Diversity as a Guise for Inequality? Jann Murray-Garcia’s Take on GATE/AIM


Today in her column, Jann Murray-Garcia reemerges in the GATE/AIM debate, laying out a history of her concerns about the program. As we continue our evaluation and analysis of the program, Dr. Murray-Garcia lays out these concerns from a different perspective.

She writes that, back in 2002, “as president of a small community organization called Blacks for Effective Community Action, I presented to the district a 26-page report on underrepresentation of African-American, Latino and Native American children in the GATE program and other educational inequities” (link).

Back in 2002-03 there were “no African-American or Latino third-graders in the entire Davis school district were recommended by teachers to sit for the GATE test.” She adds, “Universal testing with the OLSAT, which professor David Jelinek stated in 2005 was a culturally biased standardized test, yielded few African-American or Latino children who scored within the 95th percentile to qualify for GATE.”

However, she continues, “when the TONI test was instituted to address this racial inequity and bias, funny things happened over the next several years.”

Dr. Jann Murray-Garcia writes, “The most recent GATE coordinator and the district widely celebrated that the population of African-American and Latino GATE-identified kids by spring 2004 had increased dramatically, and was at 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?”

Next she notes that, during the second year of using TONI, she wrote a letter on June 16, 2005, that communicated anger “that most of this second year of TONI-identified students, though GATE-identified, had been left on a waiting list and were not participating in self-contained GATE.” She writes, “This GATE coordinator was allowed to do her own assessment of this injustice, reporting that African-American and Latino parents wanted their children to stay in their neighborhood schools.”

Dr. Murray-Garcia argues, “If we can’t have a multi-dimensional, observational identification process, with members who are aware of and can manage the implicit racial and class bias we all have, then no student should be identified using a single IQ test, steeped as they are in the history of eugenics, and easily gamed with enough money.”

She continues, “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.”

She urges people to watch, “From The Community To The Classroom,” at www.communitotheclassroom.com.

Dr. Murray-Garcia continues, “I hope you see why it is ironic to me, and a little insulting, that this aspect of AIM is being used to defend GATE as we know it.”

She notes that private testing until recently allowed a kid to be tested by several private psychologists. Third graders, she noted, could go to as many private tests and make as many attempts as their parents could afford.

In 2010, in her column, “Intent and Outcome in a GATE’d Community,” she presents data that showed a child’s family that was white or Asian, or high income, was three times more likely to be GATE-identified, through private versus universal testing, than were than African-American, Latino or poor students.

She writes, “This incredible, indefensible finding, which puts our district at risk of civil rights violations, did not change after the district allowed only a single private psychologist test.”

“I am not sure why this is. I believe it is in part due to the phenomenon that if your child is GATE-identified in the third grade, s/he automatically is tracked in to the highest level classes in the seventh through 10th grades, regardless of how they perform academically in the fourth, fifth or sixth grades, or thereafter,” she writes.

“As I listened recently to a parent with sincerity justify private testing because ‘some kids don’t test well in a group setting,’ I thought, wow, we don’t even see the privilege we are defending,” Dr. Murray-Garcia continues.

On June 4, she notes that UC Davis research scientists found no impact on the STAR tests by the GATE self-contained participation. Jann Murray Garcia writes, “I was intrigued that so many parents who vociferously defended a standardized test to identify deservedness to participate in AIM felt the use of this standardized test to measure its outcome was invalid.”

She continues, “I was intrigued to witness parents who argued against a lottery because a 98th percentile score was ‘better’ than a 96th percentile score on the OLSAT, and ‘of course’ superior to the TONI-3, upset at the sole use of this standardized testing outcome” (Link).

Dr. Jann-Murray Garcia argues, “IQ tests like the OLSAT have their bases, policy place and societal confidence from the history of the eugenics movement that, using such tests, labeled even southern European white ethnic groups as ‘feeble-minded,’ not to mention the ‘Negro’ or ‘Mexican.’”

She adds, “This — private testing, non-transparent TONI testing, distinguishing the potential of ’97s’ from ’99s’ — is a cultural phenomenon, a mess by which our children are injured and by which the district is legally exposed.”

She writes, “And while we are subjecting our children to self-fulfilling prophecies of gifted and not gifted, those kids most in need of a self-contained program — those cognitively precocious children and teenagers who are wildly underperforming in or even extruded by our schools — are not having their needs addressed or even validated. And the number of students districtwide who are bullies and bullied is not equitably addressed by physically segregating a segment of them. That’s not fair.”

In conclusion, Jann Murray-Garcia says that she worries that newer parents will not be aware that diversity “is being used as a defense for a program that, by definition, excludes, where membership can be secured by money and where political expediency has created an untenable legal liability on several dimensions for our district.”

She adds, “Perhaps the money set aside for a new GATE coordinator can be used for a differentiation coach, like was used in Lafayette, a community like ours, shrinking self-contained GATE and subsequently raising test scores and decreasing bullying.”

