Analysis: What is the Purpose of the GATE/AIM Program?


gate-2We have focused much of our attention in the last several weeks on process-oriented issues. However, while reasonable people may disagree on how we got to this point, what is clear now is that at the last two school board meetings, there was over three hours of public input on what has happened.

The motion passed on June 4 now directs the Superintendent to come back with a plan going forward that figures to be presented sometime in September.

This is clearly an issue that has polarized some in the community. There are those who wish to protect the current program and those who appear, to varying degrees, to want to change the program – just how drastically will be up to the current school board and upcoming discussions.

And yet, for those of us who, like myself, really have little skin in the game other than wishing to see good and open discussion, there are some very basic questions that appear to need to be more thoroughly discussed.

At its most basic level the question is: what is the GATE/AIM program? What is its purpose? Whom does it seek to serve. To reframe that question: is GATE really a high achievers program? Is GATE for students who are technically “gifted” but underachievers, due to social issues or lack of interest in the mainstream classroom? And finally, which really is something that I gleaned from the Carrell study – is GATE something that will only benefit a small subsection of the student population or can we expect it to benefit much broader swaths?

I think more to the point: is the program working and for whom?

Part of the problem here is that GATE, and now AIM, seeks to do too much. I found a definition of GATE from the San Diego Unified website: “The Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program supports unique opportunities for high-achieving and underachieving pupils who are identified as gifted and talented.”

They then pull from the State Department of Education, stating, “Gifted students are pupils who possess a capacity for excellence far beyond that of their chronological peers. This capacity includes many and varied characteristics that require modifications of curriculum and instruction.”

So it seems, at least on a more global level, that the GATE program is actually attempting to fit very distinct populations under its umbrella. There is one group of students (perhaps that is too broad a characterization) that would be the classic overachievers – who perform well in the classroom and on standardized tests. But there is another group of students, who have perhaps high intelligence or the capability, but are actually underperforming in class (and perhaps also on tests).

Naturally this duel purpose creates a tension, both in the type of material and teaching methods, as well as for tracking and classification purposes.

Is an OLSAT (Otis-Lennon School Abiity Test) test going to adequately tap into the second group of students? We have already discussed a little bit the purpose of using non-verbal tests, not just for kids with learning disabilities but for low SES (socioeconomic status) students who may not have the language skills to perform well on verbal tests like the OLSAT.

These difficulties with identifying students and defining the program probably lay at the core of some of the disputes about whether and how the program should change.

It also makes it difficult to know how well the program is working, beyond individual anecdotes and testimonials. The study that the district commissioned by UC Davis Researcher Scott Carrell suffers in part from a difficulty in measuring outcomes and adequately controlling for effects.

They attempt to use a regression discontinuity research design, hoping to study the effects of the program on those who just quality versus those who just miss the cut.

The problem with that approach is that opens Pandora’s box, so to speak ,by assuming that GATE would benefit those who just qualify and those who just miss the cut.

In the ideal world, where you are identifying kids who are good fits for the GATE/AIM program, they should be helped by that program. On the other hand, kids who are not GATE/AIM program qualifiers should fit better in their traditional classes.

If that is not happening, if GATE simply is a better program that would benefit all students, then we need to incorporate the program for all students.

This gets us to a much more fundamental question than just who qualifies for GATE – would the mainstream program benefit from incorporating elements of GATE?

After all, if you believe that the Carrell study was properly conducted, one implicit assumption is that the cutoff point was essentially random and arbitrary and that far more kids would benefit from GATE than get into the program.

It seems to me that we need to address these points as part of the broader discussion. Some of the complaints I heard at the last two public comment sessions by those people favoring change in the program is that the program is seen as elitist. It has been seen as a badge of honor. Students competitively wanted to get into the program.

Those students that got into the program put down those students who did not get into the program. I have seen the expressed belief that every child is gifted in their own way.

If that is true, then perhaps, instead of making GATE more exclusive – some have suggested a 3-5 percent program rather than the current 30-50 percent – we should simply make it more inclusive. Figure out who will benefit from what programs and incorporate those programs into the mainstream curriculum.

Along those lines, it seems that the concept of “giftedness” and “gifted education” are evolving concepts. The district, on the AIM page, points to a publication from 2011 published by the Association for Psychological Science, “Rethinking Giftedness and Gifted Education.”

Rena F. Subotnik, Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, and Frank C. Worrell propose a definition of giftedness, “Giftedness is the manifestation of performance that is clearly at the upper end of the distribution in a talent domain even relative to other high-functioning individuals in that domain. Further, giftedness can be viewed as developmental in that in the beginning stages, potential is the key variable; in later stages, achievement is the measure of giftedness; and in fully developed talents, eminence is the basis on which this label is granted.”

