In Their Own Words: Madhavi Sunder

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madhavi-sunder

The Vanguard will be publishing the comments of each of the five school board members on the AIM program. We began with the comments of Susan Lovenburg on Sunday and Barbara Archer on Monday. Today we cover what Madhavi Sunder said. Below is a video clip from her comments.

Madhavi Sunder:

My first question here is what’s the educational goal of this proposal. I feel that frankly until tonight, I as a trustee who works with you and the public hadn’t had the opportunity to hear – Susan, you made the motion on June 4, hear from you, thank you for sharing your vision with us tonight – but we didn’t hear from you with respect to what your educational goals, what your vision was underlying that motion that four of my colleagues passed on June 4, that set in motion a process where four of our top administrators spent their entire summer working on this issue.

Trustee Archer said, why didn’t you work on the achievement gap? Well you didn’t work on anything else or at least you couldn’t conceivably have worked on a lot more than this because this board asked you to work on this – and it took a lot of your time because you were under a time constraint to do it.

So my concern is what is the educational goal? This board, when we set in motion an investigation to look at changing the start time in our schools, we said there is a strong recommendation from the most respected pediatric association in this country – the American Academy of Pediatrics – that says this is in the best interest of children.

We pointed toward lots and lots of research that said there were educational benefits to a later start. There’s health benefits to a later start. So better academic achievement, less depression, less obesity, fewer driving accidents, we pointed to the educational and social and emotional benefits and then began a dialogue and said this is why we need to make this change.

I feel we’re only beginning to hear now what your educational concerns are underlying this study that consumed much of our district time. I also didn’t hear much in terms of the educational goals from the proposal itself. I saw descriptive and very helpful projections about effects from the proposal, but in terms of what is the educational benefit of a certain array of tests or what is the educational benefit of a cutoff – I didn’t begin to hear that.

Rather I heard that having the program seems to be driven more by political concerns rather than educational concerns or financial reasons.

As one speaker pointed out, the AIM program costs something like $30 a student right now. So I’m not hearing either educational or fiscal concerns underlying this and it seems to be much more politically motivated.

I want to respectfully disagree with my colleague Alan Fernandes, because Alan you said that this proposal is only about identification – I don’t think that that’s true. This proposal goes much further than that because what you’re projecting is that half of the children in this program currently would have to go back to the regular program.

That those children would not have the choice any longer of being served by a self-contained (program) that many many feel – children here spoke themselves – the children feel this is benefiting them. Parents feel this is benefiting them. And it really disturbs me that we have trustees saying, parents you’re wrong.

We have trustees saying, no, a study says there’s no benefit. A study out there says there’s no benefit, so parents you’re wrong there is no benefit. I’m hearing trustees saying you really don’t know.

So, Alan, against – with all due respect, this is a major change because this has been a district of choice. Parents make the decisions ultimately about what is in the best educational interest and social and emotional interest of their children.

They make the first choice to come to this district because we offer this array of choices. The array of choices serves many purposes. One, it recognizes that learning differences exist. The kids learn about this. All of the latest best practices recognize differences in learning styles, but (also) it recognizes that people have different philosophies, we’re a diverse country, we’re a diverse community in Davis and to have trustees limit those choices is really a radical change – so that’s where I disagree with you, Alan.

This community for years and years, many many years has supported parent choice. This board, Susan, the board you sat on, has repeatedly expanded the Montessori program, expanded the Chavez Program, it’s a demand-driven district.

So the question we have to ask is – is that over? Is this a new day in the DJUSD where we’re saying parents you need to go back to your neighborhood classroom because we think that’s in the best educational interest or the district, of your child? So I think there’s a lot at stake here.

It’s about, one, parents demanding evidence-based decisions, not faith-based decisions. It’s about preserving that hallmark of choice that makes our DJUSD such a strong district.

Fifty percent is a huge cut – imagine slashing our budget 50 percent. This is not something that the community is not going to feel strongly. So we need to take this much more slowly. We need to have evidence underlying why we’re making these recommendations. Why 98, why not 96? Why no longer give parents that choice that we have given them for years and years? And that the boards of the past have supported.

