GATE has a variety of means of re-testing students identified with various risk factors, and I can’t find any for which the re-test has a higher score requirement.
    [url]http://www.djusd.net/learn/gate/master-plan-section-2-identification[/url]

  9. wdf1

    ERM: I don’t think it has to do with GATE alone. GATE, SI, and Montessori are all elementary magnet programs. As the one poster that Greenwald references said, there is a lot of choice going on in the district, and it doesn’t result in even school populations. I agree with that. Every elementary school (and for that matter, every JH) except Patwin has some special “choice” program attached to it. GATE (Willett, Pioneer, NDE, Korematsu), Montessori (Birch Lane), SI (Chavez, MME). At the JH, Holmes & Harper have self-contained GATE. Emerson has something of a hybrid GATE program, but it seems that not many families know of it. Emerson also has the JH Da Vinci charter school housed at its campus.

  10. David M. Greenwald

    “There you go again, David. “

    Thank you Ronnie. There were a couple of comments that were pretty appalling and several that seem curious and apparently the written communications which I have not received yet are less guarded.

  11. Don Shor

    David: from the previous thread.
    There are 66 students going from MM to Pioneer.
    There are 63 students going from Pioneer to MM.
    [b]Of the 63 going from MM to Pioneer: 28 are white[/b], 5 are Asian, 3 are black, and 26 are Hispanic.
    [b]Of the 66 going from Pioneer to MM: 43 are white[/b], 9 are Asian, and 14 are Hispanic.

    What, I wonder, are those white families at Pioneer afraid of?

  12. Ryan Kelly

    GATE as designed in Davis is not a true GATE program. It is academic tracking, pure and simple. As it is designed now, roughly 1/3 of students in Davis qualify for GATE. With high-achieving students flooding into GATE programs and families treating it like a college prep program, students who are struggling and who would truly benefit from GATE services are crowded out or overwhelmed in the Davis GATE program.

  13. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]ERM: I don’t think it has to do with GATE alone. GATE, SI, and Montessori are all elementary magnet programs. As the one poster that Greenwald references said, there is a lot of choice going on in the district, and it doesn’t result in even school populations. I agree with that. Every elementary school (and for that matter, every JH) except Patwin has some special “choice” program attached to it. GATE (Willett, Pioneer, NDE, Korematsu), Montessori (Birch Lane), SI (Chavez, MME). At the JH, Holmes & Harper have self-contained GATE. Emerson has something of a hybrid GATE program, but it seems that not many families know of it. Emerson also has the JH Da Vinci charter school housed at its campus.[/quote]

    Seems to me, in one school district I was in, students could not pick schools unless there was a sufficient # of openings. Perhaps that is what has to be instituted here. Parents can express preferences but will not necessarily get what they want?

  14. Don Shor

    I think it means that people move their kids from one school to another for a wide variety of reasons.
    Because there is a magnet program.
    Because there is a sibling at another school.
    Because their child is bullied and needs a new environment.
    Because there is a perception of a failing school.
    And possibly, a very small number, because they are racists.
    For some reason, you choose to fixate on the last group.

  15. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]I think the initial problem was one of shoring up declining enrollment. The seems to be a secondary concern about the distribution of resources and the concentration services for at risk kids.

    I won’t pretend to know if this is the ideal solution. But as the one parent pointed out, both MME and PE are outliers in the district.[/quote]

    If this is really about shoring up declining enrollment, why not reconfigure school boundaries in such a way as to evenly distribute students?

  16. wdf1

    My wife attended the whole meeting to the very end. I only stayed for the first hour. She didn’t perceive many overtly racist comments. One person during public comment said something along the lines of “why don’t those EL parents go learn English better, then everything would be better for everyone.”

  17. Don Shor

    Excellent. So many or most of them are probably leaving MM in 4th grade. Thus wdf’s description of a gradually expanded SI program, first post on this thread, probably keeps a number of those students at MM, enhances diversity, and boosts enrollment.

  18. kristineg

    Yes, it would be great for SI to go all the way from K-6 at MM. And it seems to be the way the School Board is leaning. But this isn’t going to solve the problem with kids below grade level and the overburdened parents/teachers in the mainstream classes.