—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. MrsW

    “….matching the proportion of African-American and Latino in the Davis schools to the tenth of a decimal point!”

    This article is a great addition to the discussion.  Also note yet another example of how the math and statistical information coming from the DJUSD administration, at least the historical administration, needs to be looked at very critically.

    1. MrsW

      I would be very interested to read essays from the perspective of Asian and European immigrant parents who are raising their children in Davis, as well as East Coast prep-school raised parents.

  2. Tia Will

    Very interesting perspective on this issue. One point in particular struck me.

    ‘some kids don’t test well in a group setting,’ I thought, wow, we don’t even see the privilege we are defending,”

    This would seem to me to be a very clear statement in support of having all children tested in the same setting, although not necessarily with the same test. If you believe that one child should have the opportunity to test individually, should not all have this same opportunity. Are these parents willing to pay for all children to have the same presumed advantageous setting ?




    1. Don Shor

      It’s moot since as of the June 4 vote they no longer allow private testing. If anyone is going to pay for individual testing, it will be the district.

      1. Tia Will


        You are right. In this instance it is a moot point. I think that the comment speaks very powerfully to an attitude prevalent amongst those of us who are relatively more privileged by our system. We will find ways to justify why the preferential treatment of our children is the “right way” to do things. This phrase caught my attention specifically because I see it in myself, maybe not in such clear terms since I have had the advantage of seeing from “poor eyes” as well as from “privileged eyes” in my lifetime. But certainly I will catch myself using this kind of logic.

    2. zaqzaq

      Second tests will be gone soon as the school district does not have the funds to offer second tests to all students.  If they offer a second test to one student they will have to offer the second test to everyone.  If they select certain students for a second test by some sort of class system they will be subject to a discrimination lawsuit.  Interestingly it is the second test by which the majority of black and Hispanic students are identified.

    3. zaqzaq

      If any of the tests are verbal how would they be administered in a group setting?  I do not think it is possible.  If for example a child has dyslexia the child will test lower on a written test than a verbal test.  What about the child that is easily distracted in a group setting?  If the goal is to identify all of the children how is that best accomplished?  Eliminating private testing means that the school district will have to foot the bill.  Eliminating private testing will only increase the cost for the school district.

      1. ryankelly

        Since the tests are administered to find students who would be best served in a self-contained GATE program, i wonder how a child that is so distracted that they can’t take a test in  group setting would benefit from a GATE classroom.  If it is just taking tests, couldn’t this child just take the OLSAT in a separate room and not need to be given an additional, different test?

        1. Don Shor

          The OLSAT would not be acceptable to those who are focused on social justice and classroom demographics.

          “Universal testing with the OLSAT, which professor David Jelinek stated in 2005 was a culturally biased standardized test, yielded few African-American or Latino children who scored within the 95th percentile to qualify for GATE.”

        2. zaqzaq


          Then put the easily distracted child in a separate classroom if that works.  Also it may be that the one on one aspect of the verbal test is more likely to engage that child than a written test.  The students that are gifted and easily distracted are the ones that would benefit more from the self contained classes.  You seem to assume that all AIM students are well behaved high achievers.  That is not the case.

          What about the child with dyslexia who clearly will perform better on a verbal test as opposed to a written test?  Do you support a verbal test for that child?  Please answer that question.

        3. ryankelly

          Don, There are many flaws with the way we identify GATE students.  Using a test that demonstatably is a culturably biased test is one.

          Zigzag –  The GATE student should stick out as clearly different with attributes that are recognizable in the way they think and resolve problems.  Being easily distracted is not one of them.   My observation is that the distractions of a regular classroom of 29 students are the same for a GATE classroom of 29 students.  No, from my experience of the competitive nature of the Davis GATE program, I don’t believe that a student with dyslexia would be well-suited for the GATE track.  This student might do better with a program that allowed the student to excel in areas where the student’s disability was not a handicap and appropriate accomodations in other areas.

  3. ryankelly

    I was only able to find the numbers for the ethnicity of children who were GATE identified, not the numbers for the children actually admitted into the GATE classes.

    I am curious how the lottery was administere and by whom and if this resulted in any change in the make up of the GATE classes.  I am curious if the GATE coordinator bypassed this lottery for some children and, if so, for what reasons.

    1. zaqzaq

      The school district mandated that the lottery was the only way into the AIM program.  Feel free to do a freedom of information act request asking if the AIM coordinator bypassed the lottery for some children and, if so, for the reasons.  I suspect given the boards insistence on the use of the lottery to avoid a lawsuit the answer will no.  Your question creates an insinuation that you believe that the lottery was bypassed on a case by case basis.

    2. ryankelly

      I am more interested in how the lottery is done.  You’d think that there would be more noise about it from students who scored high on the OLSAT, but didn’t win a place.