The boards have supported choice, that’s why we have a demand-driven, choice-driven district. Why the rush? Why are we even talking about doing our investigation within the next month.

Mr. Superintendent, I’m sorry, you have been operating without a GATE coordinator since June. It’s because of the board. The board created that problem – I think we have to fix it. But because you need help – which I think you definitely do – we shouldn’t be forced to make large programmatic decisions that change options for so many students and families, but also really change the tenor of who we are as a district.

So I’m really concerned about that. Also the faster we move, junior high – this study doesn’t even discuss junior high, but if you shrink the number of kids who are in the elementary school program – are we going to say you can only take self-contained AIM classes in junior high if you have a 98 percent or higher without having an honors option? So now, so many fewer junior high kids are going to (have) options for appropriate academic programs – we have to address the junior high part of this.

Maybe it means bring back honors – we used to have AIM and honors and regular ed in the junior high – maybe we bring that back, but let’s look at it. Processes matter because they engender trust, because you get a better product. That’s our goal here – the best product, the best program for our kids.

I think we have to slow things down.

I do want to talk about places where I think we agree. I feel like we agree on private testing – that we should not have inequitable access to this program, but we need to implement that change with common sense. As former trustee Joan Sallee suggested – that means if kids are not in the country and they miss the test, are we going to allow for a private test? Yes, we’ll allow for a private test.

When kids move into the district – when we look at those numbers of the number of kids who are qualifying with the private test, many of them from out of the district. They weren’t here for the universal testing and other testing opportunities in third grade. Some have learning disabilities and don’t otherwise qualify for in-district testing.

I have a question, why is our projection that now that we eliminated private testing that we won’t be having those kids that were formally with private testing – I think if our system is good and we have an in-house psychologist, we should be catching those kids who have needs.

It may be, frankly, that without private testing we should be catching more kids. Because it’s not going to be driven by money and who has the money to get the testing? So I think we need to think more seriously about what the impact is of not having private testing – but that is something I think we all agree on and I am confident that we all work together to create a better system with respect to that.

I think we all agree that we want to have the best possible cocktail of tests… We all agree we want the best testing options for this program. I so appreciate all of your efforts this summer – that was detailed research, I think we have questions about it, I think we want to make sure we get it right. But I think you really moved the ball forward in an important way and so I think we’re committed to getting that array of tests right.

Another place I think we’re all in agreement is the need to meet every kid where they are and the need to put more of our will and effort and commitment as a district into differentiated instruction in the regular classroom. I don’t know that we have much in the way of financial resources – Susan you mentioned it, and I want to know more about it because you may know where the money is and I don’t – but I don’t know that we have the financial resources to reduce class size even by one student.

It costs half a million to a million dollars to reduce class size by one student. Assistant Superintendent (Matt) Best, tell me if I’m wrong on those numbers, but they’re pretty high numbers… They’re high like that, they’re half a million to reduce… but if you guys are telling me it’s a lot cheaper, then it’s great to hear and we should do it.

I don’t know that we’re going to have the resources to do things like that. I don’t know that we’re going to have the resources to train teachers in a mandatory way. But I do think, as a community, what we have is brains and parents who are engaged, and principals and staff who are so committed to this district.

When I go to committee meetings and there’s 30 people in the room, 30 teachers that didn’t have to be there and 30 administrators who didn’t have to be there and they’re there to bring STEAM to our schools and they’re there to bring more CTE pathways to all kids.

That’s amazing and that’s the kind of district we have. I think we can do it, I would like to see us talk to principals and teachers to see how can we differentiate even in just math in this coming year.

(Assistant) Superintendent (Clark) Bryant, you initiated and oversaw a push-in program for all third graders with respect to reading. Maybe we could do it that way where we pay for aids to go into the classroom so teachers could actually have two to three levels of math within their classroom. I think there are some creative ways we can do it, but I want concrete suggestions.

I want something that is real that we can build together and then let parents choose. If it works, they will come. If it works they will not go to a school across town. If it works, they’re going to stay with their friends. But at the end of the day, it’s up to the child and the parent together to decide what works best for them.