That definition would seem to capture the comprehensiveness that they propose and also capture the duality that we might seek to capture – giftedness as both a potential and an achievement.

The questions I think we need to start seeking to answer are (1) Whether the current system meets the needs of those who are high-achieving gifted students, low-achieving gifted students, and those in the mainstream classroom; (2) Whether the needs of those three groups (and perhaps more) can be better met in a new system; (3) Whether the concepts and techniques of GATE can help everyone; and (4) What the structure of differentiation should be. Does the latter mean putting all levels of students in the same classroom? Does that mean continuing some form of self-contained GATE/AIM? Does that mean continuing the current program with some minor tweaks?

We need to recognize that, come September, we may not have all the answers to these questions and we may be trying to hit a moving and evolving target.

But for me the question comes down to this: is there a community consensus on this issue? Can we gain some form of consensus?

That was my reason for posing the issue in the last campaign. Because if there is not consensus, then the issue of GATE will simply be a political football. While the last election did not focus on that as a core issue, it might have been just beneath the surface. Does the next election become a referendum on GATE and, if so, does that mean the program will shift back and forth depending on who gains the majority?

While the community is trying to sort out these issues and where it stands on them, it should be noted that rapid vacillations in policy and curriculum would be harmful to the students. Rather than drastic change, it may be preferable to have small but sustainable adjustments that evolve along lines of community consensus.

—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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65 thoughts on “Analysis: What is the Purpose of the GATE/AIM Program?”

  1. Sam

    Dyslexia is a learning disability that affects 3%-5% of children. Children with dyslexia have trouble reading. School districts are required to identify and help children with dyslexia just like any other learning disability. Let’s say the district decides to change the way they identify dyslexic students and give all children entering the third grade a reading test. All of the students that are unable to read at a third grade level are grouped together and placed into a special “dyslexic reading” class that then spends a greater amount of time teaching reading.  Let’s say that 40% of the students are unable to read at grade level and are placed in the “dyslexic reading” 3rd grade class. With the extra focus on reading most of the students will be better off being placed in the class. What could be the problem with a program like this? The problem is that you are failing to identify the students that are actually dyslexic! Because you have not properly identified them you will still not be able to use strategies that help teach dyslexic children to read. While the program as a whole might be successful, it fails to help the very children that it was supposed to be established for. This is the same problem that we have with the DJUSD GATE/AIM program. It fails to identify the highly intelligent students in the district and offer them assistance to cope with the specific problems that highly intelligent children have in school.

    1. zaqzaq


      You are comparing apples to oranges here.  I do not believe that reading level is the correct test.  Many students with dyslexia read above grade level with appropriate counseling and assistance that address this issue.

  2. zaqzaq

    The school district needs to create an advanced math track outside of the AIM program.  This alternative may limit the popularity of the AIM program with parents.  The AIM math track has the students completing 7th grad math in 6th grade.  This allows these students to take calculus in high school.  Thus the high achievers would have an alternative to AIM with regards to math.  My concern is that the same group that calls AIM elitist and segregationist will also attack an advanced math track in the same manner.

    I am aware of an incident at North Davis Elementary school where the teachers wanted the GATE teacher to take their advanced math students because they could not cover both the advanced math and normal math in their classrooms.  This may be an example where differentiation was not feasible for those teachers to incorporate into their classrooms.  It causes me to ponder the claims of those who support differentiation in the classroom.

    I also believe that our math and science classes are not as rigorous as other countries.

    1. Sam

      Why do you want to use a program designed to help the highly intelligent students with their specific learning disabilities to teach advanced math in the 6th grade? If you want to have advanced math classes in the 6th grade then do it. Why hijack some other program to do it?

      1. zaqzaq

        You miss my point that if there were an advanced math track then some of the parents who want their children in AIM may opt to put them in a regular classroom with the advanced math track.  If the district created an advanced placement class(s) that parents could opt their children into instead of AIM then that could also further reduce the popularity of the AIM program and take away the alleged rational for why parents want their children in AIM.  I firmly believe that many parents with AIM eligible and not eligible children, like the public, do not really understand the program.
        For the record I do understand the distinction between the highly intelligent student and the high achieving student. Many people claim that it is about the parent’s egos. In some cases it may be and others it is not. How many parents buy little league all star t-shirts with their kids names on it. Ego? How are other children stigmatized at school when they see these types of shirts and cannot achieve that success? Maybe we should ban shirts like that also?

    2. Matt Williams

      The school district needs to create an advanced math track outside of the AIM program. This alternative may limit the popularity of the AIM program with parents. The AIM math track has the students completing 7th grad math in 6th grade. This allows these students to take calculus in high school. Thus the high achievers would have an alternative to AIM with regards to math.

