Superintendent Recommends a 98th Percentile, 63 Student, Two Classroom AIM Program

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On Thursday, September 17, 2015, the DJUSD School Board will hear staff’s recommendations on changes to the AIM program as well as feedback from the public. Staff has made four recommendations that will then return for board action on October 15. A recommendation to approve a proposed new leadership structure will return for board action October 1.

First, the DJUSD Administration recommends the continued use of the OLSAT (Otis-Lennon School Ability Test) for universal testing. They write, “Based on literature reviews and as a means to connect the proposed identification process to the existing one, we recommend continuing with OLSAT as a universal third grade identification test at the beginning of the year. In addition to providing a basis for comparison between the new assessment system and the old one, it is a highly recognized test in the field.”

However, they also recognize that “since the test has been shown to reflect a higher level of success for white and Asian students, it is essential for the district to include safeguards that identify underrepresented groups of students including English Learners, low income, Hispanic, and African American.”

As such, they recommend a pilot using the HOPE (Having Opportunities Promotes Excellence) scale. The HOPE Scale assessment “was designed to identify and serve high-potential students from low-income families.” The way it works is that classroom teachers “complete the HOPE scale for each of their students by answering eleven questions using a six point frequency response scale.”

The administration hopes that the future use of the HOPE would “mitigate for the inherent biases associated with other assessments.” Third grade teachers would use this as additional measure for the identification of AIM students. Right now they would use it as a pilot rather than a qualification factor for 2015-16 in order to track how it would align with other processes.

The district’s survey of other districts found that a qualification score ranges from 90-99 percentile in GATE programs throughout California. Administrative staff believes that raising or lowering the qualification score will have a direct effect on the projected number of students who qualify. Right now the qualification for AIM-identification is the 96th percentile.

Staff recommends raising the qualification score to 98th percentile.

They write, “The administration considered the effect that a higher qualification score will have on the AIM program size.”

Already they have looked at the impact of the elimination of private testing where “the administration projects that the approximate size of the AIM program would fall between 77 and 100 students with the elimination of private testing if the number of students tested remains constant.”

These projections are based on the elimination of private testing alone and do not account for changes in qualification scores.

Adding in the qualification score being raised to the 98th percentile, administrative staff believes “the range of self-contained requests will be between 63 and 73 students. These numbers suggest that the district would offer between two and three sections of self-contained classrooms.”

In addition to the HOPE scale, the district plans to use risk factors, and that “to screen for additional testing is critical to mitigate for the inherent biases that exist in each assessment.” They added that they recommend “that risk factors shall be used to determine additional assessments which will be administered to determine eligibility.”

The administration recommends that consideration must be given to students who exhibit the following factors:

  1. Economic: parent unemployed; low/single parent income; participation in free-reduced lunch programs
  2. Health: designated instructional services via Resource Specialist Program (RSP) such as learning disabilities, significant physical or mental health problems, etc.
  3. Primary language of parent and/or student is other than English; lack of proficiency or verbal fluency in English; limited home/school communication; part of underrepresented population.
  4. A wide range of scores on indicators of school success (teacher reports, grades, test results, standardized tests, etc.)

The administration sees a two-stage process. During the first stage of the process, “the administration strives to build a system that equalizes the weight of multiple tools to minimize over identification and under identification. All 3rd graders would take the OLSAT and students scoring 98th percentile or above will qualify for AIM.”

During the second stage of the process, “the AIM Assessment Team will review risk factors and determine what test would be appropriate for students who did not qualify on the OLSAT. Students without risk factors, but who scored in the standard error of measure on the OLSAT will be rescreened using either the CogAT or the Slosson. For students with risk factors related to language or culture, the TONI may be administered. For students with economic risk factors, the Naglieri may be administered. The AIM Assessment Team may choose to administer the WISC in special circumstances.”

Staff writes, “If the HOPE pilot is successful, it will be used with the alternative assessments listed above to determine AIM-identification.”

DJUSD also intends to “implement a targeted strategy to ensure that all students receive differentiated instruction. This shall be achieved through a two-step process of formulating a professional growth plan and implementing particular strategies for advanced learners.”

Staff writes with respect to differentiation strategies for advanced learners: “Differentiation for the advanced learner incorporates information regarding differentiated classroom practices, but may have more emphasis on providing differentiated instructional methods that integrate a democratic learning environment with substantive information across the curriculum in advanced content, process and product. Typically, advanced learners demonstrate interest-based intrinsic motivation with a capacity for understanding abstract concepts and the ability to transfer knowledge from one learning situation to another.”