  19. Israel Ramirez

    @ Don Shor

    You can disagree with me all you like, but the fact is that AT-RISK students actually had to score HIGHER on the TONI-3 test, than similarly-situated NOT-AT-RISK students scored on the OLSAT to be placed in DJUSD’s GATE program.

    For example, if an at-risk student scored a 96 on the TONI-3 and a not-at-risk student also scored a 96 on the OLSAT, the not-at-risk student would automatically be ranked higher than the at-risk student. Therefore, the not-at-risk student would receive preference when it came to GATE placement over an at-risk student that scored at the exact same percentile.

    Last year, DJUSD GATE Program Coordinator, Deanne Quinn sent out a letter to parents of at-risk youth (ESL students, students with learning disabilities or Acultural or environmental hardships) explaining that “In order to comply with state and federal law, a second step in the process of universal testing of third graders includes a second round of screening.”

    Quinn explained that “DJUSD uses the Test of Nonverbal Intelligence, 3rd edition (TONI-3) for this step.”

    By essentially deducting one percentage point from all of the at-risk students who took the TONI-3, DJUSD placed another stumbling block in front of the very students they claim to be trying extra hard to help.

    Most conscientious school districts who use different tests to rank students convert the test scores into T-Scores so that both at-risk students and not-at-risk students can evaluated fairly, but DJUSD does not.

    That one point downgrade that is used to rank students who take the OLSAT higher than students who take the TONI-3 makes a HUGE difference when it comes whether or not students receive a position in GATE. And students are not given a choice as to what test to take, they are just given the TONI-3 as a matter of course.

    The truth is hidden in the mass of confusing verbage here:

    http://www.djusd.net/programs/gate/master plan section 2 identification

  20. Israel Ramirez

    Sorry about that, that link didn’t work…

    The language that I was talking about is here:

    [url]http://www.djusd.net/learn/gate/master-plan-section-2-identification/[/url]

    6. Program Placement

    “… Students qualifying on the basis of a single test score (TONI-3, Raven, etc.) will be placed below students qualifying with the Total and one Subtest Score.”

    ————

    The upshot is that an at-risk students who score a 96 (for example) on the TONI-3 test are ranked below not-at-risk students who score the exact same percentile on the OLSAT.
    ————

    Why is this done? No particular reason or rationale is given for this discriminatory policy that disproportionately affects at-risk students.

  21. Ryan Kelly

    [quote]That one point downgrade that is used to rank students who take the OLSAT higher than students who take the TONI-3 makes a HUGE difference when it comes whether or not students receive a position in GATE.[/quote]

    Does anyone else see that the testing process is not a process of identifying students who would receive benefit from a different method or process of instruction, but rather has turned into a competitive test that must be passed to gain a spot into what is considered a college prep program in the Davis school system?

  22. Don Shor

    @ Israel Ramirez: thanks for the explanation. I certainly didn’t glean that from the district link! Amazing that it would make such a difference. I wonder if Deanne Quinn could give an explanation. My son, long ago, was re-tested and it enabled his placement.
    On the other hand, perhaps if the GATE program was expanded and located at MM, it would all be moot.

    I’m not sure what you’re saying, Ryan. GATE has always required testing, there are several test options, and I don’t know how else you would identify who would benefit from it.

  23. Israel Ramirez

    I’d love to see the GATE program expanded and see it located at MM. MM loses tremendously when many of its most talented / highest scoring students, their siblings and their wonderful families, end up relocating to Pioneer for GATE.

    That sort of brain-drain policy is great for Pioneer, but terrible for MM.

  24. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]The upshot is that an at-risk students who score a 96 (for example) on the TONI-3 test are ranked below not-at-risk students who score the exact same percentile on the OLSAT.
    ————

    Why is this done? No particular reason or rationale is given for this discriminatory policy that disproportionately affects at-risk students.[/quote]

    If the situation is as you say it is, discriminatory, you can fight it…

  25. Mr.Toad

    When I learned about GATE in teaching school is that it was for kids in the 98th percentile and above, who, have trouble in the regular curriculum because of many factors associated with their cognitive abilities. In Davis, the schools have lowered the bar on this and made GATE a track for smart kids. In the real world true GATE kids have special needs. Well to do parents can afford to retest their kids over and over until they make the cut. This part of the process is protected by law but adds an economic advantage to families with the money and the desire to participate in GATE. So yes, the GATE program in Davis has evolved far from its intended purpose.

