Analysis: What Jann Murray-Garcia Teaches Us on the GATE/AIM Issue

Share:

gate-2

I want to start my analysis of her latest column by stating that, of all of the great people we have in the community, Jann Murray-Garcia ranks in my view at or very near the top in terms of those I admire.

I have known her for over a decade and she has been among the people who most consistently fights for justice for those who have less in this community. At times she has done so at great social expense. At times she has done so at financial expense. And never has she done so to amass personal power or fortune.

I may not always agree with her (though I agree more often than not), but I am always going to read and listen closely to what she has to say.

The first thing I think we all need to acknowledge is that DJUSD has a bad history when it comes to equity for people of color. Whether it has been the history of bullying or the achievement gap, DJUSD has a lot of work it needs to do to provide equality to children of color. We saw this firsthand with the parents who came forward back in 2012 to talk about the treatment their kids received in our local schools.

So, in 2002-03, it was Jann Murray-Garcia who raised the alarm that “no African-American or Latino third-graders in the entire Davis school district were recommended by teachers to sit for the GATE test.” The OLSAT (Otis-Lennon School Ability Test), then as now, was part of the problem. Back in 2005 it yielded few African-American or Latino students and now, as we have seen, it continues to identify heavily for whites and Asians.

The district instituted the TONI (Test of Nonverbal Intelligence) to address racial inequity and bias. But, as Dr. Murray-Garcia notes, “funny things happened over the next several years.” She cites the fact that the TONI increased the black and Latino population “dramatically,” but she saw it as a red flag that it had achieved racial parity by 2005, “matching the proportion of African-American and Latino in the Davis schools to the tenth of a decimal point!”

She concludes from that: “To me, that means when the GATE coordinator found enough students, she stopped looking. When she needed more, she kept looking. Not justice, but political appeasement, maybe?”

We will return to this issue, because she raised a critical alarm in 2010 about private testing.

In 2010 she wrote that, while there has been progress, in 2002-03 “white and Asian-American children were more than three times as likely as African-American children and more than four times as likely as Latino children to be enrolled in the district’s GATE program. Last year, white and Asian students remained twice as likely as African-American and Latino children to be GATE-identified and/or enrolled in the district’s GATE program.”

However, she argued, “private testing is a continuing source of racial and income inequality in GATE identification within our district. White and Asian students are between two and three times more likely as African-American and Latino students to become GATE-identified by private testing.” She added, “Students who are not eligible to receive free and reduced lunch (higher-income families) are nearly three times as likely as children who are eligible for free and reduced lunch (low-income).”

The district, as many now know, has discontinued private testing for GATE/AIM following the 4-1 school board vote on June 4, which probably would have been 5-0 vote had the vote on private testing have been a stand alone.

The bottom line, I think, is this for Jann Murray-Garcia: “AIM’s improved racial representation was achieved only over many years and is now sustained through methods I am still not quite sure of. Racial diversity was forced on AIM, in community response to a culture of racial exclusivity and hostility on our campuses that, at its worse, included several hate crimes occurring over a number of years, in my time, from 2002 onward.”

So what do we make of this? The first thing is that there were clear racial discrepancies in back in 2003, which have been alleviated but not eliminated.

The second, private testing was a problem from the standpoint of fairness and resources. While several parents raised the need for private testing for children moving into the school district, it might be better to address that problem with an approach that allows new students to individually test with the school district.

On the other hand, back in 2010, Jann Murray-Garcia would write, “Many parents believe, and perhaps rightly so, that the GATE self-contained classroom offers an enriched (better?) experience than the non-GATE classroom.” That leads us back to the question as to whether the real answer should be a bigger, more inclusive GATE rather than a smaller and more exclusive GATE (more on this at a later column).

The key to the reforms – and Jann Murray-Garcia was instrumental in pushing the district to reform – was that, in 2002, the district basically used only the OLSAT and teacher identification. The OLSAT, as she notes, is biased against blacks and Latinos, and teacher identification was disastrous for diversity – with teachers simply not recommending blacks and Latinos to the program.