Finally administration recommends the implementation of a new leadership model to appropriately address the needs of the AIM program in the district. Staff writes, “The process of research and analysis for this report provided an opportunity to look carefully at the evolving needs of the identification process and oversight of the AIM program. At present, the AIM Coordinator position is vacant. As the Board of Education considers approving an updated plan for the AIM identification process, the Superintendent will establish an appropriate leadership structure to support the recommendations in this report.”

Under the direction of the Associate Superintendent of Instructional Services, AIM program leadership will be led by the Director of Curriculum, Assessment and Learning, who will attain GATE certification.

That director would be responsible for parent communication, elementary and junior high placements, AIM staff management and the AIM Advisory committee.

The district is proposing hiring a .4 FTE AIM Differentiation Specialist who would replace the AIM coordinator. The support staff includes the, already implemented, addition of a new (.25 FTE) secretary.

The staff continues, “[T]he administration will create an AIM Assessment Team, comprised of the AIM Differentiation Specialist, an AIM teacher, a site principal, a psychologist, Director of Curriculum, Assessment and Learning, and Associate Superintendent of Instructional Services. The AIM Assessment Team will review relevant student data to determine additional assessment(s) in alignment with the DJUSD AIM identification process, in order to ensure that each student receives the most appropriate assessment.”

The Superintendent’s AIM Advisory Committee will continue to meet monthly at the regularly scheduled time, published on the district’s AIM website.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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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37 thoughts on “Superintendent Recommends a 98th Percentile, 63 Student, Two Classroom AIM Program”

  1. VoiceOfReasonInDavis

    “The district is proposing hiring a .4 FTE AIM Differentiation Specialist who would replace the AIM coordinator.”

    This seems to eliminate the AIM coordinator position entirely.

    Differentiation is for all students. While it’s certainly good to have people who are advocating for all students, this seems to remove anyone whose job is to focus on a particular (and large) subgroup with academic needs.

  2. Davis Progressive

    earlier this week it sounded hopeful that a consensus can emerge.  this is not a consensus proposal.  i wonder if alan fernandes will be on board with it.  98 percentile, eliminate private testing, specify risk factors and you end up with a completely white/ asian aim program.  notice they don’t attempt to project race/ ethnic breakdown – i’m sure there’s a reason for that.

    the weird thing is that this model focusing on 98 percentile doesn’t end up where some have stated they want it – these aren’t low achieving, intelligent kidds, it’s just high achievers.  why create such an exclusive/ elitist program?

    1. wdf1

      DP:  the weird thing is that this model focusing on 98 percentile doesn’t end up where some have stated they want it – these aren’t low achieving, intelligent kidds, it’s just high achievers.  why create such an exclusive/ elitist program?

      What do you think is the appropriate way to identify AIM/GATE students?

      1. hpierce

        I am beginning to believe the most vocal supporters would insist on including their child as long as the parent(s) insist enough.  If criteria 1 doesn’t work apply criteria 2… then 3, then… until the parent gets their way.  Am more and more (reading letters to the editor, etc.) coming to the conclusion that parents DO think their child is “entitled” to special treatment, because they ‘earned’ it, rather than “need” it.  And there does seem to be a “prestige” thing for a certain percentage of those parents. [and a bunch of the teachers]

        There ARE kids that will not thrive without the GATE/AIM model, but the number of such kids has been greatly exaggerated, in my opinion.

        I know at least two teachers (one a vocal advocate) who were in my opinion marginal for ANY teaching post in Davis, but got to be “special” teachers via ‘networking’ within the district.  I hope that AIM teachers are not getting any more compensation than others with same tenure, credentials, etc., just because they are AIM instructors.

        1. wdf1

          hpierce:   I hope that AIM teachers are not getting any more compensation than others with same tenure, credentials, etc., just because they are AIM instructors.

          AIM teachers, Spanish Immersion teachers, Montessori teachers and “regular” teachers are all on the same salary scale as far as I know.

      2. Davis Progressive

        wdf: you’re running from my concern.  if the gate program is supposed to be for intelligent kids who are struggling in the mainstream classroom, this doesn’t get there.  and if we are concerned with the ethnic make up, then this program seems to magnify it  do you disagree?  you’ve said in the past you don’t like standardized tests, but this method relies on the olsat.

        1. wdf1

          D.P.:   you’ve said in the past you don’t like standardized tests, but this method relies on the olsat.