  4. zaqzaq

    Until the school district can get consistently lower class size numbers like Lafayette advocating for a Lafayette like system is misplaced.  Differentiation requires smaller class sizes to be effective.  By looking at the SARC reports for class size comparing Lafayette to Davis there is a significant difference.  The largest average class size in any school in Lafayette was 29 which was rare.  While in comparison Davis’s high was 34 (Patwin 2012-2013) often with frequent class sizes of 30 plus.  To get the class sizes down to Lafayette levels the school district would have to add at least one additional class for K through 6th grade.  What will that cost?

    In my opinion Ms. Murray-Garcia’s perspective on race and privilege is so far outside of reality that it lacks credibility.  For example when the school district works to find ways to identify Hispanic or black students she refers to is as “political appeasement”.  Now she creates two groups of parents and thus students, whites and Asians as one group and Hispanic and blacks as another.   Next she will be stereotyping Asian mothers as that evil helicopter tiger/dragon moms who are over involved in their children’s activities.

        1. Dave Hart

          Correction, both Zaq and the Pig are wrong.  I’ve spoken to three people on my one block cul-de-sac who agree with Jann and I wasn’t even trying.

    1. Frankly

      I generally find her stuff to be blindly race/class biased – but of course politically-correct so.

      And she does not dissappoint in her analysis here.  She ultimately comes to the correct conclusion, but just from an angle that I don’t like and that I don’t really agree with.

      As long as we attempt to group children into racial and other sterotyping categories we will miss the boat on optimizing overall outcomes for education.

      Race-focused social justice crusaders like Ms. Murray-Garcia are guilty of fomenting much of the same that they complain about.  They point out group disparity as made evident by over or under-representation in cherry-picked outcome statistics (the “test”).  And then they demand targeted-group solutions to bridge the statistical gaps identified by the testing.

      This is exactly the approach taken for GATE/AIM.

      Certainly with the business of education some level of categorization and grouping is necessary to facilitate reasonably structured methods for delivering education services to students.   However, the taxonomy needs to be rich enough to support adequate differentation for all students.

      We are going to remain stuck on racial conflict while the type of dialog from people like Ms. Murray-Garcia continues to be celebrated as beneficial.  It is only when the term “diversity” stops being associated with race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., and instead is connected with individual traits, abilities, talents, skills and challenges… that we will have truly arrived at the end destination of our nation’s civil rights march to progress,


      1. Tia Will


        It is only when the term “diversity” stops being associated with race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., and instead is connected with individual traits, abilities, talents, skills and challenges… that we will have truly arrived at the end destination of our nation’s civil rights march to progress,”

        With this I agree. However, I do not believe that the best path to this goal is through ignoring the disparities that now exist. Too often, those of us who are the beneficiaries of those disparities find it easier to minimize them or pretend that they do not exist.

        1. MrsW

           With this I agree. However, I do not believe that the best path to this goal is through ignoring the disparities that now exist. 

          I agree with both of you.  Actually, I would use stronger language than Tia’s–the only path to this goal is through acknowledging that they exist now,  so that some day our children or grandchildren can talk about them in the past tense.  There are some steps we need to take in-between, however.

  5. jfriedman

    l am a veteran elementary school teacher, and at the beginning of my career did a half year of training in a GATE classroom in Marin. I always thought it was strange how this was basically a form of segregation  — and believe me, the students know. I am awed by the amount of discussion around this issue. There are many, many good GATE models in place — from independent study to contracts to extracurricular activities. Teachers and district staff, including School Board Members, need to ATTEND SOME PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT or go to a GATE conference (http://www.cagifted.org/)  I really appreciate Dr. Murray-Garcia’s viewpoints. Here’s a fact:  my son started in this district  three years he was one point shy of the GATE cutoff. What does that mean exactly? He is in high school and gets excellent grades in AP classes. What if the cutoff for the score had been 94%? or 90% like Woodland? My gut feeling is that this debacle is driven by terrified parents who don’t think their children will prosper in a regular classroom because they are too special. (Coincidentally, I grew up in San Diego where the “seminar” model was in place. At my elementary school these kids were in the top 1% and got to sit on couches. I had no problem with it — there were only about 15 such students PER SCHOOL.) Jessica Friedman

    1. zaqzaq


      The concept of “extracurricular activities” for GATE students is offensive in many ways.  Who pays for it?  Do parents have to pay extra for it much like school sports teams.  Would it only be available for wealthy families?  It is much more efficient to incorporate studies into the normal school day.  It also stereotypes the GATE student as a NERD who does not participate in other activities such as sports with which it will compete with for time.  Contrary to the common perception many GATE kids are quite athletic.  Extracurricular activities are more segregationist and offensive then the current system in Davis.

      1. jfriedman

        You find the idea of extracurricular activities “offensive”? Since when is an after school small group study of astronomy or Picasso or computer programming “offensive”? Have you visited a district where this model is in place? This is one option IN ADDITION to differentiation in the classroom.

        1. zaqzaq

          yes I do, when they should be included in the normal school day.  A child should not have to pick between one of these activities and participation in sports.  Differentiation in the classrooms will be more costly than the existing program and are not realistic with the current class sizes.  Talking to Woodland parents the pull out program there is a joke.  The existing program is popular with parents and consistently has a waiting list.  I tire of the big brother attitude of those who want to tell me what is best for my child.