      That is a suggestion that makes a lot of sense on the surface. On Monday I had a brief conversation with the teacher who taught in the early predecessor to GATE (I believe Mark West said the acronym for that program was MGM). The concern I raised to her was that by becoming a de facto Advanced Placement program with a third of the students in it, GATE/AIM is no longer providing the specialized education for the children (like those who were in the MGM program) who need specialized education. The bottom-line of zaqzaq’s suggestion appears to be that there is room for both AP course tracks and specialized education for those who don’t learn as effectively in a mainstream classroom setting.

      1. Sam

        Yes, that seems to be his suggestion. However, I think that stems from the misconception that a straight A student and a highly intelligent student are one and the same when they are actually totally different.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          I would modify that to “may be” totally different. There are two populations in this equation – high achievers, underachievers.

        2. Sam

          The two are completely and totally 100% different. The outcome, getting an A in a certain subject may sometimes be the same, but how a highly intelligent student learns and gets that A is totally different than a good student. Until that is actually realized by the school board and parents I doubt that a real GATE program will ever be created in Davis because the discussion will always be, how many students should we let in to AP 3rd grade?

        3. ryankelly

          I agree that an A student and a highly intelligent student may be not one and the same.  I’ve seen students in GATE requiring tutors in order to keep up with the accelerated curriculum.  I’ve heard people making the comment that GATE was for students who have worked hard and are willing to keep working hard.  A student may be a good student, work hard and get top grades, but that doesn’t mean that they are technically gifted.

          Then there’s the students who are gifted, quickly grasp ideas and concepts, and see no need to complete tedious homework assignments.  They can appear lazy or bored, because they don’t have to work hard to get it and end up with extra time waiting for the next idea.  But they may have a passion that they will spend endless hours on, developing their skills and knowledge far beyond their peers.  We would like that passion to be science or math, but it may be music or language or art and forcing that student to march along in an accelerated science and math curriculum may not be appropriate.  But that’s the model of our current AIM program.

        4. Frankly

          These binary comparisons bother me.  Good at math, not good at math.  Intelligent, not intelligent.  Gifted, non gifted.  High-achiever, low-achiever.  They remind me of childish high school categorization: jocks, nerds, burn-outs, etc.  They also fail to take in consideration changes that take place in many kids.  But mostly, they are mostly just excuses made for failing to adequately educate.

          Differentiation is difficult because the school system is not structured for it.   We have decades of practice delivering the standard testing-lecture-homework-testing model, and then noting the kids that struggle and then we put them in a different box that slightly varies the model.

          What we need is a completely new model that expects and enables differentiation at a highly-granular level. Think a much more varied development path that relies on robust and repeated diagnosis.

        5. Frankly

          The comparison “intelligent vs. non-intelligent” is a binary comparison.  It assumes that intelligence can be adequately tested.  And then we get into a big debate about what “type” of intelligence?  And when we test for intelligence, how do we know what is developmental and what is innate?

          Think about how people bristle over the “bad teacher” vs “good teacher” classification.   Think about how the education establishment rejects performance classification for teachers.

          This is all ass backwards.

          The adults use their power to make life easier for themselves not having to deal with the complexity of performance classification, and yet they do this very thing to the kids, but in a low-granularity fashion, because it makes their jobs easier.

          Teachers and students are both in a development mode that requires constant needs assessment and high-granularity differentiation of development approaches in order to optimize performance results.

          The difference is that teachers are adults with complete decision authority over their career direction that need to be working in a career that is a good fit for them.   Students don’t have any choice.  They have to attend school.  They are captive customers of the school system.  And I think most of them are under-served by the school system that attempts to classify them in one of a small number of boxes.

        6. Davis Progressive

          frankly – you’re misusing the term binary.  in fact, you are egregiously doing so.  intelligence is measured on an ordinal basis through iq tests usually.  you are then assigning arbitrary labels “intelligent” and “not intelligent” to characterize the ordinal scale.  but that doesn’t make it binary.  you clearly don’t understand what you’re talking about.

        7. Frankly

          DP – you are Not demonstrating strong intelligence on this.   In fact, I really don’t get your point.

          Do you not agree that with respect to GATE/AIM there are those that will qualify and those that will not qualify… all based on testing?

          0 = NOT QUALIFIED

          1 = QUALIFIED

          Looks binary to me.

        8. Davis Progressive

          intelligence is measured on an ordinal scale.  not a binary one.  you are then jamming a subjective definition of intelligent/ not-intelligent on top of that. but that’s an incorrect interpretation of what intelligence is.  you go up the iq scale and you are more intelligent and you go down it you are less intelligent, but no where is the sharp dichotomy you’re trying to create.