  26. Robin W

    You are missing the point with the GATE re-testing. All students in Davis are given the OLSAT by the school district and have the opportunity to qualify for the GATE progam through that test. Students whose score on the OLSAT indicates that they would benefit from a GATE education are not re-screened by the district.

    Disadvantaged students in the district whose OLSAT score is borderline (it does not indicate that they would benefit from a GATE education but it is close) are then offered the opportunity to be re-screened with a different test or a different testing modality, so they get a second chance to qualify. (Students who do not qualify based on the OLSAT but are not disadvantaged are not re-screened by the dsitrict. [i]Query: Is this discrimination?[/i])

    Some of these abilities tests, like the OLSAT, test verbal and non-verbal abilities separately and then also give a combined score. Other tests only test for either verbal abilities or non-verbal abilities. Students are considered more likely to benefit from our district’s GATE program if they have superior verbal and non-verbal abilities. Therefore, if a student qualifies through a test that only tests one of these kinds of abilities, they are ranked on the list just below students who received the same score on a test of both verbal and non-verbal abilities.

    I do not see how the opportunity afforded disadvantaged students to be tested by the district through two separate modalities can be perceived as discrimination against these students. Nor does it appear discriminatory to conclude that our district’s GATE program is most appropriate for children with superior verbal and non-verbal abilities, rather than those children who have only demonstrated superior abilities in one of those areas. Let’s keep in mind that the point here is affording each student the education that is most appropriate for him or her.

    Since the entire Davis GATE program, including the selection procedures, is reviewed by the State every few years, people should think twice before assuming any aspect of the program violates the law. If you see something that you believe is problematic, why not ask the appropriate administrator for an explanation before ranting about discrimination whenever education is the blog topic?

    I am so tired of parents blaming everything in the Davis school district on the GATE program.

  27. Robin W

    As for the South Davis problem, it appears that we have a racial segregation problem which canot lawfully be allowed to continue. Even more obviously, because of the low socioeconomic make-up of the Montgomery population, the non-SI students at Montgomery are receiving an education that is not equal to that received by the students at the other Davis elementary schools.

    The only way to rectify the situation is to mix the student populations in order to create more balance — whether this is done by mixing the Montgomery and Pioneer populations (e.g., by making one school K-3 and the other 4-6) or by shifting attendance boundaries again in order to involve more schools in the rebalancing. Either way, many people will be unhappy during the transition period, as they always are during any such change. Some will be very vocal about their unhappiness and the perceived unfairness of it all. But the children will survive the transition and the district will be healthier for everyone when the schools are rebalanced.

  28. Israel Ramirez

    @ Robin
    What makes you think the appropriate administrators haven’t been asked? Your convoluted rationale assumes all sorts of things not in evidence. The scientifically accepted way to compare standardized test scores when using different tests is to convert the tests to T-scores, not to arbitrarily rank one test lower than another based on the supposed importance of “verbal skills.” If verbal skills are the end all and be all when it comes to GATE, then it makes no sense use the TONI-3 to test at-risk ESL students in the first place, does it?

  29. Don Shor

    Robin: [i]As for the South Davis problem, it appears that we have a racial segregation problem which canot lawfully be allowed to continue. …
    The only way to rectify the situation is to mix the student populations in order to create more balance — whether this is done by mixing the Montgomery and Pioneer populations (e.g., by making one school K-3 and the other 4-6) or by shifting attendance boundaries again in order to involve more schools in the rebalancing. Either way, many people will be unhappy during the transition period, as they always are during any such change. Some will be very vocal about their unhappiness and the perceived unfairness of it all. But the children will survive the transition and the district will be healthier for everyone when the schools are rebalanced.”

    Wow, that’s a pretty cavalier statement. When the overwhelming majority of parents have expressed opposition, and the survey indicates that course of action likely would backfire and not achieve the intended consequences, why would you go forward with it? How will the district be “healthier” if parents seek intradistrict transfers, and send their kids to other elementary schools for various reasons? Would you then advocate shutting off the intradistrict transfers? What is your next course of action? And on what basis do you say that it is unlawful?

