My View: Social Justice and AIM

gateFor a long time I have stayed relatively quiet on the issue of GATE/AIM. There have been a variety of reasons for that, but after watching the discussion on Thursday night, things have changed.

The debate that emerged on Thursday can be seen as one of inclusivity versus exclusivity. My concern is that the argument that we are over-identifying AIM (Alternative Instructional Model) students may at least unintentionally have a strong either racial or elitist component to it.

That view is bolstered by a comment made both on the Vanguard and Facebook: “When GATE [Gifted and Talented Education] testing was done by teacher recommendation of a largely white pool, no one complained of ‘over identification.’ Now that we have universal testing and the percentage of minorities in the GATE program has risen dramatically, they want to talk about ‘over identification.’”

Indeed, this chart provided by Professor Tobin White seems to be rather telling: the traditional measure – OLSAT (Otis-Lennon School Ability Test) ‒ would generate a GATE program that is 48% White and 44% Asian versus our current practices that has the program 60% White and 16% Asian. The TONI (Test of Nonverbal Intelligence) test advantages traditionally disadvantages students and allows the AIM program to be much more ethnically diverse than it would be using the OLSAT.

Professor Tobin White offers a critique of TONI. His research finds that the students administered the TONI were “six times more likely to qualify than those taking only the OLSAT.” They were also nine times more likely, according to Professor White, to score in the 99th percentile.

He writes, “These are radically different measures, yet they are being treated as equivalent in program placement decisions.”

He adds, citing research, “The TONI was not designed to replace broad-based intelligence tests but rather to provide an alternative method of assessment when a subject’s cognitive, language, or motor impairments rendered traditional tests of intelligence inappropriate and ineffectual.”

AIM-2

The problem is that he mis-characterizes the TONI, arguing that it was designed specifically for populations of deaf and hearing impaired, those with aphasia, dyslexia and other disorders related to spoken and written language, and those not proficient with written and spoken English.

He noted, “The TONI is designed to address only a limited range of the search and serve criteria, yet is being applied for all of them.”

He concluded, “The TONI is clearly identifying a more diverse group of students than the OLSAT, but as a function of student selection rather than test bias.”

However, Madhavi Sunder pointed out it is not merely verbally disadvantaged kids that the test is supposed to be targeted for – but low SES students – those who did not go to preschool, those from disadvantaged backgrounds, who might not have the verbal skills to succeed on the heavily-verbal OLSAT.

“When you come from a low socio-economic background and you’re not necessarily going to have all of the those enrichment opportunities around language, and it’s precisely those kids who we think are at a disadvantage on the (OLSAT), there’s a lot of language that’s required to do that test,” she said.

“Generally there is some reason to believe that these particular students might have a false negative on the OLSAT,” she said. “They may actually have some gifted potential that was not apparent on the OLSAT.”

Professor Tobin White noted that it’s really one-third of the population that is affected. However, the purpose of the TONI is to identify students where language is an issue and where a verbal test might not be the best measure. “To get up to a third seems like a pretty big jump,” he said.

Professor White concludes that “the current re-screening process is fundamentally flawed.”

Ms. Sunder argued, “Fairness isn’t how many tests each person gets to take, but is every kid getting the opportunity to take the appropriate test for them.”

But the critics push back here.

While Susan Lovenburg conceded there is no perfect test, she argued, “What is concerning here is that one test is being thrown out in favor of a second test for some kids. That’s the kind of problematic element of what’s happening here.”

Ms. Lovenburg added, “Ultimately the question that is being asked is are we appropriately identifying the students that need these special services.” She said, “I’m not in favor of dismantling the self-contained GATE program. I don’t speak for any of my colleagues, they can speak for themselves. But I do see that value in the program for students who truly need the services.”

However, she stated, “I do have some significant concerns that we’re over-identifying students into the program… We need to address that as a district.”

Board Member Barbara Archer stated that 50 percent of the students, at least in this data set, qualified through the TONI for the AIM program. She said she wanted to understand the reasons why students were being re-screened through the TONI. “What I was told is that we don’t keep track of the reason why 50 percent of our students qualify using the TONI, and that’s concerning to me.”

She also said, “When you see that 50 percent of students were being qualified with the TONI, and you realize it is possible – although we don’t know because we don’t have the data – that you’re lumping together margin of error kids, ELL (English language learners) kids, low SES (socioeconomic status), and the various other reasons, that seems to me a suspect metric because you’re lumping so many different groups into a non-verbal category.”

She added, “It seems like the TONI is advantaging everyone.”

My concern with this argument is that I think Ms. Archer may unintentionally be missing a key point that the ELL kids, the kids with language impairment and the low SES kids may all in fact be disadvantaged by a heavily verbal test. Low SES kids may be disadvantaged in part because they lack language skills of other kids.

Back in 2012, Jann Murray-Garcia noted in a column in the Enterprise that she had concern and discomfort “about labeling some of our children as ‘gifted,’ and, by default, other children as ‘not gifted.’ “

She argued, “These labels, most often conferred on both sets of students in Davis in the third grade by a 45-minute IQ test, follow each student into the junior high tracking system, regardless of how that student has performed or developed in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades.”

