Monday Morning Thoughts: Why Wasn’t 2014 School Board Election About GATE?

Former School Board Candidate and parent, Bob Poppenga asked critical questions at last week's school board meeting
Former school board candidate and parent Bob Poppenga asked critical questions at last week’s school board meeting

The supporters of the current GATE/AIM program have complained repeatedly that the proposal to change the GATE/AIM program caught them off guard. Board Vice President Madhavi Sunder stated, “There was no notice to the public that today you are going to dismantle self-contained GATE as we know it in the DJUSD.”

Parents have come forward with similar frustrations. Heema Govindjee-Merchant expressed disappointment with the decisions regarding the AIM program, “AIM families are surprised and in fact shocked about the way in which you have voted. They are saying shouldn’t we be notified or surveyed about our experience in the program prior to the board making decisions that will define AIM and change the way it operates in the future?”

Christine Farnum expressed concern about the process. She said that she’s been paying attention to the school board meetings, but “I was completely blindsided by these two decisions, didn’t expect them, didn’t see anything about them on the agendas or have any reason to expect that the process for eligibility would be so drastically changed and that the coordinator would be eliminated.”

She added, “I’m not the only person that feels blindsided and whose trust in this and the board has really been shaken.” She said, “I know that GATE can be a divisive issue in our community. People feel like it creates a divide. These last two decisions have created a huge gap.”

Running against this narrative are the defenders of the board actions. They argue that this issue was a long time in coming – that it goes back years. They note that the reason that the action on June 4 was taken so late was the four hours of discussion at this meeting and four hours of discussion at a previous meeting.

Board Member Barbara Archer articulated this position very well at the July 9 meeting. She noted that GATE reform has been a discussion for several decades. “The debate over how we should serve our students in this program has been going on for nearly 20 years now,” she said.

Ms. Archer said she’s been urging for reform to the GATE/AIM program for seven years. “So when folks urge us to take a step back and stop rushing this – how many decades do you want to review it?” She added, “Even those in this room, who support the self-contained only model, agree that the program identifies too many students.”

Barbara Archer addressed the late night vote that keeps coming up. “When people say that it implies this was slipped in when no one would notice – people tend to leave out that this was a decision after, again, four hours of conversation on June 4 and four hours of conversation on March 19.”

“The room was full for both meetings,” she continued. The meetings are the only places, she said, where they can discuss these matters. “Therefore new direction and decisions come out of these meetings all the time. You may not agree with the direction or the decision but that is the process.”

Barbara Archer said, “This is a complex issue and change is hard. But it is our district’s job to use our resources and our pedagogical tools to teach all our students in the best way possible. Many districts have moved from self-contained models to differentiation. Many districts have moved to models where GATE classes are smaller.”

She added, “Our staff is using the summer to look at best practices and will bring back a proposal in the fall.”

I think it comes down for me to this point: Barbara Archer is completely correct when she notes the history of this issue. And she is correct that there has been plenty of discussion this year and over the years. I could completely accept this reasoning but for one major problem.

The implication was that there was a community debate, the pro-reform side won that debate and took power. The problem with that theory is that, from what I can see – and I had a pretty good seat to watch the 2014 election – this was not the major issue discussed during the election.

GATE was not a big issue in the 2014 election from what I can see. The board candidates talked about restoring trust and forging consensus in the wake of the Nancy Peterson scandal.

On October 17, the Vanguard asked the GATE Question. Tom Adams wrote, “The needs of GATE/AIM-identified students can be balanced with the needs of the majority of students by improving program design and through the better use of existing resources. The Davis program should be evaluated for whether it is using current best practices, and the California Association for the Gifted would be the first place to seek information about best practices.”

He added, “More importantly, the AIM program should be an innovative program that is an exemplar. As I stated in the Vanguard’s Forum, my educational philosophy is summed up in the idea of universal design for learning. The district needs to shape its programs to meeting the needs of all students, including GATE/AIM-identified student.”

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

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

Certainly there was no inkling in these answers – even reading them with 20-20 hindsight – about the direction that the district would be going on this contentious issue.