So I think we should be about creating more choices – creating more options. Not taking them away.

I keep hearing that this change is for the future, it doesn’t affect the kids in the program. That’s just not true. The kids in the program have already been affected without a GATE coordinator. Vocabulary books that were always ordered by the GATE coordinator were not ordered this year. Kids were doing last year’s vocabulary and not moving forward.

So there were instructional decisions that were made with the old GATE coordinator, and people in the current program are already feeling the effects.

The leadership structure – I agree with President Fernandes that we’re getting it backwards – we need to know what our program is before we restructure the leaderships.

I think a lot of folks are talking about the tenor of the discourse and one thing I’m hearing a lot is people not assuming that other folks have best intent. Heidi Perry, the rockstar principal at Willet where my son’s an elementary school student, has a sign – assume best intent – on her office wall. I think we need to be doing more of that. I think we need to be keeping people first as one of the speakers said today.

When we keep people first, we think about the children that spoke to us today and we think about the parents that spoke to us today, and I think we say that if a child is telling us that they are thriving in a program, that we should celebrate that. We should do everything in our community to support every child that is thriving in any program.

And if we see that any child is suffering and not growing in any program – we should be working on that together and caring about that as a community, even if that’s not our child. That’s the kind of spirit of collaboration and caring and compassion that I want to see in our district. And I want to see us help lead that.

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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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44 thoughts on “In Their Own Words: Madhavi Sunder”

  1. Tia Will

    As a preface to my comment, I would like to point out that I have no children in the schools currently, have no strong beliefs about the GATE/AIM program and no experience with it. I do not have a position on this proposal as I see it as highly complex and not truly being adequately addressed because of the inherently biased views of those on both sides. I am only speaking as an individual with a strong belief in evidence based processes.

    Ms. Sunder said “That those children would not have the choice any longer of being served by a self-contained that many many feel – children here spoke themselves – the children feel this is benefitting them. Parents feel this is benefitting them. And it really disturbs me that we have trustees saying, parents you’re wrong.”

    She has argued in the same comment for an “evidence based approach” but then seems willing to accept as fact the high subjective “feelings” of the students and their parents on the value of the program for them as individuals. Testimonials should never be referenced as “evidence based”.

    Now if these same individuals were presenting actual data about some form of score or grade level improvement which was demonstrably higher than what they were previously experiencing in the standard classroom, one could provide that as evidence.

    I am only concerned that both sides are tending to tout an evidence based approach while often speaking in generalities or citing anecdotal evidence as though it were evidence based.

    1. zaqzaq

      Tia,

      The district acknowledged that there is no evidence based rationale for raising the eligibility score from 96 to 98.  Roberson sidestepped the question when stating the he did not know the reason for the existing score of 96.

      1. fishtaco25

        They also acknowledge that a multiple choice IQ test given to 3rd graders in no way identifies students that are at of risk of failure in regular classrooms.  The risk of failure argument/propaganda is the main belief of those that continue to support a two-tier system for 4th-6th graders.  The IQ exam does identify the highest IQ students and thus selectively grants them access to AP 4th grade.

    2. Napoleon Pig IV

      Tia, you always take a rational approach in your comments to a variety of issues, and I respect that. I also respect the value of “evidence based” decisions and policies, and have seen enough high quality, peer-reviewed evidence supporting the effectiveness and value of self-contained AIM classroom instruction to find it amazing that such evidence is ignored by a majority of the trustees and by the superintendent himself.

      However, there is also a problem in discounting subjective experience. As you well know, statistics to do not apply to individuals. In the case of a medical treatment decision, a single experience is often discounted by the profession as a mere anecdote, but it is also a real person’s life outcome. Similarly, a child passes through school but once, and if deprived of the best that educational research and parental preference has to offer, will not have a chance to hit the “reset” button, at least not in this incarnation, being merely one anecdote and not a part of the “evidence.”