“We define our children as gifted or not gifted with tests known since their inception in the days of the eugenics movement to be both culturally biased and economically exclusive,” she continued.

She argued the need for multiple assessments due to the potential for racial, class and linguistic discrimination.

She argued, “The fact that these alternatives to identification are expensive and labor-intensive is moot, unless we will say that we as the Davis community have accepted injustice and racial and class discrimination because it is the least expensive alternative.”

She argued that “it is the test… and not the children or their families or cultures that have been demonstrated to be deficient.”

“The recent history of GATE identification in Davis has been rife with race, class and linguistic inequality, artificially created and accepted by us as a community. That the district is now being held legally accountable for these inequities in its process of identifying and labeling children as gifted (or not) makes it a good time to collectively think about what we are doing and paying for in our local public education,” Dr. Murray-Garcia argued.

Does the TONI testing, which addresses at least some of Dr. Murray-Garcia’s concerns from a few years ago, go far enough in leveling the playing field? Or has it gone too far in the eyes of some on the school board?

I think we have to remember what the purpose of AIM is ‒ to identify gifted students ‒ and part of what TONI hopes to do is identify gifted potential that may not be apparent in the OLSAT.

While I think there are legitimate concerns driving this discussion, I think we need to be careful that we really understand what the TONI is designed to do. Therefore, I agree with Ms. Archer that we need data to understand who has been administered the TONI and why.

The danger here is that we decide without evidence that we are over-identifying AIM students through the TONI, that the TONI generates too large a number of identified students, and we throw it out based on that without a lot more understanding of what is happening and why.

The board needs to tread very carefully on these issues, but the commenter is exactly correct in stating that there was little worry about the over-identification of GATE students when it was largely a white upper middle class pool. So we need to be sure that, if we change things, we are changing things for the right reasons.

And then the question becomes – do we change who takes the TONI? Do we throw out the TONI? Do we throw out the OLSAT?

Do we have evidence that the system is broken as it stands now? It is striking to me that Professor White presented all of these slides on the identification process without any analysis of the back end. That is a gigantic red flag.

We are basing our entire critique on whom we select for a program and how many of those individuals are selected for a program ‒ with no assessment whatsoever on how they perform while in the program and the overall strengths and weaknesses of AIM.

I understand the need to separate the questions, but if those students are all doing well in AIM and AIM is serving their needs, then why in the hell do we care?

I know one thing – I won’t pretend to have the answers here. Again, I don’t think this is intentional on the part of the school board, but I’m troubled by this whole conversation.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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46 Comments

  1. sisterhood

    Every child has unique gifts and talents. This entire concept is offensive. I didn’t allow my second child to be tested. My first one tested very high, even with an undetected learning disability, but I kept him in “regular” school.

    1. Frankly

      I largely agree with this statement.  I would go further to say that it should be the responsibility of the education system to help every child discover those unique gifts and talents and to leverage them in their education.

      1. zaqzaq

        What an offensive and elitist comment.  Your are offended by the AIM program because it it self contained?  The program gave you the choice of putting your child into the program or not.  Your choice.  Are you also offended by sports when they segregate children by ability to all star teams which only a few are allowed to participate in?  How about the Davis Madrigals?  They also have try outs based on ability.  The AIM program allows the children in it to flourish in an environment that better suites them.  Are you also offended by AP classes in high school or should all children be required to take the same curriculum.  What the school district should do is survey the parents with children in the AIM program to see if they feel their child’s needs are being addressed.  They can do similar surveys for children in other programs.

        1. Frankly

          The education system has a job to educate all students.

          Today it is like a large shallow pool that has an exclusive deep section at both ends.  And outside of this pool there are a few exclusive deep swimming holes.

          At one end of the pool are services for troubled youth… those kids that really struggle… and special needs kids.  At the other end is the deep section for the gifted academics.

          The deep swimming holes are athletics and performing arts.  They too are exclusive.

          To Davis’s credit, these end sections are deeper than most other communities.  And there are a few more swimming holes than for other schools… although they are crowded at the high school because we have a large bunch of swimmers and there is only so much room.

          The problem with GATE/AIM is that it has expanded while the rest of the pool has gotten shallower.

          Frankly, (because I am) Davis schools from middle school on screw the kids that don’t have academic gifts unless they are really troubled or special needs identified.

          I don’t have a problem with more challenging curriculum, but there needs to be a deep pool for all kids, not just those with certain gifts.

        2. wdf1

          Frankly:  The deep swimming holes are athletics and performing arts.  They too are exclusive.

          They have become that way in recent years because of standardized testing, a policy that you embrace.

          If a child can’t score at the expected threshold numbers, then there’s no time in his life for extracurricular activities.  Because he’s obligated to sign up for AVID or an extra period of English (ELL).  In middle school/junior high those are elective periods that are no longer available for performing arts.  To adopt any alternative policy that didn’t focus on raising standardized test scores would be succumbing to “the soft bigotry of lower expectations.”

          When the definition for success in schools is those standardized test scores, then there’s no incentive to pay attention to what doesn’t get tested.  “What gets measured is what gets done.”

          The policy that you embrace has led to this situation.