What is perhaps interesting is that we are getting a de facto debate on GATE/AIM. Chuck Rairdan, one of the candidates from last fall, has weighed in, noting “At the closing of this debate, Trustee Lovenberg moved unexpectedly for a vote to end private testing as a means to determine eligibility for the AIM program—a topic that was not at all the thrust of the conversation nor on the agenda as a pending board action.”

He would add, “Ultimately, a 4-1 majority voted in favor of this motion. Why wasn’t there a fair and open debate on this specific item before casting a vote? Rather than addressing specific concerns about this option for identifying AIM candidates who do not test well in group settings, it was simplistically and summarily eliminated without due process.  And irrespective of the merits of this decision (from the discussion that wasn’t), only one board member–Madhavi Sunder–rightfully objected to this surprise motion on purely procedural grounds.”

Bob Poppenga, who finished a close fourth last November, noted, “When legitimate questions about proposed public policy or program changes go unanswered by elected officials, should we be concerned that ultimate decisions by those individuals will have failed to consider all available facts or that a significant number of constituents will have lost trust in those refusing to provide answers?”

While both Mr. Poppenga and Mr. Rairdan weighed in on the GATE issue last October, it was not a centerpiece in the campaign. The 2014 election was no referendum on GATE. This was not a political battle that the GATE defenders lost in a vote of the people.

It is clear that there are three on the board willing to make drastic changes to the program. They proved this less with the June 4 vote – that they can rightly argue was just a prelude to more changes in September – and more so with the June 18 vote by a 3-2 margin to not renew the VSA.

The question is, do they have community backing? That is an interesting question. It seemed to take the GATE-defenders some time to rise up to this challenge. It was not until after the June 18 vote on Deanne Quinn that they seemed to mobilize.

At the June 25 meeting, they heavily dominated the hour and 45-minute public comment. On July 9, the commenters were split, with a slight advantage in favor of the pro-GATE side, but the room seemed more heavily tilted.

This week was interesting – we had five community based commentaries on GATE, all in favor of the current program. This weekend, the Davis Enterprise had three – all three of them pro-GATE. The Enterprise normally attempts to balance their pieces to create a dialogue. That did not happen here.

Is that meaningful? Or is it a sign that those who wish to change the program think they have already won?

If anything, this will ignite the battle at the next election. GATE will not be an issue on the back-burner, it will be the issue. And perhaps then we can finally get a sense as to where the broader community stands on this.

—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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  1. zaqzaq

    Adams stated,

    “the California Association for the Gifted would be the first place to seek information about best practices.”

    When will the school board consult with this association for best practices?  Or was this just smoke by Mr. Adams during the election?


    1. MrsW

      We don’t have to start from scratch. DJUSD has a GATE Master Plan.  IMO, it is a good document except for one thing.  It does not account for the fact that children are members of a greater community and that adults have the responsibility to raise them to be responsible citizens in that community.

  2. ryankelly

    You should quote what Sunder said about GATE during her campaign, which was almost nothing.

    It wasn’t as if I didn’t try to bring this up during the campaign. I was shot down, vilified, accused of all sorts of things whenever it brought up Sunder’s aggressive defense of the status quo for AIM.  I even went so far as saying that she was the GATE candidate.  I believe that the candidates knew that this was divisive issue so avoided it whenever possible.  Sunder’s campaign did their best to shut down any discussion of this issue, even though her last foray into politics was leading a campaign to protect the status quo for AIM

    One question about about AIM during the entire campaign.  We have only ourselves to blame.

      1. ryankelly

        Don’t expect me to believe that she is not involved.  Her words are echoed in every repetitive letter.   This is just a continuation of her previous campaign on this issue.

        1. Davis Progressive

          i’m not arguing that point.  my point is she is not the one who voted to make changes to the gate program, so she’s not driving the policy agenda for the district.  it’s no surprise she’s supportive of the current program – but she’s not the one who was stealth.

        2. wdf1

          During the election I had concerns that ryankelly and others raised about Sunder being a “GATE/AIM candidate.”  I decided to vote for her, and I thought her following statement addressed what concerns (for me) were raised.  Also that she reached out to a broad spectrum of the school community seemed to show work to move beyond attachment to a single constituency.