  30. Anne

    David, Your “moderator” comments quite a bit. Having not been @ the meeting he makes a lot of assumptions. The comments made by some parents were quite disturbing. It’s amazing how people choose to stick their head in the sand when the issue of race comes up. It is not a comfortable topic to discuss and people fail to check themselves. Thank you for daring to discuss the topic. The parent who told kids to only speak English at school should find a new place to take her narrow views. Her views hurt children. I hope an administrator addresses this.

  31. Anne

    Mr. Toad @ 9:52 PM, You are correct. Wealthy families in Davis can afford to pay for re-testing their kids until the desired outcome is achieved. This widens the socioeconomic and RACE gap further.

  32. Israel Ramirez

    @ anne

    For the record, the parent who told the kids to stop speaking Spanish at school was from MM..

    Are there any other comments that were made that you considered “quite disturbing?” because if there were, I must have missed them and I was there and I watched the replay on TV.

    As a whole, I was very proud of the way all the parents and teachers handled themselves at the meeting. Although this is an emotional issue and people had very different opinions as to how to fix these difficult problems, folks were respectful, thoughtful and sensitive. I loved the passion and the level of involvement and if we can’t put our heads together and solve issues like this in Davis, I doubt that any other place can.

    And I know that people keep talking about “segregation” and that the demographics at MM aren’t typical of Davis, but it is important to note that every student at MM has the right to go to any school in Davis. There have been ESL students at Pioneer who decide they want to transfer to MM and if they choose to do so, or if local residents decide they want to go to their neighborhood school, that choice needs to be respected.

  33. rusty49

    Israel Ramirez:

    “Are there any other comments that were made that you considered “quite disturbing?” because if there were, I must have missed them and I was there and I watched the replay on TV.”

    David, did you read this?

  34. rusty49

    “As a whole, I was very proud of the way all the parents and teachers handled themselves at the meeting. Although this is an emotional issue and people had very different opinions as to how to fix these difficult problems, folks were respectful, thoughtful and sensitive.”

    And this?

  35. David M. Greenwald

    Yes, it was very clear most people were trying to be careful with how they said things at the meeting – however, my understanding is that the emails were less guarded. I have received them yet from the district.

  36. rusty49

    Yes, it was very clear most people were trying to be careful with how they said things at the meeting – however, my understanding is that the emails were less guarded. I have received them yet from the district.

    Oh, so it couldn’t be that these affluent white South Davis parents were just respectful, thoughtful and sensitive parents but they were careful and guarded with what they said at the meeting and deep down there is underlying racism?

  37. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Some of these abilities tests, like the OLSAT, test verbal and non-verbal abilities separately and then also give a combined score. Other tests only test for either verbal abilities or non-verbal abilities. Students are considered more likely to benefit from our district’s GATE program if they have superior verbal and non-verbal abilities. Therefore, if a student qualifies through a test that only tests one of these kinds of abilities, they are ranked on the list just below students who received the same score on a test of both verbal and non-verbal abilities. [/quote]

    I’m not following here. If the school district in any way uses different tests or ways to score students solely BASED ON their economic/ethnic background, that is discriminatory and I would say constitutionally impermissable…

    Secondly, the business about allowing re-testing so that wealthier parents can “prep” their kids is also troubling for a public school system. Something like this belongs in a private school system, not a public school system…

  38. Israel Ramirez

    I think that you should publish the comments word-for-word and let people decide for themselves if they are racist or offensive. I’m against speculating, especially when that speculation is based entirely on hearsay.

  39. Israel Ramirez

    Someone who is ESL or has a learning disability or is deaf or otherwise disabled can be gifted and a test that focuses on verbal skills won’t pick up on that fact, so you have to administer a different test.

    There are ways of comparing different tests. Punishing at-risk students by arbitrarily ranking the re-test that you decide to give them lower than the verbal-focused test discriminates against those at-risk students.