          ” I really don’t get your point.”

          that’s obvious

        9. Sam

          Don-If the Board kept the current AIM program as is and dropped the testing requirement and cap on size then it would solve a ton of problems right off. Then the Board can focus on designing an actual GATE program.

          Frankly-While there is some level of intelligence required to be considered “highly intelligent” (yes IQ of 130+, no 129 or less) someone with an IQ of 160 will still be vastly different than a child with an IQ of 135. An IQ test is not something that you study for or learn because your parents read to you as a child.


    3. wdf1

      zaqzaq: I also believe that our math and science classes are not as rigorous as other countries.

      Based on what?  Standardized test scores?

      Do you think AP classes and tests present enough rigor?

    4. MrsW

      Based on my kids and their friends, I think that the student who takes Algebra 1 in 7th grade is LESS likely to take four years of math in high school, than the student who takes Algebra 1 in 8th grade or 9th grade.  Don’t have numbers, just a hunch.  I would have found historic trends of completing 4 years of math as related to grade Algebra 1 was completed, useful before enrolling my kid in Algebra 1 in 7th grade.

      I think it’s related to 1) immaturity and 2) adolescent decision making.  1) I suspect that there is an optimal time in brain development to learn algebra and its closer to 14 years old (9th grade) than 12 years old (7th grade). 2) DHS’ graduation requirement for math is 2 years, while the UC/CSU entrance requirement is 3 years.  If the student thinks like a lot of adolescents, and decides to do the minimum, s/he can complete the math requirement before 9th grade and/or have the UC/CSU entrance requirement met in sophomore year.  These students can have a 2-3 year gap in their math education before college.  Not good preparation for STEM (science technology engineering math) majors.

  3. Sam

    Yes, the gifted student is sitting in their 3rd grade classroom wondering why the teacher is explaining fractions to the class again when she had already told them yesterday what they were. The student can’t understand why they had to waste their time last night doing 35 problems for homework when they obviously already understand the concept. Then the student starts thinking about the current drought and how that might effect the wells that Davis uses for water. So they raise their hand and ask the teacher, “Is the water table the same in Davis as it is in Placerville?”, “Are wells in Placerville drawing from the same water source?”, “How deep are the wells we use in Davis……

    AP math with straight A students is not going to fix this problem.

    1. Frankly

      Nice analogy.  I love it.

      Then there is the student struggling to understand fractions and feeling developing an inferiority complex about his “intelligence” while he looks out the window and thinks about the movie he would make, or the song he would write, or the sculpture he would create, or the system he would design.   Or he would maybe think about the fight he witnessed in the playground and how, if he had the guts, he would mediate between the two fighting kids and help them settle their differences.  Or he would think about how damn pissed he is because he wants to learn fractions, but his teacher sucks and talks like he has a mouthful of marbles.   His parents don’t know fractions and there are no tutors available.  The learning tools he has also suck… and over-priced text book and workbook.  He also knows that he can access all sorts of explanations on the Internet, but the teacher and school disallow smartphones, hand-helds and laptops.   And he is also eager to learn how to apply fractions to real-world problems… not just the rote memorization.  He dreams of that type of learning… real hands on that connects the practical application of things that are abstract as they are introduced.




      This is why we need differentiation.

      1. hpierce

        And, why we need to re-wire parents’ brains to not be helicopter or tiger parents, and remove both stigma and pride from what program(s) that are necessary to educate and nurture their children to be the best they can be.  In our family (including extended) parents didn’t feel ashamed of their child being in special olympics, taking remedial classes, etc., nor bragging about their child being in a G&T program.  They just loved and nurtured their children, the best they could.  Not perfect, but as best they could, given their own limitations.

        1. Frankly

          I think there are two motivations driving parents.  One is that little Johnny is a reflection of his parents and his parents crave the bragging rights about little Johnny’s “gifts”.  The other is that the parents worry about little Johnny’s future prospects and know getting into a good college is a big help.  And then there is a combination of the two.

          Of course I detest the former, and understand and support the latter.

          But the problem with the latter is that it is not a good fit for a lot of kids.  It is not a good fit primarily because the education system is prehistoric in design relative to advances in society and the economy, and it has also narrowed its focus to a smaller template learner… again, in a constant move by the adults working in the system to make their jobs easier.

          As a result, the deck has been stacked to favor those kids fitting the template, and backed by tiger moms.  The system provides an unfair advantage in consideration of the eventual competition to earn a good living.

          And it isn’t just the education system… it is the education system connected to the economy.

          The education system attempts to disconnect from the consideration of the economic achievement of its customers (the students) by demanding that its mission is to “create good citizens”.  While there is no doubt in my mind that the humanities are important developmental building blocks, and that some students should certainly pursue a liberal arts education… the fact is that economic success is the key measurement of a successful education.    And when I say “economic success” I am not talking just income level.  I am talking about making enough money from work to live comfortably so that the person is reasonably economically satisfied and happy in life.