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

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


          I disagree with her position on private testing, and believe that the district should provide whatever testing is needed for any student.  But nevertheless, I see her position as being open to reasonable compromise on what has been proposed regarding differentiated instruction.

          I interpreted her vote against Lovenberg’s motion on June 4 to have been based more on Brown Act noticing issues, which I also disagree with her (and David Greenwald) on.  I would hope that when the issue comes before the board again that her response will be more about substance than procedure.

      1. ryankelly

        It seems all were aware of problems with the program, some mentioned differentiated instruction, etc.  This is not a surprise for any of the candidates.

  3. Misanthrop

    Sunder’s view should be relevant since she got the most votes and is a member of the board. Sadly, the board majority seems to have no interest in working with her to try to forge a consensus and find the points of agreement on how to improve the program. This is a huge mistake by the board majority as it will possibly lead to unforeseen consequences on future parcel taxes as voters who feel disrespected use the only tool left to them to register their dissatisfaction. If the board wants to take corrective action they would appoint a subcommittee of Sunder and another trustee to see if they can find a path forward. Changing the gate program without the participation and support of Sunder is a risky strategy. If it blows up, Archer, Adams and Lovenburg will share in the responsibility, especially if they fail to reach out to Sunder in a meaningful attempt to get her on board. It may not be possible to find consensus but they will never know unless they try. To date they haven’t even tried and that failure to reach out and try is what is causing the gate community to question the governance style of this board.

    By the way Ryan its better for Sunder to get rolled than to be forced to negotiate major reform of the gate program.

      1. Davis Progressive

        i think the question at this point is who is closer to the community’s view sunder or the three (fernandes i think you have to consider apart from the other three).  we don’t have a good read on that.  so why is it her obligation to work with the other members at this point?

        1. Misanthrop

          There is no obligation to compromise but there is an obligation to serve the community that each accepted when they ran for office. The community deserves that they try to reach consensus where they can agree and bridge the gaps where possible on the points of disagreement. That is called leadership.

          Ramming through something not thoroughly vetted by the community without explanation or outreach based on majority rule is not the way to win friends and influence people. We can see from the level of dissent that the board majority has not adequately convinced many in the community that they are headed in the right direction. It is for that reason that I feel the board should step back and try to find a better path forward by reaching out to the minority for input. Even if such an attempt fails at least they can show they tried. However, I think such an approach will bear some fruit because it seems there is some agreement on many of the issues.

        2. Davis Progressive

          what you believe that reaching this kind of consensus is harmful to the students in the district?  i don’t automatically buy that consensus is the key to good public policy.

  4. Tia Will


    This is a huge mistake by the board majority as it will possibly lead to unforeseen consequences on future parcel taxes as voters who feel disrespected use the only tool left to them to register their dissatisfaction.”

    I fail to see how these could possibly be seen as “unforeseen consequences” since either as an observation, a warning, or as a threat depending on one’s point of view, the issue of parcel taxes has come up again and again. There are many ways to “register their dissatisfaction” such as public comment, letters to both candidates and media, campaigning against the individual candidates in the future whose actions they disapprove. None of these actions would be harmful to the only truly vulnerable group here, the students. But voting against a future parcel tax is now being characterized as ” the only tool”. I strongly disagree with this characterization.

    1. Misanthrop

      Okay fine, one tool. By the way its not my preferred way. I would prefer the board majority try to reach consensus by appointing a sub committee of Sunder and another trustee. They all know the issues and the different paths. The board majority now faces a choice, they can pursue a reckless majority rules strategy or they can try consensus. Both might get them to almost the same place. One does so with much acrimony and at great expense politically the other might offer to reduce that acrimony.

      1. Davis Progressive

        while i think you are onto something here, my concern is who is the other person that can hammer a compromise – because the three don’t need sunder to get their way.

        1. Misanthrop

          It could be any of them but the only requirement is that they make a good faith effort. Otherwise it won’t work and will leave us back where we are today. Remember the person negotiating for the majority has the strong hand.

        2. Davis Progressive

          then maybe the better course of action will be to wait until the public weighs in on the issue.  why should madhavi negotiate from a weak hand?