  40. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]There are ways of comparing different tests. Punishing at-risk students by arbitrarily ranking the re-test that you decide to give them lower than the verbal-focused test discriminates against those at-risk students.[/quote]

    Why is the school using a different retest for at-risk students than it uses for non-at-risk students? (And how does the school determine who is an “at-risk” student?) Why not administer the exact same retest to all students? Am I missing something?

  41. Israel Ramirez

    The reason they are using a different test is because the second test is supposed to be more neutral when it comes to testing students with language / cultural issues, etc.

  42. Israel Ramirez

    Teachers and / or administrators can determine who is “at-risk” based on a list of language, environment, cultural factors, etc. They can request a re-test if they feel that the student’s first test results did not accurately reflect their abilities for some reason.

  43. Dr. Wu

    I don’t understand the hostility to GATE. Perhpas allowing students to retake the test over and over is poor practice but the principle of allowing bright kids to learn at a faster pace makes sense to me and not all of this can be accomplished in a traditional classroom.

    Should we also ban advanced placement classes in High School? I am sure the MerryHill school would love it if Davis eliminated GATE–more business for them.

  44. Israel Ramirez

    I have nothing against GATE, I think it’s a wonderful program. I believe it should be expanded.

    I do have a problem with two aspects of it 1) the system that forces students to relocate in order to participate 2) The policies that arbitrarily rank the TONI-3 test scores of at-risk students lower than the OLSAT scores of not-at risk students.

    People have been coming up to me and asking me to explain what I’m talking about because it’s confusing, so I’ll take another crack at explaining it using a hypothetical.

    Jose very bright but he’s an at-risk student. Let’s say he is ESL and is a foster child who has a learning disability. His teacher thinks that he should be in GATE. Jose takes the OLSAT and he scores 90% which is a good score but technically not high enough to qualify for GATE. Due to his risk factors, Jose’s teacher recommends that he be re-tested. He is given the TONI-3 because that is the test the district has decided to give at-risk students. He is given the TONI-3 and this time he gets 96%.

    Johnny is also very bright but he is from an affluent background and has no risk factors. He takes the OLSAT ther first time and gets a 90%. His parents are affluent enough that they have him tutored and they hire a psychologist to re-test him. Johnny gets a 96% on the OLSAT the second time he takes it.

    There is one seat left in the GATE program. Guess who gets it?

    Johnny gets it because Johnny’s 96% is automatically ranked above Jose’s 96%. In order for at-risk Jose to get that seat the would have had to score 97%.

    Jose has already overcome so much to get to that point that putting yet another stumbling block in front of him makes no sense. I think that forcing Jose to score higher than Johnny to get that seat in GATE is unfair and discriminatory.

    I hope that clears things up.

  45. wdf1

    Op-ed piece by DJUSD/DHS alum, Alonzo Campos, in the Davis Enterprise — link ([url]http://www.davisenterprise.com/opinion/opinion-columns/fear-and-learning-in-davis-schools/[/url]) — that touches on some of the issues here.

  46. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Johnny gets it because Johnny’s 96% is automatically ranked above Jose’s 96%. In order for at-risk Jose to get that seat the would have had to score 97%. [/quote]

    But it doesn’t explain why Jose must score higher than Johnny on the second test…

  47. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]I don’t understand the hostility to GATE. Perhpas allowing students to retake the test over and over is poor practice but the principle of allowing bright kids to learn at a faster pace makes sense to me and not all of this can be accomplished in a traditional classroom.

    Should we also ban advanced placement classes in High School? I am sure the MerryHill school would love it if Davis eliminated GATE–more business for them.[/quote]

    GATE is just an expensive form of ability grouping, which is done all the time. The problem in this case is that an entire expensive program is built around it, in which at first blush it appears to be discriminatory in its application process.

  48. Israel Ramirez

    @ Musser

    There is no legitimate rationale or explanation as to why Jose has to score higher on the second test to get a slot in the GATE program. The way the policy is set up discriminates against at-risk students. That’s the problem.

  49. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]@ Musser

    There is no legitimate rationale or explanation as to why Jose has to score higher on the second test to get a slot in the GATE program. The way the policy is set up discriminates against at-risk students. That’s the problem.[/quote]

    As I said before, if access to the GATE program is truly discriminatory, you can fight it…

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