          I am aware that it relies on a standardized test.  Personally I question if the OLSAT is the best way to be identifying students for the GATE program.  If there have been as many exceptions being made for OLSAT scores as there have been (private testing, TONI scores, and a lottery), then I begin to think that OLSAT is likely not the best way to be doing it in the first place.

          Recently Common Core standardized test scores for California have come out, and it appears that there are generally higher cutoff scores to define levels of proficiency.  The narrative for having higher cutoff scores for CC standardized tests is that we need rigorous standards.  Do you think that going with 98 percentile scores for OLSAT makes the AIM program appropriately rigorous?

          DP:  and if we are concerned with the ethnic make up, then this program seems to magnify it  do you disagree?

          In a college town, I think this concern with ethnic make up in a program like this ends up being a farce.  It really isn’t about ethnic makeup, but rather parent education level.  It looks like GATE/AIM identification appears to screen for parent education level more than any other identifier.  Don Shor has noted that other college communities also have above average rates of GATE identification.  The reason that ethnic make up seems to be important is that historically some racial/ethnic groups have had lower rates of education.

          A more fundamental question to ask, “is it appropriate to segregate students by family education level in this way?”

        2. wdf1

          Another instance in the absurdities of standardized tests:

          Malala Wants To Go To Stanford, But First She’ll Need To Take The SATs

          Standardized testing is a rite of passage for American students, and one notable who won’t escape that net is Malala Yousafzai, the 18-year-old who caught the world’s attention in 2012 when she was shot over her advocacy for education for girls in Pakistan. She may have a Nobel Prize, but Malala will still have to sit down for the SAT to apply to Stanford University, along with 43,000 other aspirants, to qualify for a spot at the school that FORBES ranks third in the country.

          Because maybe her resume isn’t strong enough, or maybe it’s suspect?  I wonder if she would have qualified for GATE/AIM.

          1. Don Shor

            I have no idea if it is absurd, since I know nothing about her education background or what kind of a student she is.
            I’m more interested in whether the staff proposal meets your criteria for acceptable differentiated instruction of gifted students

        3. VoiceOfReasonInDavis

          wdf1 – A more fundamental question to ask, “is it appropriate to segregate students by family education level in this way?”

          So do you want to end the program? 

        4. wdf1

          wdf1:  A more fundamental question to ask, “is it appropriate to segregate students by family education level in this way?”

          VoRiD:  So do you want to end the program?

          End the program, as in self-contained GATE/AIM?  No, I see clear examples of students who need it.

          I ask my question because I don’t have a good answer right now.  Do you?

          1. Don Shor

            Is it necessary that every program in the district mirror the demographics of the district with respect to family education level, ethnicity, or any other specific data point?

        5. wdf1

          Don Shor:  I have no idea if it is absurd, since I know nothing about her education background or what kind of a student she is.

          Malala celebrates string of top GCSEs

          She also wrote a book, was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, and, unlike many young adults at her age, seems to demonstrate a clear sense of purpose in life that would have a positive impact on her community.

          It is absurd because it demonstrates an unwillingness of human beings to evaluate what should be clear but that we have to give them a test to make sure.  And what if her SAT scores aren’t great?  Then her completion of high school with good grades, a Nobel Prize, and a book, plus what she has done for her cause are meaningless because a popularly regarded standardized test says so?

          1. Don Shor

            Stanford:
            Total first-time, first-year (freshman) men who applied: 22,536
            Total first-time, first-year (freshman) women who applied: 19,631
            Total first-time, first-year (freshman) men who were admitted: 1,083
            Total first-time, first-year (freshman) women who were admitted: 1,062
            I can see how they might want to narrow it down. I suspect they have a committee that can make special adjustments and I doubt they’d keep her out if she refused, for some reason, to take the SAT’s.
            She’s famous. That doesn’t mean she’d be a good student at Stanford. Nor do the SAT’s. I assume they will look at the totality of it.
            You sometimes seem to advocate that enrollment in colleges, in GATE, in everything else be done without any standardized testing at all? Open enrollment? Review of all candidates by committees? Tests do, in fact, have their place. Obviously they can be misused, but they can provide useful screening tools. There are no perfect tests. There are no perfect enrollment practices. It’s sometimes hard for me to figure out exactly what you want.

        6. wdf1

          Don Shor:  It’s sometimes hard for me to figure out exactly what you want.

          I want an education system that accounts for more than just cognitive development and acquisition.  The more that standardized tests are used, the less that non-cognitive components are valued.

          This recent podcast makes a number of good points that I agree with:

          Beyond the Blackboard

          In spite of Malala having good grades, it is demonstration of non-cognitive traits that I think are impressive.