      2. hpierce

        I strongly agree with the sub-committee idea, and would be strongly opposed to either Sunder or Lovenburg being on it.  At first sign of any change, Sunder uses the word “dismantle”… not modify, amend, change,  but “dismantle”.  Lovenburg sees to have some antipathy toward the program, and made the June 4 motion.  I suggest Fernandes, who, in effect had split votes, and one of the others.  I just can’t see a sub-committee of Sunder and Lovenburg… just can’t see anywhere near a consensus.

        However, if Sunder is chosen, Lovenberg should DEFINITELY be the other.


  5. Misanthrop

    Longer than they have to date since they haven’t even tried.  As you say  “It seems all were aware of problems with the program, some mentioned differentiated instruction, etc.  This is not a surprise for any of the candidates.”

    It seems obvious that there are changes that all five board members can agree to if a good faith attempt to find those points of agreement is initiated. Remember the Gate Committee never finished their work when it was pre-empted by board action. Additional changes could also be made through negotiation. Simply making changes by majority rule, while possible, does create the potential for a parcel tax backlash when the board needs a 2/3 majority vote of the public. Getting there by consensus reduces acrimony. The board majority will need to give up a little but by ramming through their agenda they risk much more by alienating voters whose support they are going to need next year.

  6. keithvb

    Jeff Dale wrote yesterday in the Enterprise, “I’ve learned that you have heard the diverse and voluminous research showing that the best practice, on both pedagogy and cost, for educating intellectually gifted kids is full-time ability grouping in self-contained classes. Against that, you have one study that, by its own admission, finds no statistically significant effects to support the conclusions you draw from it.”

    Looks like the school board has selected the words that fit with its plans.

    1. ryankelly

      The identification process of intellectually gifted children is the question that they are dealing with.  Research has shown and acknowledged by staff, including Quinn, that the Districts process has serious problems. Universal testing is identifying fewer and fewer students.  Private testing is identifying 1/3 of the students, despite these students having a mean score in the 70th percentile on the OLSAT.  So many children are being identified, a lottery is held to see which child is admitted into the self-contained classroom, rather than placing children according to need.   I don’t know why people continue to defend this model. It is just nuts.

      Yes, this model is being changed.  No, the GATE program is not being eliminated.   Current students in the AIM program will continue to be in the AIM program and will not be removed.

      1. Don Shor

        So which combination of tests do you prefer?

        Yes, this model is being changed. No, the GATE program is not being eliminated.

        Actually, you have no idea what this board majority plans to do.

      2. ryankelly

        The staff need to look at the best testing process and what it will take in terms of staff resources to implement it and present it to the Board.  I am waiting to read what they come up with.  How is this punting?

        I would say with some confidence that a full time staff psychologist position needs to be restored.

        Just look at the process that you described for your own child which involved multiple measures.

  7. MrsW

    Not sure if this is relevant, but have a feeling it is.  The AIM Committee is a Superintendent’s advisory committee, not a School Board advisory committee.  It consists of a teacher and a parent representative from each school in the district, including neighborhood schools without a self-contained program, DSIS, and King.  For years, Ms. Quinn led the meetings.   In recent years, three administrators conducted the meetings: Mr. Best, Dr. Bryant and Ms. Quinn.

  8. Frankly

    It is said that “gifted” students (if we must continue to use this label in classification) tend to differ from other students in the following:

    the pace at which they learn
    the depth of their understanding
    the interests that they hold

    Just read this and re-read this and you should start to understand the opposition to segregation of “gifted” students.

    Because these three differences apply to ALL students.

    Instead of low-granularity classification that results in a unidimensional approach; the system needs retooling to be support multi-programing within a school-of-one, student-centered-learning ( ) context.   We need a constellation of programs available in which ALL students can participate based on their abilities, needs, and interests in a flexible development pathing and pacing strategy.

    The AIM/GATE demand is basically a patch on a gaping wound of education system inadequacy that has always been there.  The education system attempts to simplify the job of educating with low-granularity student capability grouping and classification, and standards testing.  Historically, the large percentage of students not fitting in to the system would tough it out, graduate (or not) and then go find their way.  But the pace of change in our economy has made it much more difficult to “find a way” to a reasonably economically self-sufficient life without a good education.

    And so the gaping wound is larger and more damaging to the future of students not served well.