        2. wdf1

          zaqzaq:   I tire of the big brother attitude of those who want to tell me what is best for my child.

          That is the way I’m feeling about those who criticize differentiated instruction to the point of saying we can’t or shouldn’t have it.  That was my preference (differentiated instruction) for my kids.  I’m in favor of seeing both options so that both parties can be satisfied.  If this issue doesn’t end up resolving with both options available, then I think this issue will continue on at the same level of rancor or worse.

        3. wdf1

          zaqzaq:  Differentiation in the classrooms will be more costly than the existing program and are not realistic with the current class sizes.

          At one time under the tenure of Principal Judy Davis, North Davis apparently had differentiated instruction in the early to mid 2000s, and it seemed to be serving GATE-identified kids.  Personal anecdotes on this blog seemed to suggest favorable parent response.  Can we go back and look at how that was done?  I believe Ms. Davis still lives in town, even.

          1. Don Shor

            I’m also curious as to why it was ended. Perhaps that coincided with the closure of Valley Oak? Somebody could fill in this history. Maybe it was the commitment by the principal, and that left when she did?

            Differentiated instruction at neighborhood schools coupled with self-contained GATE at some schools seems like a likely outcome, if the Board is willing to devote more money overall.
            As noted, differentiated AIM exists at Emerson.

        4. wdf1

          zaqzaq:   A child should not have to pick between one of these activities and participation in sports. 

          And for kids who may not otherwise have any other extra-curricular activities — no sports, no music lessons, no dance, no martial arts, no gymnastics — because of family circumstances?  Seems like after-school enrichment might be a worthwhile option.

        5. wdf1

          Don Shor:  Interesting to find this on the NDE home page:

          That is language from the district strategic plan (see pg. 4) from at least a year ago.  What is under-appreciated in this discussion is recognition of the fact that the strategic plan and Common Core mandate differentiated instruction.  Questions of cost are a bit moot.  The real issue to address is can AIM/GATE instruction be offered through differentiated instruction in a way that will satisfy parents who choose it.

      2. MrsW

        I’m also curious as to why [NDE’s program] was ended. Perhaps that coincided with the closure of Valley Oak?

        The end of NDE’s program directly corresponds with Valley Oak’s closure, the insertion of a GATE strand at NDE, and the retirement of Judy Davis.

        Along with VOE’s culture, the then-Board’s actions killed NDE’s existing culture.  Both schools had cultures and they were different from each other.  It’s another example of how insensitive the DJUSD’s leadership, both elected and hired, has been and is to culture of any kind what-so-ever.

    2. Don Shor

      (Coincidentally, I grew up in San Diego where the “seminar” model was in place. At my elementary school these kids were in the top 1% and got to sit on couches. I had no problem with it — there were only about 15 such students PER SCHOOL.)

      It’s pretty clear that the numbers at Curie and La Jolla Elementary would be higher, since they have enrollments of 565 and 613 respectively with seminar students at 5.9% and 12.8% (2013-14 data). So you’d have 33 to 79 students in seminar at those schools.

  6. Napoleon Pig IV

    The most positive thing I can say about Murray-Garcia is that she is consistent in promoting her political agenda whether the facts stand in the way or not. She’s also pretty good at selective extraction of facts from context to provide the appearance of support for her agenda – but I suppose that’s no different from what Fox News or the Davis Enterprise does. She’s lucky to live in Davis since there are a few people who take her kind of “thinking” (is that the right word?) seriously.

    One thing I did find pretty amusing though was this description early in her diatribe, I mean editorial –

    “Board members may not agree with all of that input, but that doesn’t mean this thoughtful group isn’t listening and incorporating years of commentary and data on this contentious issue”

    The funniest thing about that quote is the reference to the school board as a “thoughtful group.” Did I miss something? Oink!

  7. sisterhood

    Interesting info because around grade 3 or 4 was when my son started to fall behind & struggled with homework organization. Perhaps because his dad & I both worked full time (in retrospect I would not recommend that to anyone raising 2 children), in good jobs, not one teacher suggested he be tested. Perhaps they figured we could afford our own private testing? But that hadn’t even occured to me. I just figured at that point, he did not like to do homework. His dad and I separated about a year later, then the total teacher discussion was the separation and how it was negatively affecting him. In retrospect, I would never ever tell an elementary teacher again any personal family problems. Almost immediately, my daughter’s teacher diagnosed her with depression! It turned out she was of course sad about the separation, but was not clinically depressed. We also came under Judy Davis’ radar, and never went off. It was not a caring, compassionate radar It was a continual discussion of my son’s behavioral problems, which were absolutely linked to our separation, but, more importantly, his own realization that learning was no longer easy, or fun. He continued to love to  read and interact with his friends But homework became a nightmare for the whole family. (It took several hours every night to complete.)

