School Board Candidate Question #4: GATE/ AIM

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gateQuestion #4: Have you been involved in the GATE/AIM Committee Meetings? If so, what has been your involvement? How do you view the current state of the GATE/AIM program, and what would be your interest in a future direction? Finally, how will you be able to balance the needs of the great majority of students that are not in the GATE/AIM program with that for GATE/AIM students?


Tom Adams: I have not been involved in the GATE/AIM Committee meeting. The needs of GATE/AIM-identified students can be balanced with the needs of the majority of students by improving program design and through the better use of existing resources. The Davis program should be evaluated for whether it is using current best practices, and the California Association for the Gifted would be the first place to seek information about best practices. More importantly, the AIM program should be an innovative program that is an exemplar. As I stated in the Vanguard’s Forum, my educational philosophy is summed up in the idea of universal design for learning. The district needs to shape its programs to meeting the needs of all students, including GATE/AIM-identified student.


Barbara Archer: I have not been involved in the GATE/AIM district advisory committee meetings. When I was a member of the Willett Site Council, we had a rep who reported back to the group from that meeting, and we discussed school climate issues related to the program.

Being part of a campus with a GATE/AIM track for 10 years allowed me to hear about the many perspectives on GATE/AIM from parents, teachers and students. I have also talked with many community members during the campaign – people with kids in the program, people with kids not in the program, people whose kids were in the program 20 years ago and middle-aged Davisites who were in the precursor to GATE/AIM – Mentally Gifted Minors.

Some parents believe that self-contained classes of AIM-identified students are the best way to educate their students. Some parents who have kids in the program are not wedded to the idea of the self-contained model. Some parents have AIM-identified kids and choose to do the neighborhood program because they do not agree with the self-contained model. Some parents believe that we must put equal resources toward all needs – GATE/AIM, high achieving, learning disabled, and students who struggle with academics to name a few groups. Some parents believe that the self-contained model is out-moded, and we should look into more current models for serving AIM-identified students.

What I believe is that that we owe it to our students to learn what other districts are doing to serve students working above grade level including examining current best practices and the advantages or disadvantages offered by flexible ability groupings. We must look at educational research and district data and consult with education experts to see if we are serving our students the best way we can. This has been a difficult community conversation, and my hope is that we can bring all parties to the table to discuss the future program direction.

Regarding balancing needs of all our students, I think it would best serve our students to make sure that all children have an enriching education regardless of ability level.


Chuck Rairdan: I have not. I think the current state of the GATE/AIM program is a reflection of the strong interest in Davis toward having effective forms of differentiated instruction in our schools based on the range of learning styles and aptitudes in our student population. Some students are truly in need of an alternative instructional method while the vast majority of students are somewhere along of spectrum of needs and learning styles according to their individual attributes. From a holistic standpoint, it’s about ensuring that appropriate learning opportunities are available to all students to help each reach his or her full potential. One size does not fit all.

It is one thing to talk about differentiated instruction and quite another to implement it in a way that is effective and sustainable. There is a considerable up-front investment in teacher training and materials to establish a working foundation for differentiation and includes smaller classroom sizes. These and other factors must be in place for teachers to successfully manage the diversity of learning styles in the actual practice of differentiated instruction. Some students excel in particular areas, such as math, and programs that nurture these unique aptitudes should be available and accessible to all students. In order to reduce the pressure and desire to have one’s child enrolled in GATE/AIM, the educational options that fully develop individual abilities need to be employed and made more widely available.

The wise use of technology is one of the ways that a menu of educational options can be made available to students regardless of where they are enrolled and provides flexibility in course scheduling. If the community is going to move forward in a constructive manner on this question, I think it is imperative that we move away from the emotionally charged rhetoric that has characterized these discussions in the past, and start viewing GATE/AIM as one of several options that needs to be integrated and balanced within the full range student needs and as one of a whole suite of educational programs in our schools. We must also be willing to do the planning and make the investments that will configure Davis schools in ways that support true differentiated instruction. Doing so, I believe, will help make DJUSD a future leader and innovator in public education.


Mike Nolan: While I have one child who qualified for the Gifted & Talented Program (as identified in the Education Code), I have not been involved in any GATE/AIM Advisory Committees.  From the report of the Program Director to the School Board earlier this year, it seems that the GATE/AIM community has seen open conflict between three groups. One group feels that any discussion about the program is an effort to all but eliminate the program;  another group thinks that the program should address all qualified students, not only the ones in the current program, and a third group feels that the program is not working as it should and should be thoroughly revised. As it is, the new GATE/AIM Master Plan is pending before the Board.

One issue facing the current program is that the parents or guardians of a student who otherwise qualifies in elementary school has only a “take it or leave it” option.  They may seek placement in the differentiated classroom, or they may not.  A more elastic program would offer services for those who do not wish the separate program experience, but who deserve some sort of extra attention.

But a more fundamental issue is that by setting aside specific classrooms for the Program, a need is created to fill those classrooms.  In order to do this, the number of “qualified” students must always exceed the space for them in the classroom.  The danger is that this may lead to instruction that is less focused on the exceptionally gifted or talented students, but on those highly motivated but less exceptional students.

A young Albert Einstein would certainly have qualified for the Program, but would he have benefited from it?  Remember that Einstein said that the best job he ever had was that of a humble Patent Office clerk. It paid the rent, put food on the table, and allowed him the freedom to think in a creative way.

Finally, while the Program is a component of our public school system, it is a mistake to think of it, or any other program, as pre-eminent.  The California Constitution only authorizes the establishment of “Common Schools”, i.e. “common” in the sense of “community”.  The balance of resources must always tilt in favor of the many, and not the few.


Bob Poppenga: I have not been involved in AIM Advisory Committee meetings.