    And the AIM/GATE proponents know this.  They are anxious about the future for their kids, and want them to have the best education possible to help increase the likelihood that they will find their way to a reasonably happy and successful life in this modern time where finding their way requires a good education.

    But this isn’t the optimal solution.  There is no reason that any GATE-identified student cannot be adequately educated in a regular classroom if the system was reformed to treat every student as special and having special education needs.


    1. Don Shor

      Actually, “regular” classes work well for most “regular” students. GATE classes work well for most GATE students. Only one of my two kids needed self-contained GATE; the other did just fine in regular classrooms with normal curriculum. I was the only of my 3 siblings that needed the equivalent of self-contained GATE back in my day. Some kids need self-contained GATE. Most don’t. Exactly what percentage and how we determine that seems to be a key question.

      It’s just that there seem to be a lot of parents of regular students who don’t want GATE classes to exist. For anyone. They think all kids can (or should) learn equally well in classrooms of mixed learning styles. Some are social justice advocates. Others just have no experience with the different learning styles.

      But why people who don’t know my kid seem to think they know what was best for my kid, I don’t know.

      DSIS comes closest to your “school of one.” It’s a wonderful program. But it’s not for everyone. It’s certainly not for most parents. I can’t tell you how many times, when my kid was in DSIS, I heard “oh, I could never do that.” Why? Because of the time commitment from parents that it required. And because most people aren’t comfortable with their kid not physically being on campus all day.

      1. Frankly

        Actually, “regular” classes work well for most “regular” students.

        I don’t agree with that, but then my “work well” and your “work well” definitions might be quite a bit different.  And what a “regular” student is might also vary.

        You make a good point about DSIS.  It might be the best fit for certain students, yet some parents cannot take on the role for various reasons.  Maybe the parents lack education or skills.  More likely the parent is working for a living and lacks the time.  So, why doesn’t the school support and facilitate independent study as part of a larger and more varied and dynamic set of choices?

        1. ryankelly

          I agree that DSIS has become a resource for gifted students who do not fit in with the current high-achievement focus of the Davis AIM program.  For working parents, DSIS works well for older students who can be trusted to be on their own all day or have a job or are heavily involved in an extra curricular activity.  However, with younger students, there is the issue of where they would be cared for during the day and by whom.  One parent would need to be able to work from home, have a very flexible schedule or not work outside the home at all.  For a one parent family, this becomes a logistical nightmare or a very expensive one for the family.  Since we are talking mainly about an elementary/middle school program, these issues should be part of any discussion.

    2. wdf1

      Frankly:  …the system needs retooling to be support multi-programing within a school-of-one, student-centered-learning context.  We need a constellation of programs available in which ALL students can participate based on their abilities, needs, and interests in a flexible development pathing and pacing strategy.

      Part of the issue is based on your expectations of what a school should provide — more individual-centered.  There are ways in which Davis schools provide that.  Don highlighted DSIS.  The Montessori program also has many elements that you’re looking for, and is discussed in the wiki link you provide.

      Other parents have different kinds of expectations for what school should be.  Some like the nature of the Da Vinci program — more technology oriented, project-based learning, some work driven by individual initiative.  And other parents expect to have a traditional comprehensive high school, something that looks a little bit more like a college environment because that’s where they expect their kids to go, and which can support more varied activities — performing arts, visual arts, CTE, athletics.  Spanish-/Dual-immersion is also popular for different reasons.

      Given that, it is better to have the kind of constellation of programs that we have to meet those expectations, but also to allow for variety if one program isn’t working.  With this concept in mind, that is why I think the district should provide both a self-contained option and a differentiated instruction option for AIM/GATE.


      1. Frankly

        I don’t understand why both would be needed.   Differentiation should cover the need.  We are talking about student development, not academic competition.

        I think 100 students will result in 100 different development challenges that require 100 customized development strategies.  Self-contained GATE is saying that the district can first accurately assess that a percentage of those 100 students are “gifted” and then go on to satisfy their diverse individual development needs by grouping them together.

        Here is maybe a way to wrap your head about an approach that would more closely meet my expectations.