    Any of you teachers out there: What prompts you to suggest special free testing for a child? I did not mind spending Sylvan’s fees, but my son struggled an additional year because his challenges were unidentified. I felt so guilty, too. We spoke with several other Sylvan parents with similar frustrations. Perhaps I should have quit my job and home schooled? (Not a rhetorical question.) Perhaps teachers really can’t handle 25 or 30 students? I am not faulting the teachers.

    Interestingly, around the same time, one of his teachers noticed he had a very very slight lisp. She immediately referred us to a wonderful speech therapist at No.Davis, Ms. Lisa DeAngelo. I can’t praise her enough. But no one noticed his declining grades & issues with organization.

    Happily, my son now works in San Francisco and loves his life. For a brief time, he considered going back to community college to become a teacher, to help others youngsters in similar situations.

  8. iWitness

    I heard that broadcast and wish more of us had.  But I don’t see the relevance because this is not a district in need of desegregation.  We already have forced car-driving to many parent choice programs in this district.  Alicia Silva, whose article Don’t Blame AIM for the Achievement GAP is elsewhere in these pages (Aug. 1), gives us some references I include here so  no one will have to go to the minimal trouble to see what peer-reviewed articles and even one somewhat suspect  non-peer-reviewed article say on the subject:

    Ms. Silva says, “To blame the AIM program for the achievement gap is unfounded, unfair and deleterious. Based on this logic, one would conclude that school districts without gifted programs do not have achievement gaps. That’s clearly not true.¶”The achievement gap is a real issue of great importance and is about every child achieving the most he or she can. It is not about bringing the top down, it’s about bringing everyone up. We would not ask one child to kneel or put weights on his or her ankles so that the other children could catch up. We would try to find a way to help each child stand their tallest and run their fastest.¶”There is substantial literature that says that minority populations do particularly well in self-contained AIM type classes:“Homogeneous ability grouping has a moderate positive impact on all high-ability youth (.13), it has a very strong positive effect on high-ability black youth (.32). This powerful effect suggests that we should oppose heterogeneity and support grouping. Also, we found a substantial effect in favor of grouping for high-ability Hispanic youth (.24).”— Page, E. & Keith, T., “Intellectual Talent” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996).“Students (in self-contained GATE classes) achieved statistically significant gains … in reading comprehension, math computation and math applications. When broken out by ethnicity, whites, blacks and Hispanics had significant gains beyond those expected during a typical year.”— “Content-based Curriculum for Low-Income and Minority Gifted Learners,” Joyce VanTassel-Baska (NEAG, 2003).¶”Even one of the papers the UCD researchers cited said, ‘Estimates based on test score ranks for the third group (which was grouped based on achievement rather than on IQ) show significant gains in reading and math, concentrated among lower-income and black and Hispanic students.’— “Does Gifted Education Work? For Which Students?” David Card and Laura Giuliano (NBER Working Paper No. 20453, September 2014).”

    1. wdf1

      iWitness:  But I don’t see the relevance because this is not a district in need of desegregation.

      It depends on which circles you hang out in.  In this city a large number of lower income Spanish speaking families go to Montgomery Elementary.

  9. iWitness

    Now to a few comments of my own on this article.  Sorry, David, I found working through the 2012 article at the same time confusing.  I stick to  this one, I hope.  Her statements are in italics.
    “Back in 2002-2003 there were ‘no African-American or Latino third-graders in the entire Davis school district (who? were) recommended by teachers to sit for the GATE test.”  The most recent GATE coordinator was hired many years earlier and is the source for the information that teacher recommendations “to sit for the GATE test” rarely included African-American or Latino students, which is a major reason Davis moved to the universal test.  She is a major reason Davis moved to the universal test!  And when she told me personally, and not only once, that teachers are not always totally reliable in referring minorities, she didn’t blame the teachers, she considered it an advantage she had after decades of work with GATE kids.  That’s why she was the coordinator.  This is not someone who was trying to identify the minimum number of under-represented kids.  She is an awful loss to this district.  She’s an awful loss to Jann Murray-Garcia!  We can’t go back to teacher referral.

    “To me, that means when the GATE coordinator found enough students, she stopped looking.  When she needed more, she kept looking….”  The GATE coordinator came here from the Sacramento School District where she taught many minorities in many schools and she’s always been very concerned that as many qualified students as possible were able to take advantage of the GATE program and that no minorities would go underrepresented. It’s clear from the representation at the school board meetings this summer that those who supported AIM are much more diverse than those who spoke against AIM.  You can still watch them on Ch. 17!  Or just look at the board voting bloc.  By the way, I think race is a more loaded term than ethnicity but we can disagree.