The terms “gifted” and “talented” are embedded in educational legislation that California enacted almost 35 years ago. Personally, I don’t like those terms applied, officially or unofficially, to a particular subset of children. I prefer an alternative term such as AIM because I believe that every child has his or her own unique gifts and talents. I also firmly believe that every effort needs to be made to provide a suitable learning environment for each child. Our District has a long history of program choice (e.g., Da Vinci, Spanish Immersion/Dual Spanish Immersion, Montessori, AIM) and such choices provide options for parents and children to select programs best suited to their needs.   Along with choice comes an obligation on the part of the District to make every parent aware of available programs and to help facilitate the participation of all children in those programs.   In my own family, I see very disparate needs between one child who is AIM-identified and another child who joined our family as a 10 year-old English language learner and who not only needed to learn a completely new language, but also needed to catch up academically.   Every multiple-child household understands that siblings are commonly very different in terms of their aptitudes and educational needs. The challenge is to provide an appropriate learning environment for the full range of those needs.   However, public education should not be a zero sum game wherein the needs of one group of children are curtailed due to the legitimate needs of another group of students. Educational opportunities that nurture and challenge every child should be the mantra of our public education system.

It is crucial for intellectually advanced students to interact with their peers for a significant portion of the school day to meet their social and emotional needs and to engage them in a rigorous, active learning process.   There is a substantial body of evidence to support this. Some estimates are that 20% or fewer of those children identified as intellectually advanced are adequately challenged in school.

Some thoughts specific to our District’s AIM program:

  • State law requires that all students be assessed for high intellectual abilities in Districts providing a GATE (AIM) program. It is critical that the identification strategies used are reliable and valid for the abilities they are expected to measure. Appropriate and rigorous methods of identification are needed to identify underserved student populations (e.g., children living in poverty or those with physical or learning disabilities). Currently, the District devotes significant effort to identifying underserved student populations. However, the District needs to constantly review the suitability of their identification tools and use the best tools available.
  • We have a large group of AIM-identified students, but this is not unusual in a highly educated city such as Davis. One area worth discussion and possible fine-tuning is where to set the percentile cut-off for inclusion in the AIM program based upon test scores. Admitting students into AIM who score within the top 2% nationally is appropriate and would eliminate the need for a lottery (as is currently used in the District) to place students.
  • True differentiated learning should occur within every classroom. There are many identified students who opt out of AIM and there are other high performing students whose needs can’t ignored. All students deserve an appropriately challenging learning environment.   Consideration of an academically rigorous curriculum (e.g., International Baccalaureate program) could be explored in order to provide a challenging curriculum that is open to everyone.   The San Diego School District is an example of a district in which 98th to 99th percentile students are placed into self-contained “academies” with true cluster grouping and differentiated instruction occurring in other classrooms.
  • The District’s current AIM program does not require or provide significantly different resources compared to non-AIM classrooms.
  • There should be opportunities for all students to interact and learn from each other throughout the school day while at the same time permitting AIM-identified students to spend a significant portion of the school day with their peer group.
  • There should be opportunities for entry into the program at any time for identified students. Placement into the AIM program should be based on need rather than on a predetermined number of students who can be placed.
  • Teachers need to be adequately trained to recognize students with high intellectual capacities and to understand their unique learning needs so that appropriate classroom instruction takes place.

Program decisions should be based upon solid scientific research whenever possible. In the absence of solid evidence, program modification or replacement should be piloted first and evaluated for effectiveness prior to wider implementation. There needs to be an open and transparent process to seek input prior to the implementation of any changes.


Madhavi Sunder:  All children should thrive in school, learning to their full potential. I think all children are “gifted” and that all of them are gifts. I do not like the language of “gifted and talented” education, which comes from the state, and support the changed name of our Davis program to AIM (Alternative Instructional Model).

The AIM program is a means that the DJUSD has used since at least the 1980s to serve some of the children who are not being challenged adequately in the regular study. In fact, challenging students at their level is the very essence of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s suggestion that we should promote a growth, not a fixed, mindset. Placing a child in a classroom where the work comes easily relative to one’s peers only confirms the child’s view that his or her success is natural, confirming a fixed mindset. We want each of the children in our schools to be challenged so that they will ultimately grow.

I have participated in the district’s AIM advisory committee meetings. There and in countless conversations with members of the community, I have heard concerns about AIM. There are concerns about the size of the program, stigma placed on children not in the program, the lottery, private testing, and the all-or-nothing option that seems to exist, because our regular-ed programs do not offer consistent or adequate differentiation to meet the needs of AIM learners in their classrooms.

We ought to have more effective ways of meeting the needs of diverse learners in the regular classroom. We need to keep class sizes small and provide professional development to teachers in differentiated instruction. We may consider coordinating schedules so math and/or language arts would be taught at the same time, allowing for clustering within a grade. For some children a self-contained model may still fit best; but offering viable alternatives to kids and families will likely lead to a smaller self-contained program, which in turn may mitigate some issues of stigma. It is also time to reconsider the score cutoffs for the program and the controversial lottery. Private testing must be made available to families on a need basis (contrary to popular conception, under current rules a child can only take one private test, not multiple).

I am open to thoughtful changes to the program that are piloted and well tested.

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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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67 thoughts on “School Board Candidate Question #4: GATE/ AIM”

  1. ryankelly

    Sunder seems to be the only candidate that has participated in GATE/AIM meetings.  Her suggestions are unlikely to be implemented – small classrooms, extensive teacher education, team teaching of math and language arts amongst teachers of the same grade, so that students can be offered differentiated instruction in the regular program.  I find it alarming that she supports the program as it exists, but suggest changes in the regular program to “mitigate some issues of stigma” (her words) for those students.  I suspect that much of Sunder’s support comes from GATE/AIM families, plus her professional connections.

    You can now attack me for voicing my concerns about this candidate.  I understand that it is unpopular to not support her, but I am not alone in my concerns.

    1. Davis Progressive

      speaking for myself, i don’t have a problem with people voicing concerns about anyone.  my problem was that your comments seemed veiled and non-specific.  this is at least articulated rather than innuendo.  i don’t know if i agree, but i don’t have an issue with you doing so.

    2. DavisVoter

      Isn’t the District pursuing differentiated instruction in the regular program already? If so, the idea doesn’t seem as far-fetched as “ryankelly” suggests, and perhaps his/her “alarm” is unnecessary.

      That would be great, because I certainly don’t want anyone feeling attacked or alarmed.

      1. ryankelly

        Differentiated instruction is to benefit students who have fallen behind as well as students who are ready to move ahead in the material.  This kind of classroom management should be happening in all classes, including GATE/AIM.   We want more of that, but not as a way to mitigate for the stigma associated with being in a regular (aka non-GATE/AIM) classroom.