        Say that there are five instructional approaches for almost every core subject, and many electives:

        1. General – lecture, homework, testing

        2. Independent-study

        3. Facilitated group – collaborative

        4. Facilitated advanced – technical

        5. Struggling – tutored

        I think if your goal is to optimize student engagement and education outcomes that each student would end up with a schedule that is a unique mix of all five of these instructional approaches… and also a unique mix of classes above and beyond the core requirement.

        1. Don Shor

          I don’t understand why both would be needed.

          Because you need self-contained GATE for some students, and parents want GATE-level education for others.

        2. Don Shor

          I think 100 students will result in 100 different development challenges that require 100 customized development strategies. Self-contained GATE is saying that the district can first accurately assess that a percentage of those 100 students are “gifted” and then go on to satisfy their diverse individual development needs by grouping them together.

          A good teacher looks at a room full of 25 – 30 students and does her best to optimize the learning for each one. She has students across the spectrum, including some with special needs. In a challenging classroom situation, those with learning disabilities, behavior problems, emotional issues, language barriers, will require more of her time and effort.
          Self-contained GATE puts those with ‘gifted’ characteristics together so the resources for those students can be optimized. Similarly, students in special ed may be pulled out of the classroom at times to work with resource specialists. That leaves the teacher free to spend more time on the other students. If you have students at either end of the spectrum monopolizing the teacher’s time, the students in the “middle” won’t get what they need.
          Obviously curriculum is geared toward groups of students as to how advanced or remedial their knowledge base and learning skills are. Self-contained GATE is saying that the district can make a reasonable guess, based on well-developed tests administered by people who know what they are doing, as to where kids stand in knowledge base and learning skills and styles. Good teachers then treat each student individually within that group. Much of the debate is about how effective those tests are, and which ones might meet the goals better (and there is some variance as to the goals). But in terms of providing curriculum and resources and applying teaching techniques, sorting them into groups makes sense.
          You don’t try to teach a classroom at the pace of the slowest or fastest learners. You separate them to their levels, and then treat them individually within those subgroups.

        3. Frankly

          If you have students at either end of the spectrum

          There aren’t two ends of a spectrum.  It isn’t linear.  It is amorphous, dynamic and multi-faceted.

          You don’t try to teach a classroom at the pace of the slowest or fastest learners.

          I agree, you provide instruction in a way that is optimized to each child.

          You separate them to their levels, and then treat them individually within those subgroups

          So, you believe we need to first group into subgroups, and THEN give them individualized treatment?  Why is that?  Why do you think we need to segregate them before we give them individualized treatment?

          It is really funny if you think about it.   You are basically saying that the single classroom is not granular enough in differentiation and so we need to segregate kids in groups before we could be successful with a level of differentiation.  My point that that segregation into groups is not an acceptable level of differentiation granularity… that the only acceptable level is that each student has his/her development needs assessed and the school is reformed so ALL are able to move freely between the constellation of different education styles.

          I think there are few “gifted” kids that are gifted at everything.  Some have strong language skills.  Some have strong math skills.  Some are very analytical and like to solve problems.  Some are very artistic and like to create new things.  Some are very emotionally intelligent and excel at different academic tasks.  Some are introverts and don’t do well in group settings.  Some are extroverts and can’t stand to work alone.  Some have fidgeting nervous energy and need more physical exertion.  Some are hypersensitive and need a less volatile and active environment.   Some are so far behind certain subjects that you might not be able to tell that they are gifted.  Some are so far ahead in certain subjects, that they might be better served helping the teacher teach the classes or tutoring other kids.   Some kids cannot do well because they are hungry or have family issues that require a food and maybe a counseling session as one of their classes to help them develop emotionally and psychologically. Some kids need money to help their family and would be better off working at the school they attend. Some need a boarding school.  Some are physically, mentally and emotionally challenged to the point where they need special help and resources.

          The list goes on. (of course I am not talking specifically of Davis here, although much applies)

          It has been my observation for some time that we have never got it right.  We test, group and categorize the kids because it is easier on the adults, not because it is good for the kids.

          This continues into higher learning where we demand that the kids pick a major, and they refuse to let them change it when the kids figure out it was the wrong choice.

          We are suppose to be developing these kids… all of them… to their greatest INDIVIDUAL potential.   To do that we need to constantly assess and adjust with a rich supply of educational “tools”… a constellation of instructional approaches and treatments.