        3. Frankly

          Standardized testing was put in place because the pool had been growing shallower.  Lacking the performance accountability it provides the education system has proven that it will continue to do less with more.

        4. wdf1

          Frankly:  Standardized testing was put in place because the pool had been growing shallower.  

          What If Education Reform Got It All Wrong in the First Place?

          …30 years of test scores have not measured a decline in public schools, but are rather a metric of the country’s child poverty and the broadening divide of income inequality.

          Standardized testing was put in place as an attempt to redirect attention and resources away from social services directed toward reducing childhood poverty.  By making teachers more “accountable to standardized testing scores,” that alone would reduce childhood poverty.  It’s not working out that way, but your response is to blame the teachers and the unions rather than the policy.

          Your pattern of comments strongly suggest that you don’t interact with poor families these days.

           

        5. Frankly

          Your pattern of comments strongly suggest that you don’t interact with poor families these days.

          You mean I don’t interact with many of my extended family?  And not only are they poor, but they are generally very smart people that had their lives of potential opportunity damaged and destroyed by the crappy education system and by the crappy policies of liberalism that has contributed to the destruction of job alternatives for those lacking lucky academic gifts of the “good student” template that had been narrowing long before standardization testing became popular.

          Standardization testing was enabled because a growing population was growing frustrated with the growing crappiness of the education system.

        6. wdf1

          Frankly:  Standardization testing was enabled because a growing population was growing frustrated with the growing crappiness of the education system.

          Then it is only making the system worse, indicating that it isn’t a solution to be following.

          If the standardized testing strategy of accountability has made things better over the past 30 years, please explain.

          For instance, perhaps your kids had a better educational experience than you did?

        7. Frankly

          I think the education establishment and their protectors (of which you are one) have latched on to standardization testing as the finger-pointing excuse for why education quality and choice has declined over the last 40 years.

          What about the SAT and the ACT?

          Don’t teachers give tests to students to grade them on a standard set of criteria within a class?

          Testing for standards in achievement has always been a main function within education.

          If we were to eliminate the standards of NCLB and I assume the more Democrat-loved Common Core standards, the quality of education would simply decline faster.

          Just like the old Soviet Union, the model does not work and so it needs to collapse and reform.  Standardization testing provides the bare minimum of effectiveness for a system that is absolutely inadequate for what we need today.

        8. Davis Progressive

          frankly – i’m getting tired of you distracting from important issues with your anti-public education rants.  we need to be able to resolve these problems and we can’t hold a discussion because every time education comes up we get your anti-public education rants.  you don’t even know the difference between a standardized test and an assessment test.

        9. wdf1

          Frankly:  If we were to eliminate the standards of NCLB and I assume the more Democrat-loved Common Core standards, the quality of education would simply decline faster.

          This is about the point where any attempt at rational back and forth with you on this issue dissolves.  You fall back to irrelevant assumptions about political dichotomies garnished with comments about communism.

          NCLB and Common Core political positions do not line up along party lines.  I find major Republicans and Democrats who have embraced and opposed NCLB, likewise for Common Core.  For instance, Jeb Bush has been a strong supporter of Common Core and was instrumental in moving the process along when he was Florida governor.  Meanwhile even as Chicago Rahm Emanuel gives strong support to Common Core, he is having a tougher than expected time winning re-election against another Democrat, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, and a flash point of opposition is over Emanuel’s education policy.  Garcia’s call for more local democratic control even seems classically conservative to me.  Andrew Cuomo faced a somewhat tougher reelection for New York governor against a left-identified candidate, Zephyr Teachout.  And one issue of division?  Common Core.

          NCLB was a federal education mandate as was Title IX.  So you don’t find NCLB a little bit “Soviet” on that basis?  Common Core on its face is not supposed to be a federal mandate, but federal incentives have committed more than 40 states to the Common Core framework.

          And since the original point of discussion was about athletics and how unbalanced the access to athletics is, Title IX was meant to correct one imbalance of participation in athletics, which it mostly has.  Does this mean that you would support a Title IX type solution to bring further balanced participation to athletics?

          Given what I have just written, I find your reflexive retreat to a position of ranting against “those damn liberals” to be out of touch with reality.

        10. wdf1

          Frankly: What about the SAT and the ACT?
          Don’t teachers give tests to students to grade them on a standard set of criteria within a class?
          A major criticism of SAT and ACT scores is very much the same for standardized tests required by NCLB and potentially Common Core — that they don’t measure everything that is relevant, and too much importance is given to them.
          Teacher assigned grades have a better chance of reflecting more that is relevant than do standardized tests.  For instance a student with a borderline passing grade who demonstrated that he did everything he could to earn that grade might be justified in being assigned the higher grade vs. a student who really did not work up to his potential and might be justified in being assigned a lower grade.  A standardized test would score them equally.
          I understand from previous comments that your brother went to Claremont McKenna.  One of my kids looked at Claremont McKenna (chose to go elsewhere, but was impressed).  When I looked over their material and chatted with their admissions counselor, I was surprised by how little importance they seemed to give to SAT and ACT scores.  Here’s a link.  I found that universities that appeared to rely more heavily on SAT/ACT scores seemed less likely to have personalized opportunities in their educational offerings.