        1. DavisVoter

          Madhavi said that differentiated instruction might make fewer GATE/AIM-identified students opt into self-contained GATE/AIM.  You then said that differentiated instruction wouldn’t happen.  You now seem to agree that the District is in fact moving toward differentiated instruction right now.

          So what’s your problem with Madhavi’s statement again?

          If you want to make a straightforward argument that we need to destroy self-contained GATE/AIM because students who are not selected are stigmatized, feel free.  None of the candidates will publicly admit to holding that position, so the argument doesn’t actually seem relevant to the election at this time, but I wouldn’t want you to feel attacked, alarmed, or constrained from making any argument you want.

           

  2. Davis Progressive

    archer’s answer is curious.  she goes through a litany of what some people think.  then she gets to what she thinks, “What I believe is that that we owe it to our students to learn what other districts are doing to serve students working above grade level including examining current best practices and the advantages or disadvantages offered by flexible ability groupings. ”  

    so (a) she never really answers the question as to whether she supports or opposes AIM

    (b) it seems strange that davis would want to look at what other districts are doing, when we’re higher achieving than most

    (c) we have a large group of high achieving students that other districts lack

    (d) we have a quirky gate/ aim system with weird rules

    me thinks barbara archer is holding back here and would prefer to get her real opinion rather than find it out later.

    1. ryankelly

      I agree that we should be asking candidates these harder questions on where they stand on issues now, rather than finding out later.  I suggest emailing her directly, as it is very difficult to talk to the candidates at the events that they hold or at the farmers market – too many gushing supporters with not enough room/time to really question them.

  3. DavisVoter

    It hardly needs to be said at this point, but Adams’ response has little comprehensible content.

    “Best practices”?  “[A]n innovative program that is an exemplar”?

    Is there a candidate who wants GATE/AIM to use worst practices and be a hidebound, retrograde program that is an exemplar of failure?

    I think he wants to dismantle GATE/AIM, but I really can’t tell.

    1. wdf1

      DavisVoter:  I think he wants to dismantle GATE/AIM, but I really can’t tell.

      That’s a big accusation bordering on hyperbole.  I’ve always perceived that there is widespread acknowledgement of the need for GATE/AIM in this district.  I’ve understood the argument to be between how much self-contained GATE/AIM to have vs. how much integrated GATE/AIM, connected to differentiated instruction.

    2. ryankelly

      I think GATE/AIM is a bigger issue than the campaigns are addressing.   I do believe that many people are voting for candidates based on how they think that the candidates view this program.   I have asked Tom Adams direct questions about GATE/AIM and he definitely is not wanting to dismantle the program.  He thinks it should be a better program – innovative.

      The biggest issue facing the District is financial, but the biggest issue facing a third of our families is GATE/AIM.  However, until now this has been downplayed by all campaigns and the press.

    3. DavisVoter

      These comments from wdf1 and the “ryankelly” only highlight the lack of clarity and substance in the Adams/Archer responses.  I’m not comfortable relying on the assurances of anonymous (or in the case of “ryankelly,” possibly pseudonymous) Internet commenters about these candidates’ intentions.

      1. ryankelly

        Really, DavisVoter?  I suspect that you don’t want to hear what anyone has to say.  I feel that this has been a productive conversation here – a real dialogue with no attacks – and then you launch.

        If you feel uncomfortable discussing this here, I suggest you contact each of these candidates – like I did – and get them to clarify their intentions.

      2. DavisVoter

        I want the candidates to state their own positions and intentions and not speak in a weird code about “best practices” and unspecified “innovation.”  If  Archer and Adams believe what you apparently believe, that self-contained GATE/AIM has to be dismantled, let them come out and say it.

        1. Don Shor

          Barbara Archer publicly supported the PAGE group, and signed the change.org petition about GATE. http://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/community-group-seeks-change-in-gate-program/
          There is no question that PAGE sought to dismantle the existing GATE program.

          Its organizational mission is to encourage the district to move toward a policy of placing the vast majority of students, including those who have been identified as “intellectually gifted,” in heterogeneous classrooms in their neighborhood/home elementary schools, and of reducing the prevalence of segregated classes in junior high school based on students’ GATE identification, she [Karen Hamilton] said.

          If Archer no longer supports that goal, she should say so publicly. If she didn’t mean to support that goal, in spite of commenting on the Enterprise on their behalf and signing the petition, she should explain that.
          Otherwise, as it presently stands, a vote for Barbara Archer is a vote against the existing AIM/GATE program.

        2. Napoleon Pig IV

          Why anyone thinks that specialized programs are a threat to those not participating (although sports always seem to get a pass) is a mystery to me. But, that might be because I’m just a dumb animal who sees things without being distracted by the smoke and mirrors of the politically savvy porcine propagandists.

          Strip away the smoke, and it appears to me that Archer is not only a puppet for Lovenberg, she is also a supporter of the Porcine’s Against Good Education group, sometimes referred to as PAGE. I think this is easy to discover with a little digging through past records, but not likely to come out into the light of day unless too many sheep are too complacent to make sure we all “move on. . .” If that sad day comes, I suppose we’ll have the school board we deserve. Oink!

  4. Frankly

    A friend of mine posed a good question that I agree with:

    Since 70%-75% of our children are not enrolled in GATE/AIM programs, it would be interesting and encouraging to hear the candidates’ views about the efficacy of our mainstream classroom experience for our non-GATE/AIM student sub-population.

    From what I have observed, over the years, the District has not been objectively focused on the academic performance of our super-majority of enrollees as a discrete category.  It seems like a fair question, given that many districts have no more than a 5%-9% enrollment in GATE programs, (or in the case of Palo Alto there is no longer any GATE program).

    How do our college-bound, non-GATE/AIM graduates stack up on statewide tests versus our peer communities?

    1. wdf1

      I don’t believe that standardized test data is broken down by students who are in GATE and who aren’t.  Besides, if you use standardized test scores to decide success, it only tells you who’s good at taking standardized tests.  What might be more interesting is where students end up after graduating from high school.