As I understand one strand of the AIM-reform movement, it is to make it smaller and get away from the TONI in identifying students, but that would push us back to where we were in 2003. The data bears that out, with 92 percent of those identified through OLSAT being white and Asian.

One of the problems is that parents of color appear to be under-utilizing GATE/AIM.

As Alicia Silva points out in her recent column in the Vanguard, “District data shows that Latino students are identified for AIM services at nearly the same rate as their representation in the school district, but that fewer Latinos than are identified actually enroll in the program as compared to other ethnic and racial groups.”

She then speculates on a cause of that phenomenon.

She suggests, “This finding may be due to the option of Spanish Immersion, and I think there are additional factors. It saddened me when I heard that an AIM identified Latina child was discouraged in enrolling in AIM by her teacher.  I have heard of similar issues at other schools.”

She adds, “I personally know of a very humble Latino family who did not enroll their AIM identified child because of lack of understanding of the program and difficulty navigating the system. I think these cultural and societal issues are also important to look at.”

She concludes, “We need to provide more parental education and support with regard to the AIM program to Latino families.  The bottom line is, let’s figure out how to best educate Latino families about the AIM program and how best to support them if they chose to enroll their children in AIM, the general education program or Spanish Immersion.”

Jann Murray-Garcia seems to see the reforms as a form of political appeasement. However, watching the July 9 meeting and the large number of people of color, including African-Americans, speak movingly about what the program has done for their children, it seems that the expansion of diversity has been a positive for most involved.

We are still left with the hard questions from before – how large should the program be, who should it serve, and how do we best identify kids in a fair way that promotes diversity?

The ultimate goal here is to best serve as many kids as possible, whether they are in a self-contained AIM classroom or a mainstream one.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

Share:

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.

Related posts

14 thoughts on “Analysis: What Jann Murray-Garcia Teaches Us on the GATE/AIM Issue”

  1. SODA

    The ultimate goal here is to best serve as many kids as possible, whether they are in a self-contained AIM classroom or a mainstream one.

    David, I disagree with the above and think that the statement misses some of the progress your articles have taken us…..to me the key is to provide services to as many kids who need and will benefit from a specific curriculum that this sort of program, whatever you call it, will provide.  I think we have discussed the conceptual difference between a program structured to allow a high potential, low achieving, possible behavior exhibiting student to thrive in……and we have described a larger group of high intellect, high achievers who could benefit from ‘harder, more expansive’ curricula. Until we are able to agree on the two groups and begin to determine how best to identify them, we will continue to drown in discourse about the whole thing.

  2. Anon

    The district instituted the TONI (Test of Nonverbal Intelligence) to address racial inequity and bias. But, as Dr. Murray-Garcia notes, “funny things happened over the next several years.” She cites the fact that the TONI increased the black and Latino population “dramatically,” but she saw it as a red flag that it had achieved racial parity by 2005, “matching the proportion of African-American and Latino in the Davis schools to the tenth of a decimal point!”
    She concludes from that: “To me, that means when the GATE coordinator found enough students, she stopped looking. When she needed more, she kept looking. Not justice, but political appeasement, maybe?””

    So at what point would Dr. Murray-Garcia be satisfied?  When African-American and Latinos were overrepresented, and by what percentage before being satisfied?  To posit the conspiratorial theory of “political appeasement” doesn’t, IMO, offer much insight or help on the AIM issue.

    1. Don Shor

      A more useful column from Dr. Murray-Garcia would focus on what method or methods of GATE-identification she feels would work best, most fairly, and yield the most realistic results. Also, her decision to use her Enterprise column to criticize the professionalism of the GATE coordinator reflects poorly on Dr. Murray-Garcia. It is clear that she is hostile to GATE in general, but I feel that this column was a missed opportunity.

  3. Napoleon Pig IV

    I applaud your overall success and the importance of your work, David,  but in this case I think you’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid. I don’t see M-G as concerned with anything beyond her ideology.

    There is certainly little evidence that M-G is influenced by evidence or by scientific research.