          I hope one of our Republican Presidential candidates gets his/her head out of his/her arse and pushes this model of needing to revamp our education system and our economy in a connected strategy to explode both the capability of our workforce and the opportunities to be economically successful.  Tiger moms and their little darlings will always do fine.  It is the other 90% that we should be focusing on.

          1. Don Shor

            I think there are two motivations driving parents.

            I’m quite certain there are more than two motivations.

            It is not a good fit primarily because the education system is prehistoric in design relative to advances in society and the economy

            As wdf and I have pointed out to you literally dozens of times, this generalization of yours is not accurate.
            I’m baffled by the disparagement of parents who want the best placement for their children. I hear it all the time. If there’s any “school climate” issues regarding GATE, it has to do with the perverse and negative attitudes expressed by parents and other kids about GATE and about GATE kids and their parents.
            I’m also perplexed by why people who don’t know my kids and don’t know my motivations think they know why I sought a particular placement for my kid, think they know what would have been the best way for my kids to learn, or care so much about where other peoples’ kids are learning.

        2. wdf1

          Frankly:  You propose a template for education that you want to force on all students.  As well-intentioned as you are, your template isn’t necessarily what all parents want.  For instance, your idea of differentiation to an individual level may not be as conducive to collaborative work with classmates, or to other psychological/social developmental aspects of working together on an assignment.  That’s why I think a better strategy is to have multiple models of education, as long as there is a certain amount of parent/community interest, and which is why I prefer seeing a self-contained option and a differentiated instruction option.

        3. Frankly

          I’m quite certain there are more than two motivations.

          It is common for you to respond in this way.  Absolute in your opinion that I am wrong and you are right, but without anything explaining why you think you are right other than the fact that you are “quite certain.”

          Please educate me then.  What are the other motivations?

          1. Don Shor

            What motivates a parent to seek GATE placement for the child?

            Child performing poorly in regular classroom, parents seek more appropriate learning environment.
            Child, teacher frustrated by behavior of child due to boredom; parents seek more challenging learning environment.
            Child feels ‘different’ because of learning styles and aptitudes that don’t mesh with the placement; in some cases there are emotional and behavioral problems that result.
            Other students treat child differently. Parents seek different placement that puts child in with academic peers.

            In our case, I was just seeking to get the kid through 4th grade more happily, better adjusted, and not flunking. Testing and work with counselor indicated that special ed and GATE would probably accomplish that. I wasn’t seeking bragging rights or thinking about college.

        4. wdf1

          Frankly:  What are the other motivations?

          Why not take the face value motivation parents offer that their kid happens to learn stuff really fast, and parents want school to be relevant for their kid?

        5. Frankly

          You propose a template for education that you want to force on all students.

          Interesting how you turn around my interest to explode the choice and option to combat a narrowing template into “forcing” a template.

          Ever been to a big and full-service cafeteria where you have to spend 5 minutes wandering around to decide what you really want to eat.  And in the robust set of choices, you would never be dissatisfied that there wasn’t something to fit your dietary needs and wants?

          Or would you better support some government health bureaucrats designing some food and food service that, in their opinion, meets the needs of most, and then offers a couple of options for those needing or wanting something different?

          There is linear thinking, and then there is system thinking where the system is a much more rich and robust set of choices, causes, effects and interrelationships.  And the goal is to constantly tweak and optimize for best results.  A linear thinking system is easier, and hence why we have it.

          1. Don Shor

            DaVinci is a popular and expanding program, but the majority of kids still choose to go to the regular junior high and high school.

        6. ryankelly

          Not really.  There are 5-6 tracks of Junior High GATE (3 at Holmes) that keep students at the “regular” Junior Highs.  DaVinci is also a charter school, so it draws a portion of its enrollment from communities outside of Davis.

        7. Frankly

          Thanks Don.  It is clear that like most parents you cared about your kid’s education and wanted the best for him/her.

          Let’s break this down:

          Child performing poorly in regular classroom, parents seek more appropriate learning environment.

          Nothing in this statement against differentiation as the alternative

          Child, teacher frustrated by behavior of child due to boredom; parents seek more challenging learning environment.

          Nothing in this statement against differentiation as the alternative

          Child feels ‘different’ because of learning styles and aptitudes that don’t mesh with the placement; in some cases there are emotional and behavioral problems that result.

          Now here we are on to something.  First, I would say that most children going to school feel different than the other kids. Most kids have emotional and behavioral challenges… they crop up all the time and there are incompatibilities with the placement.  You can make the case that it isn’t so much the placement as it is the lack of differentiation that caused it to be incompatible.