      1. sodnod

        This is a bit off-topic, but I would really like to see some follow up data on our students who take vocational ed classes in high school, choose not to go to college or are our otherwise at-risk students.

        How/what are they doing after Highschool? Is the education and life preparation our schools are giving them serving them well or could we be doing a better job? We focus resources toward our at-risk youth (rightfully so), but are we going about it the right way? It’s got to be tough to head out into the work world straight after high school, so it’s important we prepare them as well as we can for the “real” world.

      2. MrsW

        What might be more interesting is where students end up after graduating from high school

        Another metric that would be interesting–  how many students who graduate from Public School exercise their right to vote at 18?   How many feel prepared to do so?  I think this would be the important metric for an institution that touches almost all Americans and is paid for by and entrusted with training citizens.

         

        1. wdf1

          Voting: There are voter roles that list registration by age.  But they don’t list voters by whether they graduated from public or private high school.

          Graduation/future plans: There is also some data that shows the % of DHS students who go to college (92%), but it isn’t broken down by GATE/non-GATE status.  It is broken down by race/ethnicity, ELL status, and SES.

          Internally DHS runs a survey of what plans graduating seniors have.  See the bottom of the page, here.

  5. DavisVoter

    Bob Poppenga states, “The District’s current AIM program does not require or provide significantly different resources compared to non-AIM classrooms.”

    Barbara Archer tells us, “Some parents believe that we must put equal resources toward all needs – GATE/AIM, high achieving, learning disabled, and students who struggle with academics to name a few groups.”  The suggestion seems to be that GATE/AIM classes consume more resources than regular classrooms.

    I believe the objective evidence supports Bob Poppenga’s position, not the position that Barbara Archer reports that “some parents” hold.  Does anyone have answers here?

    If “parents” come up to Archer and say, “I don’t want all that extra money going to GATE/AIM classrooms anymore,” does Archer explain to these parents that the “extra money” is like $11/student, if that?  Or does she just dutifully write down their mistaken beliefs and transmit them to us without comment here on the Vanguard?  Isn’t Archer’s big selling point supposed to be budget knowledge?

    Even if GATE/AIM does consume extra money, which I don’t believe to be the case, shouldn’t Archer know whether this is correct and report her own knowledge rather than what “some parents” supposedly told her?

    1. ryankelly

      It is not about the money, DavisVoter.  If it was, it would be simple.

      It is about the stigma in this town of not being accepted into the AIM program.   How many parents in Davis find themselves obligated to explain why their child is not in the GATE/AIM program?   How many parents of GATE/AIM students are paying for private tutoring to help their students stay up with their math studies?  How many parents are completing homework assignments for their GATE/AIM identified students in order for them to keep up, because the alternate of leaving the program is unthinkable – a failure?  What policies or  lack of program does the District have that prevents students from leaving the GATE/AIM program and still receive differentiated instruction that they are entitled to in the areas that they excel in?  What are the climate issues on campuses that are caused by the separation of 1/3 of the students into GATE/AIM and who stay together year after year in sort of a members only club?

      1. MrsW

        It is about the stigma in this town of not being accepted into the AIM program. 

        I have been concerned about the social fall-out of the program from a slightly different perspective.  I have no issues with the idea of a pull-out AIM program per se.  I have an implementation issue however, with what happens next at each school.  I think our students need help processing the various sortings that DJUSD imposes upon them.  Particularly since this first sorting, at 8 or 9 years old, looks like a racial cultural sorting and/or a smart/dumb sorting.   Say “learning style’ to most third graders and they’ll give you a puzzled look.  Children need help with their self-talk and interactions. Though some children will come home and talk to their parents about it, many will not.  In my opinion, the program’s implementation is incomplete without actively addressing the social dynamic.

    2. DavisVoter

      You make some legitimate and cogent points here, although I am not sure of the factual basis of all your assertions.  I believe there are probably also legitimate and cogent points on the other side of this question.  Perhaps someone who is more deeply immersed and invested in this set of issues than I am will step in.

      All I am saying is that if GATE/AIM doesn’t consume extra resources and Barbara Archer knows that, then her statement seems to come dangerously close to being deliberately misleading.  Perhaps she can explain her statement in more detail.

      1. wdf1

        DavisVoter:  All I am saying is that if GATE/AIM doesn’t consume extra resources and Barbara Archer knows that, then her statement seems to come dangerously close to being deliberately misleading.

        When there is a paid administrative GATE/AIM coordinator, it gives the perception that there are extra resources available to the program.

        1. MrsW

          I would like to add that at each AIM meeting this past y ear, there were three Administrators:  Deanne Quinn, Matt Best, and Dr. Clark Bryant.  That is administrative attention that was NOT being applied to the myriad of other issues that affect all students.  That is the way resources are distributed unequally at DJUSD.  The time spent by counselors, administrators, teachers and staff on the various student subgroups .

          1. Don Shor

            As far as I know, Deanne Quinn is the only administrator specific to AIM. There are also administrative level staff dedicated as/for school climate coordinators (2), Special Ed, English learners, Crisis Guidance managers (2), IT coordinator, etc. http://www.djusd.net/leaders
            AIM doesn’t get undue resources when you consider the large number of students in the program.

  6. wdf1

    I would like to have seen any candidate address how to make the program more available to Latino families.   Just over 4% of Latino students participate in GATE/AIM, whereas as about 15% make up the school district population.  Source

    1. sodnod

      Interesting statistics. The Hispanic students make up ~15% of district population but only 5% of the population who take either the SAT or ACT. You mentioned the need for translation of district materials into Spanish in an earlier discussion about AIM. I’m assuming that ACT/SAT testing information from the district is already translated into Spanish (as I’m pretty sure the AIM materials are as well). That would suggest the difference in participation is due factors other than document translation. I believe AIM identification is roughly proportional to the Hispanic student population, so the lower level of participation in AIM is not due to biased identification of these students that limits their access to the program.

      I’d wager that Davis has lower participation of Hispanic students in essentially all of our local school and extracurricular options at a much lower level compared to other minority populations – I don’t think that trend is limited to AIM. How many Hispanic students enroll in Montessori? Da Vinci? Our strings orchestra program? It would be interesting to know why – whether it’s due to financial issues, need to  transportation, language barrier, cultural values, etc. Before we jump to conclusions about limited access, racial bias, etc., we should make an effort to examine the reasons behind these numbers.