    If diversity has increased, and the individual children involved have derived benefit, what is gained by deriding the motives of the people who worked hard to improve the system and achieved the result of better and well-deserved diversity? Does M-G have any legitimate goal or simply to advance her standing in a really tiny pond by continued harping on fabricated tales of injustice? Political appeasement? Poppycock! Oink!

    1. MrsW

      This is how I would frame past events.  Historically, DJUSD’s GATE program’s demographics did not reflect the diversity we’d expect.  Based on literature research, Ms. Quinn with the District’s blessing, designed an experiment.  The experiment changed one variable, how the screening number used for identification is derived.  Currently the AIM-identified demographics reflect our student population’s demographics to the tenth of a percent. This suggests to me, as well, that DJUSD administrators thought there was a numeric “right answer.”

      Now the next question is — were numbers really what it was ever all about?  To my mind, no.  It wasn’t and it isn’t.  The numbers help describe the situation, but they don’t define it.  What it is about is this–raising humans fit to live in a civil and democratic society.  We’re not ever going to get it “right,” if it isn’t about people and how they interact.

    2. wdf1

      NPIV:  There is certainly little evidence that M-G is influenced by evidence or by scientific research.

      I have to disagree with you there.  She does ask for and work with data, and she does reference literature and scholarly works in her columns.  If  you reference the Davis Enterprise online version of her most recent column, you’ll see examples.  And that’s in part what makes her a strong force to be reckoned with.  Also, she’s been at this for a very long time.

      She usually makes strong points on issues of race.  If I were to quibble with her, it is that I think for Davis a stronger line of division is developing in our community along level of education.  I would imagine that most readers of this blog have at least a bachelors degree, and many have an advanced degree on top.  But I suspect it’s likely that such people have few to no friends who only have a high school diploma or less.  Or who have corresponding blue collar jobs.  Such families are rarer in Davis than elsewhere, but they are definitely a major component of the populace of this state and nation.

      There is an issue to make over how one discusses social (and education) policy if you don’t know personally what it means to live that way.  The reason that this matters is that increasingly there is evidence that American society is losing social mobility from one generation to the next — if parents don’t have a college degree, then it’s increasingly likely the the kids will not get a college degree.  A lot of this comes about because college educated families tend to self segregate into communities that are mostly college-educated.

      Davis does have a population segment that isn’t college educated, and a large segment of that is found within the Latino community.  Racial bias has often been a shorthand for identifying whom is presumably less educated and poorer in society.  But it’s harder to pin down racial bias in Davis when there is such a racial diversity of college educated residents.  I think a more precise way to have these discussions is with respect to family education level.

      1. Alan Miller

        I would imagine that most readers of this blog have at least a bachelors degree, and many have an advanced degree on top.  But I suspect it’s likely that such people have few to no friends who only have a high school diploma or less.

        Say WHAT!?!!!

      2. Napoleon Pig IV

        wdf1 – You make a good point about education level versus race. I think we’d do well to consider that as well as economic factors rather than out of date concepts about racial inequity. Yes, there are still extremely troubling problems with racial biases and serious injustices based on racial prejudices, but the operation of the GATE/AIM program in Davis is definitely not such a situation – at least not unless those trying so hard to dismantle it get their way, and I count M-G in that camp along with Lovenburg and her minions. Oink!

  4. ryankelly

    The School Board agenda for the August 6th meeting is posted.  There will be an update from the Superintendent on the progress regarding AIM for the complete report for the Sept 17 meeting.  One of the attachments is a letter sent to the AIM teachers in the District.  In the letter he describes meeting with AIM teachers to hear their ideas and suggestions.  He also describes the focus of their research – contact and dialogue with university researchers specializing in GATE; review of GATE programs in districts throughout California.  The panel – 4 top District administrators – will vet preliminary recommendations on Aug 14. Secondary AIM teachers are planning to meet on Aug. 18 and the letter asks if the Superintendent and his panel can share these preliminary recommendations at that meeting. Elementary AIM teachers are not scheduled to formally meet until Sept. 30, so he invites the Elementary AIM teachers to attend a meeting on Aug 19 to hear the recommendations.

     

     

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for