      It is important to develop public policy on the basis of evidence, but it is also highly instructive to listen to the experience, wisdom, and preferences of individuals (mere anecdotes, so to speak) to be guided in what questions to ask at the beginning of the evidence gathering process. In addition, parents have a right to competently-guided public school policy, and here in Davis, if the majority of trustees achieve their obvious real intent (as opposed to the pablum they hope we swallow whole), we will go off the rails with respect to the “competent” part of that concept.

      1. Tia Will

        Napoleon

        I agree that no piece of evidence whether scientific or anecdotal should be dismissed. However, I do not believe that all should be weighed equally. For example a sample of 5 should not be weighed equally as a study with a sample size of 500 or 5000. It is important to differentiate the power of one’s findings. I am seeing vague generalizations, proposed action or lack of action based on personal preferences and philosophic beliefs and on the strength of personal accounts rather than actual data. If all concerned were freely admitting this, I would be more reassured. However, I am seeing both sides trying to claim the “high ground” of objectivity with neither side adhering to that position in a meaningful way.

         

        1. Napoleon Pig IV

          I agree with your comment on weighing data.

          However, in the face of so much objective, peer-reviewed data produced over many years by high quality academic researchers and provided to the trustees and to DJUSD administration, I don’t understand the attempt to dismantle this successful (and ethnically diverse) program. I see a very significant lack of objectivity on the part of the anti-AIM group and a mix of objectivity and dismay on the part of the pro-AIM group.

  2. ryankelly

    This is really hard to follow.  She is all over the place.  What I think she is saying is that we should offer this GATE program as just another program open to parental choice.  If this is the case and what she believes, then I demand that the District abandon this as the District’s program for highly gifted students and create a new program design specifically for our highly gifted who are not doing well in a regular classroom whether it be AIM or a neighborhood program.  Call AIM how she envisions it – an accelerated honors program for high achieving students.  However, then Allow the District to remove children who are not able to keep up with the accelerated AIM curriculum and remove the entitlement that our corrupted identification process gives the students to remain in the program. If there is no educational benefit, then they shouldn’t be in the program, right?  There is a waiting list of supposedly qualified students and these faltering students are just taking up a spot that could be filled by a more qualified student.

        1. hpierce

          So noted… you correctly picked up on the ‘perspective’ part.  Found myself doing that (losing perspective) too.  I have a certain passion (highly favorable) about supporting the ideals and goals of AIM/GATE, having been in such a program that was hugely beneficial to me in 7th/8th grade, and having a child in it, who had a ‘borderline’ teacher, and another child who was ‘identified’, but was not in the program.

          The program, as it has existed, IMO needs re-form… not elimination, not status quo.  The current proposal is a bit farther on the pendulum swing than I’d readily endorse, but am VERY glad that the pendulum is moving.  There is a tremendous amount of inertia to be overcome, and the stridency of voices is not particularly helpful… I’ll do my best to keep my voice in an even ‘tone’, but can’t promise that I won’t ‘act out’.

      1. ryankelly

        No, I didn’t say eliminate it.  Leave it be, but call it what it is – an elementary honors program.  I want to see a GATE program for students who truly need it.  Either remodel the existing program to provide that or create a new program.  Since the argument by people wanting little no change to the existing AIM program is that it is popular with parents, there’s a waiting list for the current program, that there is no differentiation in the neighborhood program to allow acceleration through the curriculum and they believe only AIM provides this, etc., then let them have it.   Then focus on creating services that will address the highly gifted and stop trying to remodel the AIM program.  That would have the educational benefit that Madhavi is asking for and satisfy pro-AIM parents.

        1. hpierce

          “I want to see a GATE program for students who truly need it.”  Amen, I say to you… those who truly need and could greatly benefit may not be identified by the current ‘metrics’.  I do believe that good, competent teachers can recognize the ‘square pegs’, and help direct them towards a self-contained program when needed.  This “implicit bias” stuff is a legend in some folk’s minds.  There is an element of truth, but by and large is not fact.

    1. VoiceOfReasonInDavis

      ryankelly–Your willingness to punch others, while complaining whenever someone calls you out, amazes me. This time you say – “This is really hard to follow.  She is all over the place. What I think she is saying…”

      This is not hard to follow at all. She is not all over the place.