          Other students treat child differently.

          This might be the best argument for self-contained solutions.  But there are problems with it.  First, again, I think many if not most children will say the same… that other students treat them differently.  School is a hostile environment… especially middle school.  Second, is moving a kid out of the general student population a good thing to do developmentally since the kid will eventually be back into the general population without a life-GATE program to shelter him/her?  I think if differentiation was the standard, ALL students would begin to see the world more that way instead of grouping and categorizing.  Just because your kid was moved to a self-contained segregated environment did not stop the other kids from treating him/her differently… it just meant that he/she no longer interacted with those kids, and would only interact with kids more like him/her.

          Parents seek different placement that puts child in with academic peers.

          Great.  So what if other self-contained programs those “peers” are determined to be the less academically gifted from testing?  Think about this Don.  This sort of illuminates the problem.  You want your kids to only be hanging with other kids like him because it is good for your kid’s development.  This is the very argument for segregation.  I.e…. “don’t want those ‘different and lesser’ kids around to cause negative influences on my kid.”

          In our case, I was just seeking to get the kid through 4th grade more happily, better adjusted, and not flunking. I wasn’t seeking bragging rights or thinking about college.

          I think you are the exception to the rule for the standard advocate of continuing AIM/GATE as a segregated program.   For most it is an honors program and helps advance their kid’s academic credential and achievement for the ultimate goal of college and bragging rights.  It is not surprising that these people are demanding the continuation as it is a pursuit of their own individual interests.

          The fact is, with a robust differentiation model your kid might have done well enough and not needed a move to another segregated program.  Of course that is what I believe otherwise I would not be advocating for it.

          Isn’t it ironic that we force desegregation and diversity because we say it is better for all, and yet within this demand we are driven to create exclusivity to solve the problems resulting from desegregation and diversity?  My view is that we are all screwed up looking at the superficial attributes (skin color, gender, race, etc) and missing the REAL point of diversity… that we are all different people with different wiring and different needs and different strengths and weaknesses and different development paths.   At the very least, self contained GATE/AIM sends the wrong message about diversity.

          1. Don Shor

            The fact is, with a robust differentiation model your kid might have done well enough and not needed a move to another segregated program. Of course that is what I believe otherwise I would not be advocating for it.

            And of course, I believe very strongly that you are wrong about that. What bothers me is the tendency that you and others have to discredit the experiences, beliefs, and motives of the parents of gifted kids.
            Just curious whether you think we should stop sorting kids by age. After all, it’s another form of segregation.

        8. Sam

          “Now here we are on to something.  First, I would say that most children going to school feel different than the other kids.”

          Frankly-Yes, everyone feels a little different. Highly intelligent children feel a lot different to the point that it is disturbing and can cause problems for that child.

        9. Frankly

          Just curious whether you think we should stop sorting kids by age.

          Yes I do.  Because some kids develop faster or slower than others.  And if you are really good at differentiation, age should not be a factor… except for the playground and sports where physical size is a factor.

          Again, the reason that we group kids by age is primarily to make the job easier for the adults working in the system.

          I went through 4th grade in Florida and my 3rd and 4th grade class was 3rd-5th graders. This was in the 1960s.  It was experimental at the time.  My report cards were not great even though apparently I was selected as being more compatible with older kids. The problem was a poorly designed system of differentiation.  No technology to help.   They were just restructuring the classroom using most of the same model.  I understand that they scrapped it after just a few years.  Interestingly enough though, we moved to Nebraska and I was ahead of the other kids in most subjects even though the local school system was known for being strong.  My grades were strong for all the subjects I had already started learning.  So, did putting me in with the older kids help me?  I certainly should have felt out of place and “different” given my young age compared to the other kids.

        10. wdf1

          Don Shor:  Just curious whether you think we should stop sorting kids by age.

          Frankly:  Yes I do.

          Frankly:  I went through 4th grade in Florida and my 3rd and 4th grade class was 3rd-5th graders. 

          In Davis schools, that strategy (of blurring grade levels) is exercised through combo classes.  Fairfield Elementary and the Montessori program at Birch Lane regularly have combo classes.

          Other elementary campuses have combo classes, often motivated more by not having enough students to fill a complete class room for a given grade.

          There are some parents who jump for the opportunity to have their kid(s) in a combo class environment, whereas other parents shy away from it.  There are many dimensions to parent expectations about education, and for some parents it is definitely more than being about cognitive achievement.

        11. MrsW

           If there’s any “school climate” issues regarding GATE, it has to do with the perverse and negative attitudes expressed by parents and other kids about GATE and about GATE kids and their parents

          I think there is plenty of poor climate contributors.  Whenever you divide people into groups, particularly groups where membership contributes to a person’s identity, they become–IDK the word–like sports fans, kind of tribal.