        11. Frankly

          Oops… been busy and missed this important – albeit late – dialog…

          frankly – i’m getting tired of you distracting from important issues with your anti-public education rants.  we need to be able to resolve these problems and we can’t hold a discussion because every time education comes up we get your anti-public education rants.  you don’t even know the difference between a standardized test and an assessment test.

          DP – I am an old “change war” veteran and recognize when the resistance is so strong and old paradigms are so entrenched that it requires provocation to get people thinking differently.  My rants are against the system.  The system is completely incapable of doing the jobs we need it to do.  Both teachers are students are captive victims of its dysfunction.

          Assessment tests and standardization tests… a nuance without distinction.  But hold that thought for a moment while I address wdf1 on a similar point…

          A major criticism of SAT and ACT scores is very much the same for standardized tests required by NCLB and potentially Common Core — that they don’t measure everything that is relevant, and too much importance is given to them.

          You and I have debated this point about testing and standards testing and have come to basic agreement in how it is not contributing to optimum education practice.

          The way I look at it… the public school system as designed was outdated beginning about 198 when computers started being more mainstream tools.  It was actually outdated before that, but the kids could be abused and punished and still be alright because they could go get a job and get some therapy and forget about it.

          But then the job market changed with the loss of manufacturing and the move to more white collar and information era jobs.  And then immigration explosions knocked out the service job market with an oversupply of labor.

          And so the deficiencies of the education system became amplified.  And the damage it does to a large percentage of students is less reparable.

          It needs to be reformed from the ground up.

          But the teachers union, the Democrat party and everyone with a stake in either have put up a good blocking wall.  They demand only more money and less rules and claim that it will enable them to do that adequate job.  But then we have evidence that more money up to the level we could realistically afford does nothing to help improve student outcomes but makes the employees of the education system better off.   They also demand fewer rules so teacher can “teach” and here too we have evidence that it is an empty promise since that was the model before NCLB or Common Core.

          I support testing standards only because it helps prevent the crappy system from being crappier and damaging more kids than it has to.

          Our difference is that you seem to trust the system to self-manage to optimum education quality if only we would stop pushing standards… and I don’t trust the system to do better without the standards… I think it would perform eve less well.

          But in the end we both agree that it would be better if we did not have to have the standards.

          1. Don Shor

            But the teachers union, the Democrat party and everyone with a stake in either have put up a good blocking wall.

            This is simplistic and increasingly untrue. The fight that Rahm Emanuel is facing in Chicago reflects the division in the Democratic Party between education reformers and the teachers unions. I expect him to prevail, but the unions are backing his opponent in the runoff. Same fight happened in New York and right here in California. The Secretary of Education appointed by President Obama is on what I call the reform side of the spectrum. Many of the original supporters of Common Core, which includes a large number of Republicans, were seeking new directions in accountability and new approaches. Opposition to change is coming from strange bedfellows: teachers unions, and the Tea Party wing of the GOP. So your analysis is, as I said, simplistic.

        12. Frankly

          Change is coming, I agree.  But it is because people have been standing up telling the truth.  The Democrat party is still in bed with the unions.  There are divisions and it is good.  It is coming from those financed outside of the unions and more eager to appeal to the constituents fed up with their crappy schools.

          But then there will be the election, and the teachers union not only provides the money but it provides the campaign manpower.  Candidates like Rahm Emanuel are at risk.  Just like Michele Rhee and others that have attempted to beat back the unions, they all get eaten up at some point.

          I will wait until the first unionized state other than Wisconsin breaks the union lock on politics and then I will start turning more positive and supportive.  Until then nothing has really changed.  It is all lip service.

        13. wdf1

          Frankly:  I support testing standards only because it helps prevent the crappy system from being crappier and damaging more kids than it has to.

          Then help me understand.  How does your position above about standardized testing lead to solving your original lament:

          Frankly:  The deep swimming holes are athletics and performing arts.  They too are exclusive.

          It’s a non sequitor for me.

          Because I’m thinking that in a job interview, you’ll be more swayed by an applicant who discusses his/her specific involvement athletics or performing arts — experiences they had, lessons they learned, a sense of teamwork and cameraderie, responsibility to an organization — than in specific involvement with standardized tests.

          If you agree, then why not propose a certain amount of compulsory experience with athletics and performing arts?

          My issue with you is that we have had standardized testing in California, with consequences for low performance as provided for in NCLB, since about 2002.  By 2014 I’m thinking we should some clear positive indicators that standardized testing in this way was a good thing.  Where are the positive results?  Why aren’t we touting those results?  And after that long a time, standardized testing is the status quo.

    2. Ann Block

      I agree with Ms. Sunder that if testing is done at all, it should be more inclusive testing such as currently done that allows gifted children to be identified in different ways.  However, I also agree with Ms. Archer and Mr. Adams that AIM/GATE self-contained classrooms should go away.  These students have been served in other districts quite well that have done away with AIM/GATE — which I believe is elitest, leads to bullying and eventually also contributes to the enormous peer pressure, suicidal thoughts, etc. of many of our high school students.  I’m not saying we do away with grades or “competition” — but that research shows that all students benefit by keeping all students in the traditional classroom — AIM/GATE students can mentor and teach the students that are more challenged, and/or complete extra “challenges” in the classroom themselves.  All would benefit — one learns one’s subject best by teaching it, after all.  Differentiation can happen more easily within the traditional classroom if the resources spent on AIM/GATE were more appropriately directed toward the “regular” classrooms.