      She gives a totally straightforward argument–beginning with her first sentence – “what is the educational goal?” And ending with a beautiful hope: “if we see that any child is suffering and not growing in any program – we should be working on that together and caring about that as a community, even if that’s not our child.”

      But I gave up on expecting fairness from you years ago.

  3. sos

    I noticed something very interesting in Madhavi’s comments. She never mentions gifted learners or even high acheivers, but rather refers to the AIM program as a choice program. She repeatedly refers to the driver of this program (for her) being the desire for this choice by parents (and students). That leads to the question…why do parents want this choice? In talking with parents of children in AIM, most parents cited “high teacher time” students as the factor that drove their decision…behavior issues, remedial students, unengaged students (and parents), full inclusion…students who for various reasons take an inordinate amount of teacher time. AIM offers a more focused classroom with fewer high teacher time students. Can’t fault a parent for wanting that, but it comes at a price for students who are not in the program. All those high teacher time students get concentrated into fewer classrooms. Don’t know how we deal with this issue, but I think this is what drives a large number of AIM parents.

  4. zaqzaq

    sos,

    There are high teacher time students in the AIM classes also and I suspect they are also in Spanish Immersion and Montessori.  There is more in depth learning in the AIM classroom along with an appropriately more difficult math track.  Parents have the “choice” or putting their eligible student in any of the four programs.  The school district’s proposal limits parental choice for a popular program that historically has a waiting list.  It must be really awful for a school district to have a program that is so popular with parents that year after year it has a waiting list for admission.  I also believe that the AIM classes are slightly larger than the neighborhood classes from the last time I did a comparison.  It would be appropriate for the neighborhood classes to be slightly smaller than the pull out programs.  I wonder what a comparison of the size and ethnic make of the neighborhood, AIM, Dual Immersion and Montessori classrooms would look like. Also the English as a second language breakdown.

    1. sos

      The AIM classroom isn’t even remotely close to the neighborhood classes when it comes to “high teacher time students”. Spend some time in some of those neighborhood classes…its a serious issue that is getting worse according to teachers and parents (including AIM parents). And it’s great that the mixed ability AIM class can do more in depth learning…those are the things you can do when you have a more focused classroom.

      1. DavisAnon

        I’m not going to disagree that there are “high teacher time” students in the neighborhood classrooms in grades 4-6, many of them. I can say that a large proportion of the biggest “offenders” in that category during my child’s K-3rd grade classes went with her to AIM. They were “high teacher time” kids when they were young, and most/many of them continue to be, but I have seen enormous improvement in all of them. Could they have had the same improvement in behavior going from 3rd to 4th grade in the neighborhood classroom? It’s certainly possible, as there’s no way to know for sure, but it didn’t seem to be improving in K-3. I would argue that the significant improvement I’ve seen is testament to the positive outcomes that many of these kids have because the educational approach in AIM works better for them and allows them to become more engaged.

        These are kids who wandered in and out of the classroom whenever they felt like it, constantly antagonized and distracted others, were sullen and at times confrontational with teachers who asked them to do their work, acted out, and couldn’t keep their hands to themselves no matter what. They’re still quirky, and that may not ever change, but they’ve become interested in school again, interact far more appropriately with peers and adults, and seem happy to be part of a classroom rather than spending their time undermining it. As a parent who worked in the classroom from each year from kindergarten on and struggled to corral and guide these kids for small group activities, my hat is off to the AIM program when I see the difference in their behavior now.

        I do not see how the changes the district is proposing will be positive for such kids as these or be a positive thing for the other kids in their class who will have to cope with the destructive behavior of these kids in an educational program that is not a good fit for them. Maybe possible answers can be found in other special programs such as Montessori or DSIS, but it seems shortsighted to get narrow opportunities when it seems to be working well for those in AIM.