          IMO, where we fail our students with respect to student climate, is not addressing this tribalism head on. Students can be taught to observe commonality and to appreciate differences.  People can be taught peace.

          DJUSD has some recent success stores with respect to school sites with multiple schools/programs at the same school site.  Da Vinci HS and DHS were tense, but the junior highs at Emerson seem to be doing well.  Montessori seems to work well at Birch Lane.  I was told one reason Chavez was re-located to a single site, is because of tensions when they were all over the district.  It’s no wonder that some GATE/AIM folks have a history of advocating for a single site.


        12. wdf1

          MrsW:  I think there is plenty of poor climate contributors. 

          Social/emotional and climate issues aren’t so much part of the discussion when talking about GATE/AIM identification.  More than anything it’s about a standardized test score.

  4. Jim Frame

    or care so much about where other peoples’ kids are learning.

    This one is easy:  because there’s a perception — and I don’t have enough information to know to what extent it’s based on fact — that some or all of the self-contained GATE/AIM classes have access to resources that the “regular” classes don’t.  I’ve heard tales of science lab equipment and field trips that are GATE/AIM only, and those kinds of rumors breed discontent.

      1. Sam

        DP- Would you ask that same question about a child that had a disability and was given special resources not available to other students in their IEP?

        1. Sam

          They are similar in a lot of ways and you may need to provide them with different resources than some students like you would for a disabled student.

          1. Don Shor

            In our experience, the special ed required a lot more resources per child than GATE. GATE kids were just taught in a separate classroom of all GATE kids, by a teacher with some specialized training. The teacher:student ratios were the same. There were no special resources that I recall. The only cost I can think of to the district that would be unique to GATE — at least as run then and as I understand it to be run currently — would be the cost of the part-time coordinator, of the testing provided by the district, and possibly some staff time dedicated to administrative issues.

            As noted before, the changes that the board seems to be making will cost more. Either they’ll pay the coordinator more, or have a full-time one — or the coordinator will be less effective than what they had. Replacing private testing with some kind of individual testing for certain students will cost money. Teacher training for differentiated instruction will cost money. Those students kept in self-contained GATE would probably be in smaller classes — better for them, but more costly for the district.

            So if the distribution of resources to GATE/AIM is the issue, the board is going in exactly the wrong direction.

            I’d also guess that if they shrink GATE, more kids might end up in DSIS. Facilities and staff there would probably need to be expanded.

        2. Sam

          It would be interesting to see if you raised the testing level required to the 98th percentile how many children a year would qualify. If you were able to have one class of normal size then it keep costs closer to the other students. There might be some material needed in a GATE class that is not needed in a traditional class, but that could also work the other way where GATE classes don’t need some materials purchased in traditional classrooms.

        3. Davis Progressive

          “They are similar in a lot of ways and you may need to provide them with different resources than some students like you would for a disabled student.”

          you asked me my thought and i gave it.  but you do make a good point that i will consider.

      2. MrsW

        One way that GATE students may be receiving more than other students, is in Administration attention.  For the last 2 years, three administrators attended the bimonthly GATE/AIM meetings, while only one attended the English Learner Advisory Committee.

        1. iWitness

          MrsW, while what you say about the presence of the administrators at AIM meetings is true, it is also true that the AIM coordinator was not permitted to run the AIM AC meetings without the presence of two administrators, and a secretary, moreover, who took notes.  One of the cabinet members said virtually nothing.  This could be seen as a lack of delegation of authority and a decision that tighter control  of the AIM AC was  deemed necessary and that’s why the massing of the cabinet was there.  In the past year a group of volunteer volunteers also met with the coordinator and only one cabinet member to set agenda topics for the upcoming meeting every month.  You can view this as a waste of money, which I do, or as a means of control, which I do, but you can also view it as a way of getting around a competent, caring  coordinator doing her job, as assigned to her at the beginning of the school year by the Superintendent under Board instruction.  Which I do.  And then you could view it as an honest effort to reach a consensus on the Superintendent’s task that was dismissed without being aired by the board.

        2. Napoleon Pig IV

          One of those three “administrators” was there primarily as a bouncer to intimidate and drive away anyone daring to challenge the views of the other two “administrators.” Clearly a waste of money; not an expenditure on behalf of AIM students or any other students. Oink!

    1. iWitness

      No, GATE/AIM classes have no more resources than “regular” classes.  Field trips are up to the teachers and parent drivers.  Science is taught at least at Willett by a science specialist in a science-special classroom.