      Also there is a concern that I have heard expressed by parents that some students are excluded from some classes in junior high and high school because they are not “GATE” identified, when in fact that class is desired by the student and achievable.  I don’t know if that is still occurring or not, but it was the case a several years ago in junior high.  That is discouraging to the student and also a form of elitism, if the child in fact wants to attempt the more challenging class.

      Full disclosure — my eldest tested extremely high on GATE — but the GATE admin encouraged us to consider that Chavez Spanish immersion was itself a form of “GATE” and we kept her there.  The youngest either wasn’t tested, or by then we knew better — I honestly don’t remember because she was also at Chavez.  Both were sufficiently challenged in Spanish immersion, in fact the homework could sometimes be overwhelming.  The eldest mentored others in high school at DaVinci, and one of the most important things that she learned was that the “lower achieving” students or perhaps as some of her peers might have said “slacker” students, that she encountered in various group projects at DaVinci, eventually became much more participatory and hardworking as they progressed through high school   I remember her commenting on that with much happiness.  She also made friends that she might never have done had there not been random or teacher created groups for most projects.  There was much more of a mix of students at DaVinci and it benefitted EVERYONE.  She did take a few AP “segregated” classes at DHS, but it was her DaVinci time that is most special to her and taught her the most about life.  And that is the first place she wants to go visit now, when she returns from college where she is now a junior.   What a life lesson… and she certainly didn’t suffer in terms of colleges she had to choose from nor any lack of preparation for her challenging college curriculum.

      I hope people will keep open minds regarding what is best for our children — and truly listen and not just fear that the sky will fall in if there are no more self-contained GATE/AIM classrooms.  It is very important to serve gifted students, but also to remember that the whole point of self-contained classrooms from the beginning was to serve those students who could NOT achieve in “regular” classrooms, who, due to various personality/learning issues were low-achieving.  There is a whole list of “not so nice” traits that these students possess that GATE/AIM used to send out, and parents duly ignored.  GATE/AIM in Davis has morphed/warped long ago into a highly desirable program for already high achieving students — and as a result the children that TRULY need GATE/AIM struggle even in those classrooms, as they are no longer the focus and so no longer appropriately served.   As one friend put it — we should rename GATE/AIM to the “Low achieving, highly intelligent” and perhaps that would end the desirability for those who can achieve anywhere.

      1. Joachim

        “As one friend put it — we should rename GATE/AIM to the “Low achieving, highly intelligent” and perhaps that would end the desirability for those who can achieve anywhere.”

        Comments of that sort really concern me as to people’s motivations.  A lot of very intelligent students struggle in the traditional classroom setting.  Shouldn’t we figure out better how to accommodate their needs?

        1. SODA

          Good points!   That was what I was trying to say by saying low achieving kids can do much better in GATE environment; I think considering GATE for the highly intelligent traditionally is a misnomer and thought the testing identified those who would benefit, ergo you can’t study for it.

      2. Napoleon Pig IV

        Ann Block, it’s great that your kids are doing well – at least in part due to good parenting. Congratulations on that. But, I’m glad as hell that you’re not on the School Board! Getting rid of self-contained AIM would be a deliberate step backward and would do great harm to a lot of kids and to Davis as a whole.

        Pigs are more likely to tread lightly when the pasture contains a few well-educated and gifted sheep! It’s amazing how effective factless arguments, emotional subjectivity, and propaganda can be in keeping some animals more equal than others. Oink!

  2. Don Shor

    It’s pretty clear that there would be two votes on the board for dismantling self-contained AIM, and you appear to be siding with that view. So please explain how differentiated instruction is more socially just than self-contained AIM.

        1. David Greenwald

          What makes you think I’m in favor of dismantling self-contained AIM?  My only issue here is maintaining the alternative to the OLSAT testing as a means for identification.

  3. SODA

    I find it interesting to see the large difference in the Asian group between the two tests; any possible reasons for that?

    I admit I have no expertise in the matter other than of three kids, long grown, the oldest and youngest were in “GATE”. The oldest chose to stay in her neighborhood school when GATE was first introduced down south because she wanted to be a sixth grader in the school she started in. The school offered some enrichment pull out time I believe.

    I wanted to share the mixed feelings my husband and I had when the youngest was identified down south in 3rd grade to begin at a different school in 4th. We debated and anguished over the decision, mainly because of the elitist component which we did not want for her. As it was explained to us, the GATE teacher felt she could continue content  on in a subject far longer than in a ‘regular’ class and did not need to spend as much time on rote exercises. If she engaged them there were fewer behavior disruptions because they were not bored.  We decided on the school move becasue the GATE school also had physical and developmentally challenged students and we were told the other students in the school were integral with these students; we thought that would be a plus.

    When we moved to Davis in 5th grade she entered GATE at Valley Oak based on her previous scores.