    “Universal testing with the OLSAT, which professor Davis Jelinek stated in 2005 was a cultural biased standardized test, yielded few African-American or Latino children who scored within the 95th percentile to qualify for GATE,”  is the reason why Jelinek recommended in the same paper that an additional test, the TONI, be offered to complement the largely verbal bias of the OLSAT with the more figural, abstract-reasoning testing offered by the TONI — which has the extra benefit of being administered in small groups with all the time needed by children for various verbal issues and for decoding as ELL children.  The TONI was also used for all students scoring within the five-point margin of error below the 95th percentile, as well as disadvantaged students, whether culturally or verbally.  He also reported that the combination of the two, OLSAT and TONI, was the best for the money and while that’s not my preferred rationale for how we test young kids, it’s all we can afford.  Even now that we’re flush from the sale of the Grande property and the general economy!

    Some parents don’t recognize the benefits of GATE, especially under its new name, or can’t access the sites because they work two jobs, or none.  Some parents don’t understand what it means not to test well in a group setting — concentration problems and learning disability issues, not teacher attitudes, because all teachers so clearly believe in AIM that they’d never ever scare the kids that if they did well, they’d have to go to the nerd school.  Some parents don’t know that the STAR test is an achievement, not an ability test.  Even some doctors….

    As to automatic tracking through 10th grade: 1) there are rarely children who leave the program (except to go to DaVinci or Emerson) and there is always a waiting list.  Info on drop-out cases held against their and their parents’ will in the program is beyond my pay grade.  Soon, if the board has its way, only the under-achievers will be there to begin with.  That will be tracking.  2) There is only one AIM class in tenth grade.  AP is not AIM.  Honors is not AIM.

    It is a little late to seek justice in the case of the “coordinator who was allowed to do her own assessment of why African-American and Latino parents wanted their children to stay in their neighborhood schools.”  I assume it was her job to do such assessments.  I assume there was oversight, or maybe under the last administration it was called trust.  It’s also a little late to beat the dead horse of private testing.  M-G got her way, but perhaps she hasn’t noticed it yet.  Was it justified to limit it, yes, and it had already been limited, also the coordinator’s job.  Was it justified to eliminate it wholesale at midnight?  Nope.  What about that mother who moved into the district too late in the year for her daughter to be tested?

    1. wdf1

      iWitness: It’s also a little late to beat the dead horse of private testing…. Was it justified to eliminate it wholesale at midnight? Nope. What about that mother who moved into the district too late in the year for her daughter to be tested?

      On private testing.  Since sports and music analogies are common in discussions of GATE/AIM, I’ll offer a question along those lines.  Why is private testing considered appropriate by some for the district AIM/GATE program, but it would be unthinkable to have a private sports coach or music teacher run a private independent audition for school athletics or music?  Say for the DHS Jazz Band, or Madrigals or soccer or football?

      1. Frankly

        Interesting question.

        First, I don’t think it would be “unthinkable” to have some assessment standards for these things and have the testing administered by a private practitioner.

        But here is the way I look at all of this.

        We should see education as a child development enterprise.   And within the enterprise there should be two development paths that are connected.  The first path should be core academics.  These are the minimal standards that all children require.  The three Rs and a bit of history and civics.   We need a differentiated approach with this to move each child to the end goal of having sufficient mastery of this core.  I think we need to keep this core concise and compact and not add all the social justice “good citizen” BS.  This is a path where we hold the hand of the student to lead him/her to the end goals.  Think gentle pull.

        Then the next path (and I don’t mean from a linear times-scale because both paths should be traveled concurrently) is the electives path.   This is a path where we encourage participation… basically helping the students decide what they are interested in and what they are good at.  Think gentle push.

        The key to all of this working is differentiation.

        I support outside testing to help better optimize the gentle pull and push, but only if we eliminate low-granularity categorization of student learning needs (to be replaced by a more diverse and varied choice)  and we also eliminate self-contained solutions.

          1. Don Shor

            That is not true. Differentiated instruction will not work for some GATE students.

            We have differentiated AIM in DJUSD at Emerson. Our experience with it was completely unsuccessful. I am sure that many consider it to be “adequate differentiation.” I’m sure DJUSD and the school board consider it to be “adequate differentiation.”

            Self-contained GATE will be necessary for some students. What exact percentage, I don’t know.

            I am willing to entertain any factual evidence you have to present. Even personal experiences would be useful. Otherwise, you have just adopted an increasing tone of certitude about a subject in which you have no expertise or experience.

        1. Frankly

          Otherwise, you have just adopted an increasing tone of certitude about a subject in which you have no expertise or experience.

          So I am not qualified to discuss the issue?  Nice Don.  Maybe if you think a bit about this comment you will better understand the opposition to what you demand.

          You are also just someone adopting an increasing tone of certitude in opposition about a subject in which you have no expertise or experience.  But I welcome your opinion just the same.

          1. Don Shor

            You are also just someone adopting an increasing tone of certitude in opposition about a subject in which you have no expertise or experience.

            I have posted my experiences repeatedly. I have also explained to you, in the past, my involvement in the Davis schools at various levels, and the degree to which I intervened and participated in the placements of my children in the schools.

            So your statement is incorrect. I have direct experience with GATE and Special Ed, and some expertise in the practices and policies of DJUSD.