      1. wdf1

        sodnod:  I’d wager that Davis has lower participation of Hispanic students in essentially all of our local school and extracurricular options at a much lower level compared to other minority populations – I don’t think that trend is limited to AIM. 

        Davis Excel ran a survey to show that Montessori and Da Vinci had under-representation of Latino students.  They also made the case that Latino students were GATE-identified at a proportion equivalent to the district population.

        The civil rites data sets also show GATE data for individual school campuses.  For instance, the Latino GATE differential is even greater at Harper.  To me that indicates a likelihood that the under-representation of Latino students is more strongly correlated with lower income status and more parents who don’t have strong English speaking ability, because the Harper attendance area includes those neighborhoods.

        I would also bet that Latino students are under-represented in music, athletics.  But the point isn’t to excuse the AIM/GATE program because it happens elsewhere.  The point is coming up with solutions to address it.  What GATE/AIM, Montessori, Da Vinci, athletics, and music all have in common is that they are “choice” programs.  They are not compulsory to participate, but it seems like not all the information is reaching certain populations, and that there maybe barriers to participation.

        1. MrsW

          I’m not confident that lack of information is the the main reason that Latino parents are not enrolling their children in the various programs.  I think its wanting your child to feel culturally comfortable and not different from the majority of his classmates.  Ironically, in some districts that’s a reason for having a GATE program–so a child can feel socially comfortable and not different from the majority of his classmates.

        2. wdf1

          MrsW: I’m not confident that lack of information is the the main reason that Latino parents are not enrolling their children in the various programs.

          I think lack of enough information is a very big factor, though not the only one.  Parents universally want their kids to succeed — have a good education, get a job.  Many lower income Latino parents are first generation immigrants with almost no prior knowledge of how the American education system works.  On top of that there is a language barrier.

          For you and for many other parents, you read up on various education options in the district, chat with other parents, what experiences others have had, call up district staff for questions, and build a concept how one program or another might be appropriate (or not) for your child.  This experience doesn’t happen in that way for lower income immigrant Latino families. They have access to a much narrower range of information, or maybe don’t get any information at all.

          At best, the district will hand a flyer in Spanish to Spanish speaking parents and think that they have fulfilled their obligation.  But I’m not the kind of parent that would usually sign up my kids for programs based solely upon information in a flyer.  I would ask other parents in the program what they think, what to expect.  Spanish speaking parents (who don’t speak English well) would appreciate having more available staff who could speak Spanish and address questions that such parents may have. Also, many Spanish speaking parents can read, but literacy rates in this population are not as high as they are for a majority of Davis parents.

          I think its wanting your child to feel culturally comfortable and not different from the majority of his classmates.  

          I would be careful about using that justification.  I agree that this is a factor, and maybe self-contained GATE could be appropriate at times to address that very issue.  But what you present here is more of a school climate issue, and  there should be broader strategies used to improve climate beyond self-contained GATE.

          Imagine if I had a high school age student who was gay and then I started arguing for having self-contained classes for gay students so that they would feel comfortable and not different from the majority of other classmates?  That doesn’t seem like the right strategy, because the larger society doesn’t quite work that way.  A lesser articulated objective of education is teaching students how to work together and interact, regardless of background.

        3. MrsW

          That doesn’t seem like the right strategy, because the larger society doesn’t quite work that way.  A lesser articulated objective of education is teaching students how to work together and interact, regardless of background.

          Exactly.  Not a justification. A reason. I think school climate is the problem that needs addressing.  Parents are given the option to segregate their children and they are.  I predict that a school climate that values multi-cultural ism instead of separate-but-equal, would lead to more inclusive programs.

  7. popsicle

    I agree with Don’s comment. In addition to what Don listed, last year Archer stated the AIM program should not exist in our district (see below). Why did she submit this wishy-washy response to the Vanguard, when she has given multiple public statements in the last year (prior to declaring her candidacy) saying she is opposed to AIM? If her feelings toward AIM have changed in the past year since her comments, she should explain how/why and what her current views are. Otherwise, how can we trust what she says? And if she stands by her prior comments and wants to get rid of the AIM program, she should be forthright with the public and explain how she will ensure that the educational needs of these students are met.

    She declares herself an expert on the program and budget, but I see several factual errors with what she’s stating re: the AIM program (class sizes, testing procedures, qualification criteria, financial costs of the program, etc.), but even when confronted by others’ comments, she stubbornly refused to acknowledge her factual errors or considers others’ points.

    Comments to a letter to the editor in the Davis Enterprise on June 28, 2013 http://www.davisenterprise.com/forum/letters/schools-need-to-adjust-aim/ (link to comments only works on an iPhone – so I typed excerpts of them below)

    Barbara Archer June 28, 2013 – 6:43 am:

    “A program with private testing that takes away resources that could be used for the greater good has no place in a public school district.” She then stated, “Students in this program have lower class sizes (capped at 32) – that’s what I’d call a resource.”

    To my knowledge, the AIM program has the same class size cap as every other class, and in fact usually has larger class sizes. One reason this happens is that the AIM class lists are formed in the spring when the district uses its largest estimates of class sizes (prior to any downward adjustment of class sizes that typically takes place during the summer). Also, with a waiting list for the program, any vacancies are usually quickly filled.

    When others pointed out her errors regarding AIM, she responded:

    “I have not spread distortions or falsehoods. In fact, I have studied the program quite rigorously, was a parent in the program at one point and stand by my comments. I am a former PTA president and have spent literally hundreds of hours on an elementary campus observing the dynamics of a school with a GATE track… Just because my opinion differs from yours doesn’t make it a distortion.”

     

    1. Napoleon Pig IV

      “Otherwise, how can we trust what she says?”

      It’s always a bad idea to trust a propagandist no matter what she says.

      It’s good to see some intelligent sheep paying attention to what’s in and just beyond the pasture. Oink!

    1. Doby Fleeman

      Frankly,

      This is an interesting comparison.  Do you know if there has ever been a discussion or support group focused on how well the district curriculum is doing for the average, rank and file student?