    1. zaqzaq

      David,

      Did White ever provide actual numbers instead of percentages?  For example if 300 children are tested and 30 are identified with 80 additional children being withing 5% using the OLSAT.  The 80 children within 5% are then retested and 40 are identified using the TONI-3.  Then only 10% of the children taking the OLSAT and 50% of the children taking the TONI-3 are identified for the AIM program.  Over half of the children using these numbers would have been identified using the TONI-3 instead of the OLSAT.  Did White ever back up his percentages with actual numbers.  Only relying on the use of percentages instead of actual numbers can significantly alter the conclusions presented to the board and mislead the public.

        1. zaqzaq

          Interesting, I find it hard to believe that every child who took the OLSAT also took the TONI.  Just an observation.  I may be wrong on that but I find it hard to believe that the lowest score on the TONI was a 92 and when the lowest score on the OLSAT was a 0 for the same child.  That is a 92 point increase for at least three children.  The low score of 92 on the TONI would make sense if only children with a 91, within 5 points of the AIM qualifying score were tested.  I guess I better go and watch the video of the presentation.

          1. David Greenwald

            Every child who took the OLSAT would not also take the TONI. The children that would take the TONI are either those who took the OLSAT and came within 5 points of qualifying or those with verbal deficiencies. It is quite possible that someone could take the OLSAT and score a zero because they were verbal deficient but then score well on the TONI.

    2. SODA

      I guess what I was trying to say was that I don’t consider GATE kids inherently more intelligent than others and don’t think the tests test for that (could be wrong). Sometimes because they are bored their progress is slowed in a ‘regular’ class and can be enhanced in a GATE class. My daughters had high achieving friends who did not test into GATE. I think it is more a way these kids might learn and that is why I think it is unlikely that there would be a very large population within a school district that would qualify….just my two (or less) cents.

  4. hpierce

    Well, I’m against “self-contained” ‘tracks for the gifted and talented.  My creds include being in a G&T program ~45 years ago, (although I only tested at a then “IQ-test” at ~ 145), that was “self contained” only for a few subjects,  but included classes (outside math, English, and science) that were with the “general population”, including foreign language, “shop”, and social sciences.  I was challenged in the areas that I naturally excelled at, and could be “just another student” in areas that I was average in.  Some kids, who excelled in only one area, participated in the advanced classes in that area.

    “special education” is needed for the ‘gifted’, the ‘challenged’ AND those in-between.  This is not ‘rocket science’.

    Many “GATE” teachers (my oldest was in the program) are less ‘gifted’ than the students they teach. I ran into that in HS, when in US history, three us us could have taught the class better than the “newbie” teacher.  But he had ‘genius’, set us loose to explore our passion, and then teach segments of our research to the class.  One of the best teachers I had.  He taught me HOW to learn, and nurtured leadership and instruction methods that serves me well in my career.

    The current program is not what our students deserve.  Many “gate” teachers get those roles as an internal, ‘political’ plum, and are frankly, not any more qualified than other teachers.  Some are ‘below average’.

    Teach your children well.

  5. Gunrocik

    A lot of good comments, particularly from Ann Block — whose experience mirrors mine.

    My older kids were in a different school District without self-contained GATE and they thrived all the way through school and into college by being in a standard classroom with about 20% GATE students mixed in.  The teachers made sure they had extra enrichment work, and they also learned by mentoring some of the other kids at their table as well.

    Since I’ve moved to Davis, I’ve ended putting my younger kids in private school after several years of suffering through the self-contained GATE program here in Davis.  I find it elitist, it stigmatizes kids and makes the kids elitist at times, it pulls lots of kids out of their neighborhood schools which means they don’t always get to go to school with the kids they play with after school.  There are a lot of teachers who I don’t think are properly trained to teach in a self-contained program along with those who use their seniority as an excuse not to teach at all or dump the work on a student teacher — I don’t think student teachers should be in GATE classes–and it is obvious that there isn’t a clear definition of who should be in a GATE class in the first place.  There are a lot of high achieving parents in this town who are going to find a way to force their kids into GATE — and want to make GATE a high achiever program — not the special education program that it should be.  I found many of the GATE teachers just focused on giving the kids extra work — instead of finding ways to intellectually challenge kids who don’t respond well in a mainstream classroom environment.

    Bottom line, the vast majority of school districts have tired of the problems with self-contained GATE and have realized that differentiation in the classroom is the way to go.

  6. Joachim

    I’m really concerned tht the objections to self-contained are more about the large numbers of black/ Hisapnic students and the perceived exclusion of white students who parents deem to have equal or greater ability than the minority kids. It’s being couched in other terms to avoid appearances of racism – but that is what this is.

  7. Gunrocik

    For those of us who have lived the misery of GATE in Davis, it is completely color blind!  As I noted above, the issues I have raised aren’t about the kids in the program, it is about the execution and  how those classrooms are not meeting the needs of the children.

    1. Doby Fleeman

      Gunrocik,

      Interesting conversation, but nobody, but nobody seems the least interested in discussing the performance and learning metrics with respect to the 70%-75% of our student body that is not enrolled in elementary GATE or AIM.  Last time I checked, 70% still represented a statistical majority.