        Not working well for a certain group of kids in the program? Let’s look at that and make adjustments.Not enough seats? Make it bigger. Is testing identifying kids that end up miserable in the program? Let’s fix that. Are we not identifying minorities at risk or certain subgroups that could benefit? Fix that piece. Not working well for a certain group of kids in the program? Let’s look at that and make adjustments. Things not working well in the neighborhood classrooms? Let’s fix that. All of these can be done without weakening a program that is working well at minimal cost to taxpayers.

        1. lotaspark

          DavisAnon: This is beautifully written and speaks for so many children whose voices are not being heard. I would replace a few of the board members for you in a split second!

  5. Don Shor

    Summary:

    The goals of the board majority have not been explained.

    There’s no evidence supporting the change.

    This is a major change.

    This reduces parental choice.

    Loss of the GATE coordinator affected the process and has already affected the continuity of the program.

    The board should slow down.

    Consider honors programs.

    Eliminating private testing will have some impacts that need to be considered and dealt with.

    The district probably doesn’t have the resources to reduce class sizes, which would be necessary for differentiation.

    The district probably doesn’t have the resources to mandate teacher training.

    Maybe there are creative way to deal with that.

    They should change the administrative structure after they change the program.

    1. ryankelly

      How about she provide a clearer suggestion on what she thinks should be done to address the flaws in the identification process and the problems with the program that have been identified?  She seems to disagree with almost everything the staff and Board is doing, but doesn’t offer an alternative – other than maintain the status quo and do nothing.  The only thing I think she has agreed with is to stop the acceptance of private testing, but she is wavering on even that.

      1. Davis Progressive

        it seems like a high standard you have set there.  it was 11:30 at night after a long meeting and she didn’t have a huge amount of time.  it was pretty clear on what she agreed with and didn’t agree with.  it’s really up to the administration to develop curriculum not a school board.

        1. fishtaco25

          Why do people continually cite the time of day something happens (vote, announcement, proposal) at a School Board meeting as propaganda for or against that something?  Almost every op-ed letter and Mrs. Sunder herself use time of day as a point against the AIM-GATE decisions.  Oh my gosh they voted after midnight, they must not have been thinking clearly and certainly rushed their decision!

    2. hpierce

      Your summary has more ‘spins’ than a top.  Not even close to being a gyroscope.  The latter I could live with.  Gyroscopes can move without losing their balance.  Ride a bike and see how that works.

    3. Anon

      I think you captured this woman’s thinking very well Don.  She doesn’t have all the answers, is concerned about removing AIM choices for many gifted kids, and would like to work with the school board to improve the educational experience for all children but recognizes funding limitations of doing this.  She clearly does not see the current proposal to cut AIM by 50% as an “improvement”, especially because it doesn’t seem to be an evidenced based decision and limits choice.  Sounds fairly reasonable to me…

    4. sos

      …”goals of the board haven’t been explained”.      They asked the district to provide a clear and legitimate process to identify those students who cannot be served in the regular classroom (you might call them gifted) to be served in a self contained classroom. And then to develop a differentiation program for all students in the regular classroom. Seems pretty clear.

      “No evidence supporting the change.”       The numbers show the current program has become a mixed ability classroom, courtesy of retesting.

      “This is a major change.”       Yes, it is…a change back to more of what the GATE program looked like 15 years ago.

      “The board should slow down.”        Weve been having this discussion for 10 years.

      “Consider honors program.”        Agreed, at the Jr. High level…we used to have it, but it was abolished when GATE grew larger. I suspect that is what the district would like to see, but some are saying slow down.

        1. sos

          That’s not what they said…they said AIM would continue as a self contained program for those  students who cannot be served in the regular classroom. Definitions are problematic because they are not always clear cut, but most people would refer to this population as under achieving gifted. The honors or advanced track would be at the Jr high level only, not elementary, and they haven’t indicated any change in plans for the Jr high program. I suspect they aren’t planning any changes to the Jr high because some people have asked them to go slowly. And on that note, I spoke with Madhavi in the past, and she indicated she would be open to the idea of AIM as an advanced track or honors type program at the Jr high level.

        2. Matt Williams

          Anon, is there not room for both programs at both the Junior High level and the Senior High level? AIM/GATE (as originally conceived) and Honors (Advanced Placement) appear to me to serve different segments of the student population.