  5. Frankly

    And in the better state (except for the weather)…

    A Texas Teaching Moment
    Why shouldn’t a home-schooling mother chair the school board?
    July 22, 2015 7:29 p.m. ET

    Texas is America’s most interesting state, and the latest example comes courtesy of Governor Greg Abbott, who caused a ruckus last month by appointing a home-schooler to chair the Texas Board of Education.

    Donna Bahorich taught her three children from her Houston home from kindergarten through eighth grade. The kids must have learned something because they went on to a private high school and one became a National Merit Scholar. Now they are all engineers: one petroleum, another chemical and the last mechanical.

    But Mrs. Bahorich’s appointment has offended the education barons who claim that she lacks the credential of having taught in a bricks-and-mortar public school. Diane Ravitch, the doyenne of the education status quo, wrote on her blog that, “You can’t make this stuff up. Governor Greg Abbott selected a home-schooling mom to chair the State Board of Education in Texas.”

    One reason home-schooling has proliferated across America is because so many public schools have failed to educate so many students. Public education could stand more non-traditional voices. We hope Texas state Senators, who must confirm her nomination, give Mrs. Bahorich a chance.

    1. wdf1

      There is a paywall, so I can’t see the full story.  But I’m imagining that the Wall Street editorial page probably wouldn’t want to provide the fact that Bahorich has been a member of the Texas State Board of Education that adopted controversial standards for textbooks, especially for history.  This is a product of her work with her colleagues, and I think it gives good indication as to her vision, and what Governor Abbott also embraces:

      LA Times, 7 July 2015: Do new Texas textbooks whitewash slavery and segregation?

  6. Dave Hart

    The issue with the Davis GATE/AIM program has reached a head because it has grown large enough that it now has a large enough constituency to reach a kind of critical mass with our elected Board.  Way back, when it started, there were only three classes at one location: 90 kids, 90 families, 180 voters.  But even then, the true purpose of the program was probably not honestly articulated.  Our “batch processing” model of education, developed long ago to serve the needs of an industrializing society is simply out of step with the social and economic reality of 2015.

    The parents with kids in the GATE program want one thing:  their kid(s) to excel and get into the best collegiate program possible.  They want the same thing almost everyone else in town wants, and they have demonstrated they are willing to go to great lengths to achieve the best outcome for their children.  Nothing wrong with that at all.  The problem is, it is not only creating a widening chasm with children who aren’t part of the program, who miss it by a hair, but it is setting the district on a dangerous path particularly when it comes to school tax measures that require real solidarity to get the 2/3 votes.

    I am as strong a supporter of public education as anyone and will continue to vote for school and education tax overrides.  However, I am also increasingly sensitive and open to non-traditional modes of childhood education like home-schooling.  Children can be better served with more specialized and customized education plans that our school systems cannot and will not politically be able to provide without a wholesale disruption and rebuilding and re-visioning of public education.  A vision where kids spend 2/3 to 3/4 of the day working independently or in small groups of 3 or 4 on project-oriented assignments.  A vision where testing is not part of their experience until at least 6th grade and is non-intrusive.  A system where kids really define their own port of entry into education (interests, talents, gifts) and use that as the starting point for a broad and deep education.

    Kids are not getting that now with the batch process, bureaucratic, politically driven system.  And I stress here that it is not the fault of teachers or school districts.  Parents are not articulating what it is they really want for their children and above all, the main gravitational force preventing change is the fact that schools as constituted provide the highest quality child care for working parents.  Most parents simply cannot drop an entire income to pursue home schooling and many parents lack a meaningful background in how to go about doing it.  What if school districts actively provided a two-year series of classes for parents on how to put together a high quality home-schooling program with an appropriate level of district support?

    The changes needed are decades overdue.  Kids can still get plenty of group activity without sacrificing more specialized and individualized education.  We as a society are not grasping the vision and “doability” or necessity of changes that produce better outcomes.  So our more privileged and sophisticated parents will continue to get what is best for their children and those who don’t have the time, connections or awareness will take second best.

  7. MrsW

    The parents with kids in the GATE program want one thing:  their kid(s) to excel and get into the best collegiate program possible.

    Parents are not articulating what it is they really want for their children…the fact that schools as constituted provide the highest quality child care for working parents.

    Contradictory statements.  I think parents are very clear in what they want for their children.  They want to be able to hand-over their children to others for 6 hours or so a day and have them be emotionally, physically and intellectually safe and engaged.

    By the time a child is enrolled in school, the parent is along for the ride. And it’s a fast one.  In contrast, the administrators, teachers, and staff are at the school for years and  years and years.  They set the tone.  They drive the bus.  The children are tourists into the classrooms and schools created  by adults.

    What is not clear, is what school boards, administrators and teachers can actually perform.  Expectations would be realistic, if THEY were clear. And honest. If childcare is all we can expect, then let us know.

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