      Admittedly, I don’t follow this conversation in great detail, but I don’t quite understand why all the focus is in defense of the GATE enrollment when the achievement gap between the two groups appears so pronounced.

      Is there somewhere in the conversation that the parents and the district are talking about the potential for differential learning expectations – both by the educator and the student – having some role in the differentiated outcomes?

      1. Don Shor

        I don’t quite understand why all the focus is in defense of the GATE enrollment

        Much of the discussion of GATE has been prompted by people locally who want to dismantle the program, hence the discussion in defense of it. I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that other, non-GATE students would benefit from eliminating GATE. You’d just be merging all of their test scores as PAUSD has done.
        Kids in GATE test higher on standardized tests. When you remove them from the data set, the remaining kids test lower.

    2. wdf1

      Frankly:  Where did you find this info?  I wasn’t aware that DHS (or DSHS) had a formal GATE program.  That’s why GATE students here (Davis High School stats) show up as “no students reported.”  I thought that GATE ended in junior high.  If there isn’t a DHS GATE program, then what does it mean to be a “DSHS GATE student”?  Would that mean students who are GATE-identified?  or students who participated in GATE while in JH?

      Here’s a link for equivalent Palo Alto HS stats.

  8. Doby Fleeman

    How might the segregation , which did not exist in PAUSD, impact the slow developer over the subsequent 6 years – relegated , as it were, to a classroom with all the high achievers in the room next door?

  9. Gunrocik

    Where is the discussion regarding the training of the teachers in GATE?  Many of us who have taken our kids out of the District and the GATE program did it due to the ineptitude of many of the teaches in GATE.  My understanding is that in the olden days there was pre-screening of GATE teachers and certain criteria that they had to meet, whereas nowadays you have teachers with more seniority bullying their way into the program.

    Again, I don’t know if it was any different in the old days, but I do know that the quality of the teachers in the GATE program is extremely mixed.

  10. Southie

     
    What we have in Davis is not Gifted and Talented Education.   Most of our students in our GATE program are smart but not gifted.  They are reasonably bright kids who come from homes that have educated parents, and they access to books at home.  If ever in your life you’ve had to try to teach a gifted student, then you’d recognize the difference.  It is an incredibly difficult thing to accomplish in a regular classroom.  That is why programs like GATE gained traction decades ago.  That is not what we have in Davis.  I don’t even think it’s what Davis parents want.  Davis parents want GATE, to Honors, to AP.  That’s what they want and that’s what they’ve built.  There’s something else Davis parents want: a private school education on the public dime.
     
    If you’ve had a student in a GATE class in Junior High, then you’ve seen all the coloring and art projects that are assigned as homework.   That is neither gifted education nor is it a rigorous education.  It’s not different than regular ed; it’s just separate.  This is the problem I have with our currently structured GATE program.  None of our parents want to admit that what they want is a separate but equal education.  Certain Davis parents don’t want their child in a regular ed classroom with some distracted students, maybe some behavioral problems, maybe inclusion special ed students, students who don’t read at grade level,  or students who struggle at math.  As a public school teacher, I cannot support that.
     
    I’ve made no secret that I support Ms. Sunder.  And I continue to support her despite our disagreement about GATE. She’s getting attacked more and more often as being ‘only about GATE.’  She is not a one issue candidate.  She wants to support special ed programs and EL programs just as much as she wants to support GATE.  If she did not, I would not support her.  At least she can stand up and be counted.   Some of the candidates do not seem very forthright to me.  I am particularly disappointed in Tom Adams.  He may not be disingenuous, but he puts no thought or effort into these responses.  Sorry Tom.  Your connections to Lovenburg disturb me.  Now you seem completely disinterested in the process.   Every day that goes by you are less and less likely to get my vote.
     

    1. Don Shor

      None of our parents want to admit that what they want is a separate but equal education. Certain Davis parents don’t want their child in a regular ed classroom with some distracted students, maybe some behavioral problems, maybe inclusion special ed students, students who don’t read at grade level, or students who struggle at math.

      “Separate but equal” is certainly a loaded phrase, since it carries the meaning of racism. It’s time to stop casting these aspersions on the motives of GATE parents. I’ve been hearing this stuff for years. GATE/AIM parents want their kids in programs that allow them to learn at the pace that is appropriate to their level. Any other motives you’re ascribing to them are unprovable and thus simply amount to character attacks.
      I agree that junior high GATE is probably less effective and less necessary than elementary level. At least, that was certainly the case for my kid years ago. The elementary level GATE was just as crucial to my child’s success as was the IEP and Special Ed. At the junior high level, it’s more difficult to give the differentiated instruction in a meaningful way, in my opinion.

      1. MrsW

        “It’s time to stop casting these aspersions on the motives of GATE parents.”

        I used the words separate-but-equal, too, but I don’t blame parents.  DJUSD’s leadership or lack thereof maintains, promotes, and enforces this condition in our District.  Parents arrive and avail themselves of the programs and make due.  Parents come and go, but administrators, teachers and staff  are on campus for years and years.  I blame a type of lazy leadership. Years of administrative neglect of the other United States’ educational goals, have got us to this point.  It’s time to stop blaming parents period.  Parents are not on campus.  Past School Boards and administrators have trained parents to think we are asking for different things. Divide and conquer is the oldest trick in the book of a leadership who wants to justify their lack of action.

  11. Southie

    Yes it is a loaded phrase.  And yes, I cannot prove it in any real sense.  I only have my anecdotal evidence from my children’s last decade in the Davis schools.  Unfortunately over the years I have heard a number of parents say they don’t want their children to have to deal with the regular ed classrooms. They feel the regular ed classrooms have too many issues.  So, they put their children in GATE.  I do not begrudge any parent for wanting the best available education for his or her child.  I would just like some honesty about what it is we seem to want here in Davis. We want the brightest kids in self contained classrooms.  We want them separate from the struggling kids and we want them separate from the average kids as much as possible.  We don’t want them in classes with English Learners and we don’t want them in classes with Special Ed kids.  We want to use an IQ test to identify the brightest kids and the wealthy can privately test their children into the program.  That’s fine with me if you tell the truth about what you want.