      I realize this is a university community, but then again so is Palo Alto.  I don’t get it, this singular obsession over how well the AIM/GATE program is serving its constituents.  As you and others have pointed out, some of our other “peer” communities have either dropped or fully integrated GATE within their districts, with the result that all of those high performers do and can act as mentors and role models for the “other” 75% of the students in the district.

      When will the Davis school district see its way clear to issuing accessible reports which demonstrate exactly how well the subset of the 70-75% non-AIM subpopulation is performing versus our peer communities?

      Even one article addressing this aspect of our responsibility to the “community of all students” would be appreciated.  Perhaps we would find that Davis is far ahead of other districts with respect to learning outcomes for the 70-75% of our students.   Certainly, I don’t have a clue.   But for the inordinate and singular focus on the efficacy of the AIM/GATE programs, it sure seems that at least one article might be devoted to a discussion of how well we are serving the supermajority of our students.  Or, isn’t it important enough?  Or, doesn’t anybody care?

      1. Don Shor

        Doby,

        nobody seems the least interested in discussing the performance and learning metrics with respect to the 70%-75% of our student body that is not enrolled in elementary GATE or AIM.

        What specifically are you interested in as a metric? The data is probably there. I’m just not sure what point you’re trying to make. GATE/AIM is under review primarily because (1) there is a vocal subset of parents who want to dismantle it, and (2) there is question as to how students are identified for it, and the demographic makeup of those who are enrolled.

        some of our other “peer” communities have either dropped or fully integrated GATE within their districts, with the result that all of those high performers do and can act as mentors and role models for the “other” 75% of the students in the district.

        So you think one of the jobs of students who would otherwise benefit from AIM instruction is to act as mentors to other students? Can you see how some might feel that is holding back the students who would benefit from learning at a faster pace or with more challenging curriculum?

        1. Doby Fleeman

          Well, I guess it depends upon what we are talking about in an article titled “Social Justice & AIM”.   Will you at least concede that most of discussion about AIM & GATE is guided by how well our students succeed on the basis of standardized tests and college entrance exams?

          If so, then those would see to comprise the basic metric by which I would like to see the performance metrics evaluated for the supermajority of our student population.   How well does the lower 75% of our student body perform when peered against other comparable districts?

          If the district weren’t establishing a totally separate curriculum – with a markedly differentiated set of performance expectations – for that 25-30% in the self-contained AIM/GATE program, it probably wouldn’t be an issue.

          What is the percentage of AIM/GATE learners in other education oriented communities around the state?  We know that Palo Alto completely dropped their GATE program in 2011 – a program which from my understanding had rarely exceeded 9% GATE enrollment and had no segregated tracks.

          But 25-30% in a totally segregated program – that’s a big number.  That’s not some 3-5% figure that I hear used by our local educators when talking about the “truly gifted”.

          That’s why the question as to the mean and median test scores for our 70-75% of our remaining students seems a relevant question to ask.

          Simply comparing our “average” test scores as a district is not a valid indicator of how well we are addressing the needs of all constituents.  When the “average” is so heavily influenced by the very large percentage of AIM/GATE learners – it significantly skews the numbers for the entire population.  Not so much if we were talking about 3-5%.  Not so much if we are talking about Palo Alto where there is no longer a separate track.

          But most importantly, thanks for reading these comments and asking about the rationale.  It’s certainly better than the silent treatment that usually seems to greet these questions.  I think it’s great to offer academic enrichment programs and foster excellence in learning and personal achievement – I’d just like to see us do it in a open and transparent manner which insures that the remainder of our students are not left at a competitive educational disadvantage versus other peer communities – hence the request to publish comparative, inter-district academic test results for the non-AIM subpopulation.

          1. Don Shor

            I think the key period when AIM comes into play is grades 4 – 8. Is it better for those students to be on their own track in those grades? Is it better for the whole student body to have students learning on separate tracks in those years? I wonder if there is a way to tease anything out of the data that would answer those questions.
            A lot of the comments about this are anecdotal. GATE, combined with Special Ed, was absolutely crucial for one of my kids before ultimately enrolling split-site at DSIS. The other was just fine in a regular track, though that child was also in DSIS for a couple of years.
            It’s easy to see where this is all going. The TONI test was added because the previous method was considered unfair and led to demographically-unacceptable outcomes (I assume that’s the ‘social justice’ angle). The district was under legal pressure on this issue; a successful lawsuit had challenged the previous system. But the TONI test isn’t perfect (what is?). So if it gets abandoned, a much more expensive system will have to be put in place, something that involves more individualized assessments. If they revert to the status quo ante the criticism will be renewed as cited from Dr. Murray-Garcia:

            “The fact that these alternatives to identification are expensive and labor-intensive is moot, unless we will say that we as the Davis community have accepted injustice and racial and class discrimination because it is the least expensive alternative.”