          I get the segregation approach.  It has come about because of funding demands and because of the inability of the system to reform and retool to the modern marvel it should be.

          1. Don Shor

            So, you believe we need to first group into subgroups, and THEN give them individualized treatment? Why is that? Why do you think we need to segregate them before we give them individualized treatment?

            Did you ever volunteer in a classroom?

            We test, group and categorize the kids because it is easier on the adults, not because it is good for the kids.

            False. We do it to enable better use of resources for the kids and teach them more effectively and efficiently.

    3. Sam

      “the pace at which they learn”
      “the depth of their understanding”
      “the interests that they hold”

      “Just read this and re-read this and you should start to understand the opposition to segregation of “gifted” students.”

      “Because these three differences apply to ALL students.”

      Yes, all three differences apply to all students, that on its face is true. However, with a highly intelligent student those three differences can cause HUGE problems for them when being educated. This seems to be forgotten while everyone is rushing to create a program where all children are “gifted”.

    4. hpierce

      Frankly, you missed one important attribute… they way they ‘process information’ (thinking and learning).  Just like there are differences in ‘normal’ folk, and those with dyslexia, and other ‘mental “conditions”‘.  Most of the research indicates it is innate, and ‘training’ doesn’t really change it, except superficially.  But this “innate difference” certainly doesn’t rise to 30-35% of the population.

      That being said, you are correct, except all FOUR attributes apply to all students.  As do non-cognitive ones, such as emotional.

  9. iWitness

    The AIM parents there on June 4 were there out of concern about the Carrell study and out of interest in what the AIM AC spent the last year trying to do.  They were blind-sided at the June 18 meeting because the coordinator was the solution, not the problem.

    “Frankly,”  NO child is better served helping the teacher teach the classes or tutoring other kids.  That’s child labor.  It may be based on the idea that you can’t really know a subject till you’ve taught it to someone else.  1) AIM kids can.  2) They need to know what comes next, preferably yesterday.  It’s education, not hurry up and wait.  3)  They are kids.  Grasp of a subject doesn’t mean you can teach it to other third-graders.  Teaching is such an honorable profession, IMO and yours,right?  There’s a reason, so don’t knock them.  Kids have no teaching certificates, no experience, no actual rewards, just a lot of  warm fuzzies that translate into animosity from the tutees who love their teacher just as much as the tutors do.  All students deserve equal access to their teacher.  If the span of abilities is wide enough, that teacher can’t meet everyone’s needs and so should resort to 19th century abuses?  We pay over-sized salaries to the “cabinet” administrators around here who are far removed from the source of their incomes — hard-working teachers and each little kid seated in each little seat a) each mortifyingly obvious day they “help” other students and b) terminally bored there.  Some need to WORK at their school, as in a job?  Doing what?  Learning is their job.  Let the bruisers monitor the playground, the wimps clap erasers together during recess, the lunch helpers do it for pin money instead of sharing the growth and the honor that come with public service?  How Oliver Twisted of you.  Boarding school for nine-year-olds?  How Jane Eyre of you.

    Who refuses to let college students change their majors?  (I wish I could have sent mine there.)  And how is that something you can blame on the AIM program? So your point was?

    One thing you did fairly well was list a small portion of the amazing variety of gifted children and their characteristics positive and negative — and put it to the worst of uses by calling self-contained classes segregation.  You can’t have it both ways, quite aside from your total lack of moral access to that term.  Self-contained students vary enormously but at least the non-self-contained classes don’t have to contain them, too, to everyone’s benefit.  (Except in the Carrell report. I blame UCD for them)

    You often have better to offer, but what did you (th)ink for dinner?

    1. Frankly

      Pick your major at a state school and you will have limited ability to change it in your 3rd, 4th or 5th year.  Forget it if you graduate… you are never getting back in to earn that degree you finally determined to be right for you.

      The point was/is that we pick policy that makes it easy on the adults, not that is the best for the students.

      For your other criticims of my points and ideas, I stand by them… while agreeing that Davis does not have all the same problems as other districts, and that some of my ideas and points do not apply to younger students.