    I’ll tell you the truth about what I want.  I want inclusive classrooms at the elementary level.   I want open enrollment Honors and AP classes at the Junior High and High School level, understanding that some upper level math and science classes may by necessity need prerequisites.  The truth can be simple.  When we’re talking about GATE, it’s never simple.

    1. MrsW

      I agree that separate but equal is a loaded phrase.  I used it too.  But I don’t blame parents.  DJUSD’s leadership or lack thereof maintains, promotes, and enforces this condition.  Parents arrive and avail themselves of the programs and make due.  Parents come and go, but the administrators, teachers, and staff are around for years and years.  It’s time to stop blaming parents period.  Parents are not on campus.

  12. wdf1

    MrsW:  I agree that separate but equal is a loaded phrase.  I used it too.  But I don’t blame parents.  DJUSD’s leadership or lack thereof maintains, promotes, and enforces this condition.  Parents arrive and avail themselves of the programs and make due.  Parents come and go, but the administrators, teachers, and staff are around for years and years.

    Parents should be involved in decisions about educational options for their kids.  But if an educational option isn’t necessarily mandated law — examples of mandated educational options include the availability of special ed., ELL, and basic curricular requirements (“regular” required classes) — then information about those options is sparser.  Even mandated options are not as advertised as they should be.  Involved parents learn of these other options; less involved or connected parents often don’t learn of these options.  Parents who are too busy or in some way aren’t aware of these options (immigrants with limited English and education) get excluded.

    It’s like everyone goes to a restaurant for food and receives the basic menu.  But then some clientele learn that they can go to the back room and ask for the “special menu” that in some cases has tastier or more interesting options.  The district needs to make the “special menu” better known to all parents.  In our school district, that “special menu” includes GATE/AIM, music, athletics, Montessori, Spanish Immersion, Dual Immersion, Da Vinci, DSIS.  More students don’t participate in these programs because they don’t know that it exists, it may not be clear exactly what the program is, if it is something that your child could participate in, when exactly one needs to enroll to participate, and how one as a parent can support a child in the program.

    Some parents learn that by pursuing some of the educational options, one can gain an advantage of having more future potential options.  For instance, a parent can sign up for Spanish Immersion in kindergarten (that’s the appropriate time to enroll).  Things go well for kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade, and then in third grade, for whatever reason, the teacher or curricula isn’t a good fit, and it seems that a change is needed.  Such a kid could jump back to a “regular” (non-Spanish Immersion) with a reasonably good case made by the parent.  Same with GATE/AIM and Montessori.  A kid in a regular classroom would have a harder case to make to switch schools and teachers to another regular classroom.

    There is a de facto segregation of students in these programs that takes place based on how involved and connected the parents are, or not.  There is an impressive amount of choice within the school district but not all parents are fully aware of it.

    Information is a relatively cheap resource compared to money and space.  It wouldn’t cost that much money to make information about these programs more fully available. And to do so would convey a greater sense of transparency, fairness, and trust about the district.

    1. wdf1

      wdf1: Information is a relatively cheap resource compared to money and space. 

      Should have said that “Information is a relatively cheap resource compared to staff and space.”

      1. sodnod

        Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t think that students in special programs have any higher or lower priority for switching schools or teachers. It’s a matter of whether space is available, isn’t it?. I do know that students who enter the AIM program do not automatically have an option to go back to their neighborhood school if they decide AIM isn’t for them – it is dependent on whether there is room in their grade at the school site. Otherwise, they would get sent to another DJUSD school that has space.

        1. wdf1

          Understood that it is contingent on a space available basis.  My point is about having more options to switch around and try different things.  After kindergarten, a non-Spanish Immersion student can’t move over to the Spanish Immersion program — a student would have missed all the pre-requisite kindergarten instruction.  A non-GATE/AIM-identified student typically doesn’t get the option to try a GATE/AIM classroom.  I can accept that there maybe some students for whom a regular classroom setting won’t work, but there are also many GATE/AIM-identified students who could function in both settings.  Having options is nice, and I don’t begrudge a parent wanting to do the best for his/her own child.  But for many parents who do not get all this information it feels limiting to one’s options.

  13. lynnpink

    Sunder started the petition to keep Gate self-contained, and formed the group “Davis Excel”. She has been escorted out of Gate Advisory meetings for her strong unreasonable disruptions in the meetings. She might be running entirely on this issue. Her involvement in schools has been completely absorbed on this issue, until she decided to run. Poppenga has minimal involvement in our schools, except for voicing concerns about Gate, and like minded people staying together.

    We need new School Board members that do not come in with these private agendas, and we need members that have a strong record of dedication within our schools. We need folks with a record of the upmost integrity to carry forth our kids in the future.

    1. DavisParent

      “She has been escorted out of Gate Advisory meetings for her strong unreasonable disruptions in the meetings.”

      Were you there when all this happened?  What was the nature of the conflict?

  14. ryankelly

    She (Sunder) has been escorted out of Gate Advisory meetings for her strong unreasonable disruptions in the meetings.

    Can anyone corroborate this statement?

    That she was running primarily because of her interest in protecting GATE is a suspicion of mine.  I brought it up early and was resoundingly shot down by commenters and editors of this site.  This has changed how I view the Vanguard as a source of information.

    1. Don Shor

      Given your ongoing, overt hostility to AIM, it isn’t surprising that you oppose Sunder. See: https://www.davisvanguard.org/archer-announces-for-four-year-djusd-board-seat-first-candidate-for-appointment-emerges/comment-page-1/#comment-223294
      I don’t know why, in view of your very negative comments about the program and the people who support it, you would be surprised that you get responses to those comments or to your clear advocacy against Sunder’s candidacy. You simply protest too much about the discussion that results from your positions.

    2. Davis Progressive

      is this just a rumor or is it real?  how has this changed how you view the vanguard?  the vanguard asked a tough question on gate, the candidates responded.  what more do you want the vanguard to do?  chase down all rumors and innuendo?