          Is it possible that the efforts to take either or both of those programs down to an Elementary School level is where we are creating our problems?

          1. Matt Williams

            The reason I added this thought at this late date (I’ve made no comments on GATE/AIM at all, although I have attended two SB meetings to hear the various thoughts first hand), is that I was talking to my son in Baltimore and their 10th Grade son just got accepted/placed in the GATE program of his Baltimore school. He is Thai by birth and came to the US to live with my son and daughter-in-law when he was 11 (almost 12) with virtually no English language skills. So he has come up through the ESL programs, then qualified for one of the school district’s Magnet programs two years ago, and now GATE. All along that path, because of his lack of English skills he never would have tested into a high percentile. He was a classic example of what I believe GATE/AIM was created for … gifted and talented students who need something more than the standard curriculum to realize their potential.

            Randy and Noi (my son and daughter-in-law) never applied for GATE for Namo, the school district came to them with a proposal to move Namo into their GATE track. As a result, Randy and Noi are working hard to come up to speed on why GATE will produce even better results than have been achieved thus far by Namo as he has progressed from age 11 to age 16.

            As you can imagine, when I told Randy and Noi about what is going on in Davis they were intrigued, and wondered whether the Davis percentage threshold approach would have identified/qualified an ESL student like Namo. When the school officials came to them offering GATE for Namo, those officials didn’t talk about test scores, rather the teachers who had taught Namo over the past five years used their hands-on experience with him to decide there was an opportunity for him to do even more. Baltimore has both AP courses (the State of Maryland has the highest per capita qualifying rate of AP students in the nation) and GATE. They serve two different purposes. GATE goes all the way down into the elementary schools, but AP is limited to the years where college preparedness takes an increasing role . . . high school.

            Davis seems to be headed toward a mindset where college preparedness begins in elementary school, and that is a very laudable goal, but should accomplishing that goal be done in such a way that the programs for students like Namo dissappear?

        3. wdf1

          Matt Williams:  When the school officials came to them offering GATE for Namo, those officials didn’t talk about test scores, rather the teachers who had taught Namo over the past five years used their hands-on experience with him to decide there was an opportunity for him to do even more.

          Wow.  I wonder if that is defined as “best practices” in Maryland.  In California, best practices on the issue of GATE identification always seem to involve standardized test scores.

          1. Matt Williams

            Good question wdf. One has to wonder how an ESL student would ever test highly enough on an English language standardized test to qualify. In California would the standardized test be given to a child in their native language?

            The absence of English language proficiency is exactly the kind of challenge that would impede a naturally gifted child from making progress in a main stream classroom situation.

            Now, with that said, I did not think to ask my son and daughter-in-law what the universe of information was that the school officials brought forward as their evidence of Namo’s GATE-worthiness. It is certainly possible (and likely) that test scores were part of that evidence. Whether those tests were “standardized” or not, I really do not know.

            Based on your long experience in education, how do you believe children should be handled whose learning impediment will also be a testing impediment?

            All through the long GATE/AIM debate here in Davis I haven’t been able to shake by feeling that GATE/AIM is simply an Advanced Placement program for those who want a better college entrance credential. Is there something that I am missing?

    5. fishtaco25

      Accurate Summary:

      I don’t understand why we are spending all this time on AIM-GATE, but please consider this lengthy collection of open ended questions and potential solutions.   I can’t understand why the board would think we are over identifying gifted students.  Why is is the board trying to modify our mutant 4-6th grade AP program disguised as AIM-GATE?

  6. Davis Progressive

    “identify those students who cannot be served in the regular classroom”

    i have to get back to work, but why is the standard “cannot be served” as opposed to “can be better served” in a self-contained program than in the regular classroom?  because it seems to me that that’s what we want – to served as many students as we can, to the best of our ability.

    1. sos

      One correction…not to serve as many students as we can, but to serve all students, to the best of our ability. All students would be better served if they could learn in an academically homogenous classroom…high achiever, average, remedial. But we don’t have that ability.

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