            You have not provided evidence for your views, nor anything in the way of experience to support them.

            Had your suggested policies been in place, schooling for one of my kids would have been a disaster. Hence my repetition of this statement: self-contained GATE is essential for some students.

        2. Frankly

          You do not have direct experience or even indirect experience with adequate differentiation.  But you still demand with certitude that it won’t work.

          1. Don Shor

            That statement, again, is false. It is apparently considered that Emerson provides adequate differentiation. I have now said this to you twice, so I assume you are just ignoring what I say or choosing not bother reading it. I say (not demand) that it won’t work because it DID NOT work. It is unlikely that DJUSD will provide any level of differentiation greater than what they consider is working at Emerson.

            The GATE students who need self-contained programs include (but are not limited to) gifted students with learning disabilities, and the highly gifted who need to accelerate far past their peers.
            A gifted student with an identified learning disability would qualify for special ed. That is assuming that the disability has been recognized; often the academic giftedness serves to mask the disability. But if Special Ed is adopted, that student gets the benefit of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). This carries the force of law throughout the child’s schooling.
            Nevertheless, I can tell you from experience that it can be difficult to get some teachers to adhere to the specifics of an IEP, particularly if the student is academically gifted. There is a strong tendency to assume that poor performance by a gifted kid is due to laziness or disorganization, and that these are traits that can be ‘fixed’.
            Educators will tell you that it is always best to focus on a child’s strengths, not the weaknesses. A gifted child with a learning disability in a regular classroom will not be sufficiently challenged academically – which would focus on the strengths. And the grades and progress reports and daily feedback will revolve around the missed assignments, poor effort, and concomitant behavior issues – which is a focus on the weaknesses.
            Even a poor GATE instructor would be providing the child with challenging academic material. Mastering that will improve the child’s self-efficacy. That is really the key to forward progress. A good one would be working with the IEP to help the child fully reach his potential and overcome or adapt to the disabilities .

            This isn’t just academic theory, it is what we lived with. The excellent GATE instructors at Valley Oak worked as a team with the Special Ed counselors to implement the IEP. Learning became challenging but fun, feedback was largely positive due to the academic success, and the other challenges were worked with in the Special Ed pullout sessions and via accommodations in the classroom. Our experience with differentiated instruction at Emerson was the opposite, so I am very skeptical about any move in that direction as a replacement for self-contained GATE for some students. For others, it may work well.

            Learning disabilities among gifted students are often unrecognized. These are students who function at or near grade level, but test higher for intelligence. That’s probably the simplest way to identify them. It may not merit or lead to special ed placement. It is likelier that this child will do well in a self-contained GATE class than in a mixed classroom. It would take an exceptional regular teacher to make it work.

        3. ryankelly

          Don – differentiated instruction along with an IEP in Elementary school would be different than in Junior High.  In Junior High, differentiated instruction takes the form of different levels of classes.  Getting 5-6 different teachers to implement an IEP and differentiated instruction in every Junior High class is nearly impossible.  They teach 102 students and just don’t have time to do more than give lectures, assign homework, etc.  Differentiated instruction in Elementary school where the teacher is dealing with just 29 students in one room all day (or team teaching with other teachers in their grade) is much more easily implemented.  With the expansion of GATE tracks at Junior High schools, there is actually fewer levels of differentiation.  At Holmes, there used to be one track of GATE, honors courses in English and Social Studies, and then the “regular” classes.  Now there are only GATE tracks and “regular” courses (unless you join DaVinci).  This has happened at Emerson and Harper too.  It is either you are in or out.  To allow for a program for students who may be in between or say excel in Science but not English, for example, the Junior Highs may need to bring back the “honors” classes that are not GATE.

          1. Don Shor

            If DJUSD and the board think that their current method of differentiated AIM is ‘adequate’ or successful, then I can say confidently that eliminating self-contained GATE will be harmful to some students. If they believe that they can train elementary school teachers to adequately implement differentiated instruction to a classroom that now contains highly gifted and gifted with IEP, along with their current special ed, behavioral, mainstreamed disabled, ESL, and other students with special needs — I seriously doubt they can do that. I seriously doubt that it would be as successful a learning environment for the GATE students, or for the other students.

            The case has not been made that this is better for current students in self-contained GATE, for those who aren’t, or for the district as a whole. So why do it? As it currently stands, self-contained GATE serves the students who really need it better than what apparently is being proposed. Apparently the tradeoff is that there are a bunch of GATE kids in there who don’t ‘need’ it. So presenting parents and kids with the other option is certainly worth a try.

            As we’ve discussed before, developing clusters of differentiated classrooms while retaining self-contained GATE for those who need it would probably serve all students better. And as noted before, that will cost more money. So they have to resource it adequately to make it work. When Frankly says we need to eliminate the self-contained option, I think he needs to understand that would be very harmful to some students.

            “Honors” classes were what San Diego schools did. Again, SDUSD appears to have a workable model that DJUSD could look at.