      1. iWitness

        You don’t have to ask the Vanguard.  I was there when Matt Best most certainly did not have to escort Madhavi Sunder out of the AIM/GATE meeting — she left after she did not get a simple answer to a question regarding Common Core Math for the coming year (this year).  This was after she attended the School Board meeting when Assoc. Supt. Clark Bryant offered a presentation on the subject, among many SB meetings she has attended to be sure her understanding of the SB goals and information is prepared and comprehensive this school year and for the last two.  It was fully repeated at the AIM meeting for the benefit of those less interested, but her legitimate questions were dismissively ignored.  The charge of the AIM committee last year was supposed to deal with students in especially the elementary AIM classes  and AIM-qualified students not in the AIM classes and the presentation (re)discussed, vaguely, the secondary program, at this first-time, untried place where elementary and secondary meshed or should have, yet we were unable to air questions appropriate to our charge.  This discussion had no bearing on GATE/AIM issues which the AIM AC was prevented from discussing at this and other meetings.  Had Mr. Best approached Ms. Sunder one entire step in her direction, as he was poised to do, half the committee might well have followed her out of the room.  Don’t pin his aggressive reaction to Ms. Sunder’s request, or others’, for appropriate information on the CC Math readiness of this District.  When 25 members of the public attend a meeting, a question of interest to many if not most of them should be answered, not with an in-depth rehash of the previous week’s Board meeting.

  15. lynnpink

    You can ask other folks that were involved in the AIM Advisory last year, or Matt Best, who actually had to escort her out. I believe she still has her Davis Excel web site, the creators of the famous petition with forgeries. These (Sunder, Poppenga) are not people with open minds to change running for the board.

    yes, it is unbelievable that the community is now blind to this, and the press has not helped.  It is sad actually.

  16. ryankelly

    In April, I questioned whether Sunder is running because of her interest in protecting the GATE program.  After Peterson, we all made commitments to question candidates on what personal agendas they may have for running for School Board.  To this day, I still question this and look at this as a flaw.  I do think that she has eluded to her interest in maintaining/protecting the program as it is currently designed, but any discussion of this devolves into a discussion of the GATE/AIM program, and a questioning of the motives of the commenter, rather than a discussion of the political platform of the candidate.

    Compare that to the ongoing hostility of Davis Progressive toward Barbara Archer, her endorsements, who she has talked to at the Farmer’s Market, criticism of her past volunteer work in the school, disparaging her supporters (PTA cronies)  Yet hardly no one comes to Barbara’s defense on this blog – most notably the editors of this blog.

    But I will tell you this.  I really don’t care about the details of programming.  I do care that kids are being denied a good education because of inflexible District and school rules and policies, the tracking of students, and racial and class discrimination and institutional bullying in the form of school discipline.   How the Davis version of GATE fits into that is something that I’m willing to discuss, but it is not the only aspect of Davis schools I am not so happy about.

     

     

    1. Davis Progressive

      “To this day, I still question this and look at this as a flaw.”

      it seems to me that madhavi has done a lot of work to learn about all of the district including visiting all of the school sites, talking to teachers, parents, and staff.  so even if she arrived as a gate-candidate, her view has changed.

      i don’t have hostility towards barbara archer though i was disappointed by her comment regarding race last week.

      “Yet hardly no one comes to Barbara’s defense on this blog – most notably the editors of this blog.”

      where are barbara’s supporters?  wdf has come to her defense.  is it the editor’s job to defend anyone?  have they defended other candidates?

       

  17. lynnpink

    Yes, it’s disturbing that it has become such a hush hush issue in this town, and particularly in this campaign.  It is one of those district issues where the loudest parents are heard. Most all teachers hate it, and kids resent how it divides them up from either side of the coin. It does not serve those it intended to serve. Kids know its wrong. Parents know its wrong. We keep it the same because it allows us a free private education. In the meanwhile, those it intended to sever (most of them) suffer. Most educated communities have decided we are going to have all kids excel and provide training in differentiation for all teachers.

    1. Davis Progressive

      then let’s use this space to “de-hush” it.  but let’s use facts, not rumors to do so.  i’ve heard a lot of things that are disturbing about gate/ aim.  so what concerns do you have, what practices should we change?

  18. lynnpink

    It separates young children under bogus guidelines. Kids do not need this type of separation in elementary school. It makes a huge social impact on their lives. The Gate kids get to stay together for three years in a row – a privilege that is not fair to others. It is actually weird to have such differences.

    The amount of re-tests are crazy. My son scored 99 on Olsat, but all of his friends came in through private testing.

    You find the most anxious parents in the Gate classes – that is the most notable difference.

    What most parents want is differentiation in the classroom, which is in Gate training. All classrooms and kids deserve this.

    We deserve School Board members who are not obsessed with this.

  19. wdf1

    This is opinion piece — “Why To Change The Way We Talk About Education” — is about the culture of standardized testing that currently governs public education (that there is too much of it).  No Child Left Behind (NCLB) exacerbated this culture.  But it is still a significant part of Common Core.  GATE/AIM is in part embedded in this standardized testing culture, because that’s how students are identified and cleared to participate.  I’m interested in comments about why OLSAT and TONI tests are valid assessments for this program.  Could there be ways in which “giftedness” is not being appropriately measured or accounted for?

    I found Sunder’s reference to Carol Dweck‘s work about mental development to be an interesting justification of the GATE/AIM self-contained program:

    The AIM program is a means that the DJUSD has used since at least the 1980s to serve some of the children who are not being challenged adequately in the regular study. In fact, challenging students at their level is the very essence of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s suggestion that we should promote a growth, not a fixed, mindset.  Placing a child in a classroom where the work comes easily relative to one’s peers only confirms the child’s view that his or her success is natural, confirming a fixed mindset. We want each of the children in our schools to be challenged so that they will ultimately grow.

    But on the other hand, if one takes Dweck’s underlying assumption that the brain and mental ability are pliable and positively susceptible to environmental stimulus, then it’s very possible and likely that students who don’t make the threshold score for GATE/AIM in 3rd grade may very well do so in a later grade.  After all, it’s well observed that children develop at different rates.  Universal testing in the district takes place in 3rd grade.  The district also makes testing available for later grades, but it isn’t well-publicized or widely known.  This is another example of where only some parents know of the “special menu” in the district.  This doesn’t seem right.

    Given the possibility and likelihood that some deserving students will not be GATE/AIM identified, why not then make differentiated instruction available at least as a backup?  Sunder is open to differentiated instruction here, but others have criticized differentiated instruction as being so much less effective as to be not worth doing.

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