      I do view self-contained as a form of segregation.  The courts are agreeing as many states are banning self-contained gifted programs based on this very argument.

      1. Don Shor

        Pick your major at a state school and you will have limited ability to change it in your 3rd, 4th or 5th year. Forget it if you graduate… you are never getting back in to earn that degree you finally determined to be right for you.

        This doesn’t even make sense. Of course you can change your major. And, of course, you can’t change it after you graduate. But you can return for another undergraduate degree if you wish. I don’t know what you’re trying to say.
        Yes, it would be wonderful if we could have an IEP and the equivalent of DSIS for every child. That would require a massive increase in resources. And it would be unnecessary. Teaching kids in groups based on their abilities is a reasonable approach to public education. I’m sorry you consider it a form of segregation. We separate kids based on various criteria in many instances in education — and in life. DSIS is a form of segregation by your definition. Shall we abolish it? Shall we make GATE open enrollment? How about sports programs?
        I am unaware of any states “banning self-contained gifted programs” via court orders or legislation. Can you please cite some examples? And if they are, they are seriously harming youngsters who need self-contained programs.
        I continue to wonder why so many people who don’t know my child seems to think they know the best way for me to have sought to educate my child.

      2. wdf1

        Frankly:  Pick your major at a state school and you will have limited ability to change it in your 3rd, 4th or 5th year.  Forget it if you graduate… you are never getting back in to earn that degree you finally determined to be right for you.

        There is more flexibility in the US system of higher education than you suggest.  In many foreign countries you pick your major directly when you go to college, and there is no general ed. requirement.  In the U.S., there is typically a general ed. requirement that allows for the opportunity to explore different class and areas.  As far as going back to finally earn the degree that is right for you, that happens frequently and in various ways.  Students get undergraduate degrees in one field and graduate/professional degrees in another field.  Or one can get an undergraduate degree in one field and later take upper division courses in another field to get the equivalent of a second major.  But I do agree with what you said elsewhere, that the cost of education is making that flexibility increasingly prohibitive.

    2. MrsW

      NO child is better served helping the teacher teach the classes or tutoring other kids.

      Unless you end up having a child enrolled in the DJUSD AIM to DSIS pipeline and you end up home schooling him.  All the experience I gained through helping others in junior high and high school came in very handy.  [A snarky comment, I know, but I couldn’t help it.]

      1. iWitness

        No problem with snark, MrsW — but you are talking about secondary, not elementary school.  I helped classmates, too, especially in junior high.  I had a good idea of what was appropriate for me to do and sounds like you did, too.

        But in elementary school, it’s simply abusive to set a child up like that and Frankly was referring to putting kids to work as a way of dealing with what differentiation that’s too broad actually means to them, not continuing on with their own learning.  And please, no comment about other things the helpers learn.  It’s iffy.

        What is missing here. though, is any discussion of the time spent in common in a classroom, for example, being read a book together, asking questions that make other kids think, and thinking about their questions.  (If the questions are two or three years behind where your kid is, this isn’t relevant but can still be a pleasant experience, even if it’s a book you have already read five times.)   More maturation and wider learning goes on in school than we can calibrate. A good teacher can mend a lot of little fences that way.  It’s great to have the DSIS alternative, though.

  10. ryankelly

    There is less flexibility than people assume.  Currently, UCD does not accept students that already have one undergraduate degree for a second undergraduate degree.  Students are limited to a certain number of units, so if they change their major, they have to show that they can complete the major in under that maximum unit count.  Financial aid stops after a certain number of terms, so it becomes economically unfeasible without taking on huge debt.  Majors require courses that prepare them for their upper division classes, so students can’t waste time exploring too much outside of the required classes in an area of study.

  11. Tia Will

    ryankelly and wdf1 are both making valid points. This varies over time and at different UC campuses. At the time I was accepted at UCSB to complete my requirement courses for pre-med, UCSB was the only UC campus that was accepting “re-entry” students for students who had already completed a BA in another field. Because of my background, I have remained interested in the prospects for re-entry students and have seen these policies evolve over time.  UCSB was also closed to re-entry students at one point. I do not know the current situation at any of the other UC’s but do know that we are currently in a “tight” phase for UCD students, but this does not mean that the policy is set in stone temporally.

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