          2. Don Shor

            I want to emphasize something here, because it probably sounds as though I think the program at Emerson is a disaster. I’m sure it’s not for most kids, and the staff and resources at Emerson that we dealt with were top-notch. I especially commend the special ed counselors and the administrators who worked hard with us to try to get things to work. It just turned out that the placement was not suitable in our situation, and there are lots of GATE kids like that. How many, and how are we going to identify them? Those are key questions.

            Also, it took a LOT of resources. In an ideal world, every kid would have the equivalent of an IEP. Every child would be individually assessed and given the resources needed. But in the world we actually inhabit, those are largely provided for kids with disabilities in manners that are prescribed by federal law. So until everyone, including especially someone like Frankly, is willing to increase school funding by huge amounts, we are resource-limited and need to look at options that provide the best learning environment for those who have difficulty in the regular classroom environment.

            The current GATE program should not be costing that much to maintain and administer, because there are enough students in it to fill whole classrooms. If cost is the issue, and people think resources are being diverted unfairly to GATE, then we’d really need to see those numbers. It’s doubtful that cutting self-contained GATE entirely and going to multi-level AIM would save the district anything. And if they did what was right — retained self-contained GATE with smaller class sizes for some, gradually expanded clustered multi-level AIM for others — that will almost certainly cost more. Again, perhaps San Diego’s program can be examined to see what the comparison is on a pupil cost basis.

            Differentiated instruction at the elementary level would probably work well for a lot of gifted kids. Maybe most. We don’t know what percentage would be well served by shifting to a cluster program. Some will certainly be best served by self-contained GATE. If that is their best placement, then I stand by my statement that they ‘need’ it. It’s not a demand. I can’t demand anything. I am saying some students would be harmed by elimination of self-contained GATE.

  10. iWitness

    These school-sponsored elitist endeavors never depend on ability alone.  I don’t know much about public sports coaches (though I hear there are costly summer camps), but I do know that private music teachers are required for every child to get into the ranking music ensembles, and dance?  The Davis Children’s Nutcracker just won’t do it.

    Parents who knowingly chose a compliant psychologist were introducing their children to pay to play and a corrupt practitioner, just for admission to a program that might not even have been best for them.  It takes time for lumbering DJUSD, Inc to psych out the dead wood among the psychs.  The good stuff they toss right away.

    But if parents believe their child consistently tests poorly and performs poorly in class for his or her ability, they have an obligation to seek assistance from professionals in the district who are not particularly interested in their kid’s problems because he’s doing slightly above average work:  Yeah, yeah, parents always think their kids are gifted.  How many people have said, we knew something was wrong but the school never caught the learning disability, the emotional problem, the bullying?

    I don’t call people elitist or deluded for wanting private testing or impugn their motives, either, if they think their child is under-achieving.  I had mine tested privately, though they got into GATE/AIM without, to know what raising them would  entail.  We “ate beans” for a while.  Every bean served us well.

    1. wdf1

      iWitness:   These school-sponsored elitist endeavors never depend on ability alone…  I do know that private music teachers are required for every child to get into the ranking music ensembles

      Although having a private music teacher helps and is common, there are a surprising number of students who succeed without.  Maybe those cases are “ability alone”?  It is mostly about having the discipline to practice effectively in preparation.  Private teachers can’t do the practicing for the student.

      Also, although you might think that all the music students are all about getting into the audition groups, there are a number of music students who will stick with the non-audition group into junior and senior year.  Why?  A lower burden on practicing when maybe other classes might be demanding.   Also a chance for some students to lead a section whereas they’d sit in the back of the section of an audition group.  Some high school students will play in a recreational (AYSO) soccer league vs. a competitive select league.  Likewise, some students play music recreationally vs. competively.

  11. iWitness

    Please don’t tell me what I think, wdf1.  I’m all in on this topic and you can’t know what I’ve put into it.  My idea of success is life-long enjoyment of playing and participating in music.  Unless you want a marginal life, music is rough and getting out into a career you also enjoy that will actually support your interest makes high school music programs as well as outside teachers very important.  Most people I know do not keep up their music after high school, though say they would still like to.   If you want my definition for success, you put the time in when you can, play daily and get help.

    I have friends in the university orchestra who find it very fulfilling being ringers, and others who have been in the university choir for decades.  But it’s a good thing to be a section head when kids know enough and they might not in a non-auditioned group.  They can also develop via quartets, jazz groups, etc.  This is especially hard without a private teacher.  I’m not a voice person.  I was appalled when I first learned how competitive it was to be a performer in Mads.  Now, though, there are so many of them, it may not be necessary to make them go quasi-professional to get the cool costume.  The current teacher clearly has a different vision from the previous one.


    1. wdf1

      iWitness:  I’m all in on this topic and you can’t know what I’ve put into it. 

      Me too.

      iWitness:  Most people I know do not keep up their music after high school, though say they would still like to.

      Likewise, compared to the number of students who take calculus, especially in high school, few are actually working at a profession where they use calculus.

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