            So more financial resources would have to be put into GATE. Then the valid criticism would be that funding would be taking resources away from other students. And the chorus, ever-present in the background, will become louder to abandon GATE and “differentially integrate” those kids into regular classrooms.
            We don’t know why Palo Alto decided to do that. We don’t know if it’s better for the GATE kids, though that seems doubtful since they would typically be less challenged in a regular classroom setting (hence the purpose of GATE in the first place). We don’t know if sufficient training is implemented to make every teacher good at “differential instruction.” We certainly don’t know that it’s better for the other kids to have bored students among them. I seriously doubt ‘mentoring’ is foremost in the minds of bored kids who aren’t being challenged.
            If there’s a better test or system that can help to identify those kids who would benefit from GATE instruction, by all means implement it. If that’s the real issue here. Unfortunately, it’s hard to separate that from the overall criticism of the basic principle of self-contained GATE, criticism and hostility that has been ongoing in DJUSD for as long as I can remember. Once the words “social Justice” come in to the criticism, I have to wonder what the ultimate goal is. So I would really prefer that those who don’t like the current system: please tell us what you really want, and how you want to go about it.

      2. Joachim

        “Interesting conversation, but nobody, but nobody seems the least interested in discussing the performance and learning metrics with respect to the 70%-75% of our student body that is not enrolled in elementary GATE or AIM.  Last time I checked, 70% still represented a statistical majority.”

        It seems like no one wants to discuss the performance and learning metrics with regards to GATE either – they spent all of their time talking about too many students being allowed into GATE with zero discussion about how they did once they got there?

  8. Miwok

    No one is also talking about the money stream. When schools see money added to their budget, for whatever reason, they go after it. It is in their interest to identify as many students as possible, therefore, money.

    The deep swimming holes are athletics and performing arts.  They too are exclusive.

    I could not agree more with Frankly. Schools are too big to have one team or sport represent them, and in that way I consider it to be a lack of diversity – of education. If the Football team, no matter how successful, sucks the life out of every other program in the school, it is not good.

  9. Doby Fleeman

     
    Don,
     
    Things that aren’t optimal in the segregated elementary system:
     
    1) Watched childhood BFF’s and entire families separate paths quite literally at beginning of 4th Grade.
     
    2) Davis is a college town.  I wonder if we should be proud of the fact that only 80% of graduating seniors are participating in the college entrance exam process – when some Bay Area districts are exceeding 90% participation (no I’m not talking about Palo Alto) .
     
    3) Of those College Bound Seniors, how well is our contingent of non-GATE students performing versus other peer communities?
     
    2010-11 DSHS College Bound Seniors                                                   
     
                                                                              SAT – CR  SAT – M   SAT – WR
     
    All College Bound Students                                                          
     
    # Taking SAT                                                 395            395           395
     
    # Students >= 700                                      81              115           90
     
    % Students >= 700                                     20.5%       29.1%      22.8%
     
     # Students >= 500                                     333            363           341
     
    % Students >=500                                      84.3%       91.9%      86.3%
     
     Average Score                                            605            631           611
     
                                                                                                                    
     
    Not GATE ID                                                                                       
     
    # Taking SAT                                                 259            259           259
     
    # Students >= 700                                      31              44              33
     
    % Students >= 700                                     12.0%       17.0%      12.7%
     
     # Students >= 500                                     199            228           209
     
    % Students >=500                                      76.8%       88.0%      80.7%
     
    Not GATE ID-ed Average Score            574            601           579
     
                                                                                                                    
     
    GATE ID                                                                                                
     
    # Taking SAT                                                 136            136           136
     
    # Students >= 700                                      50              71              57
     
    % Students >= 700                                     36.2%       51.4%      41.3%
     
     # Students >= 500                                     134            135           132
     
    % Students >=500                                      98.5%       99.3%      97.1%
     
    GATE ID-ed Average Score                     659            683           665
     
     
     
    I don’t know the answer.  Would more money lead to better outcomes?  Should we be devoting more resources to aiding families who are more in need?  I’d simply like to see the district address the three issues noted above.
     

  10. Tia Will

    Don

     I seriously doubt ‘mentoring’ is foremost in the minds of bored kids who aren’t being challenged.”

    I would like to add a purely anecdotal and different perspective to this issue. My daughter ( currently running a reading program for challenged students in Sacramento) was clearly far ahead of her peers in elementary school. In multiple classrooms she was so identified although she did not test into Gate. A number of teachers recruited her for a variety of “mentoring” activities when she had completed the standard work and any supplemental work they had assigned her. Although I am sure that this “mentoring” was not “foremost in her mind”, it did have a number of beneficial effects for her.

    It brought her peer recognition as someone who could be relied upon to help in academic areas. It helped her to develop a thoughtful, considerate approach to helping others learn. In some areas, it gave her a greater depth of understanding of the  subject matter in order to not only solve the problems, but to be able to explain to others strategies for problem solving.

    It taught her that she had the ability and a knack for helping others to learn. It reinforced that interacting positively with her peers and with younger children ( as she volunteered in the reading program when in 6th grade) was a strength of hers. Ultimately that particular strength translated into being a swim instructor with the city, into an anatomy teaching position as an undergraduate student, and now as the lead for a reading program.

    If we see the schools only job as imparting factual information to students, then having some students mentor others would probably not be of much value. However, if we define their role more broadly to include helping students to identify their own particular strengths and explore options they might not have otherwise considered, or if we also consider the benefit of children learning the value of working in pairs or teams as opposed to merely absorbing enough facts to test well, then it may have real value for others just as it did for my daughter.

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