           

        7. wdf1

          Don Shor:  How do you feel about the proposal the staff has put forth for assessing students for GATE?

          That it introduces teacher input (the HOPE scale) into the process is a good start.

          Don Shor: Is it necessary that every program in the district mirror the demographics of the district with respect to family education level, ethnicity, or any other specific data point?

          I think it’s worth investigating if there are notable differences, figure out why, discuss if it matters, and what can be done about it.

  3. Don Shor

    It seems we are missing some information as to how this would be implemented.

    It appears there is to be no cluster grouping of students in differentiated classrooms. Students who do not make the 98% threshold, but would previously have been in the program, will simply be in their neighborhood schools?

    Is differentiated training to be gifted-specific? Will students in regular classrooms be identified to the teachers as gifted, and given different instruction/curriculum?

    What is the basis of the 98% decision? Is it evidence-based? If not, what is the rationale of using 98% rather than a lower number during the period while the other test results are being trialed?

    What is the actual authority of the AIM Assessment Team with regard to placement of students within self-contained GATE? Do parents have any ability to appeal, and who makes the ultimate decision?

    “Currently we have 25 AIM teachers teaching 4th – 9th grade with 5 AIM teachers possessing a GATE Certificate either through a University GATE Certificate program or another agency’s GATE Certificate program.    Starting in the 2016-2017 school year, all AIM teachers, will be required to attain GATE Certification.”

    How will a teacher be identified as an “AIM teacher” if there is not going to be any cluster groupings in differentiated classrooms? Will this only apply to the smaller number of teachers with self-contained GATE?

    1. hpierce

      Interesting point… if OLSAT “standardized testing” is wrong for identifying AIM students, I suppose standardized testing/credentials for AIM teachers is equally suspect.

      After all, teachers going thru the training are “students”. How are they selected for the training/schooling/education?

  4. MrsW

    “Currently we have 25 AIM teachers…. with 5 AIM teachers possessing a GATE Certificate….. Starting in the 2016-2017 school year, all AIM teachers, will be required to attain GATE Certification.”

    Isn’t this something that the teacher’s Union has to agree to?

  5. Anon

    I have no dog in this fight – all my children are grown and out of the DJUSD.  I never had any children in the AIM program, altho one of my children tested for it but didn’t make it (she is now attending med school).

    My impression of the DJUSD AIM recommendation:

    We are drastically downsizing the AIM program, having already cut the position of AIM coordinator  – and have no intention of bringing this position back. The DJUSD will arbitrarily decide who will be in AIM based almost exclusively on one test score which favors only the top 2% of our brightest students.  We know we have to look like we are not discriminating in regard to AIM eligibility based on ethnicity.  So a very few students who did not score well enough on the one test given to determine AIM eligibility may, by our grace, be permitted into the AIM program.  Eligibility for these token few will be based on very subjective and squishy criteria that parents will not be able to challenge – because it is done behind closed doors in secret by an unaccountable committee made up of only school personnel but no “outsiders”.  It is our firmly held belief almost all students will be better served in the regular classroom.  Our excellent teachers should have absolutely no difficulty teaching students of all ability levels and learning styles within the same classroom.  We also believe that those with a learning disability have a “health” problem rather than a learning problem, and by use of the secret committee and arbitrary criteria we can easily keep these “diseased” individuals from polluting the AIM program.  

    If I were a parent with a child in the DJUSD, I would feel insulted!  JMO

    1. ryankelly

      It sounds like the commenter didn’t read the report.  Retesting will be done with a test appropriate for the student’s risk factor.  An evaluation by 3rd grade teachers is planned to be included with this year as a pilot.  The aim, I think, is that there will be muliple measures.

      I’m still reading the report, but the attachments are interesting, especially the email coorespondance.  The proposed job description for the Differentiation Specialist is there too.

  6. DavisAnon

    If you read the proposal, the district is creating its own definition of “GATE certification” that Is entirely different from standard criteria for this and appears to involve minimal training. It’s insulting to the teachers who are spending their own time, dedication and money to attain GATE certification to have the district consider their limited training somehow equivalent. It’s also doing students a disservice to somehow assume this training provides equivalent knowledge and skills for teaching gifted students.

    Where’s Napoleon Pig? I think this would certainly meet his definition of putting lipstick on a pig!! Pretty soon we’ll be handing out high school diplomas after a few weekend seminars and skipping the four year plan – just think of the money we could save on parcel taxes! Yes, that was sarcasm. It would be laughable if it wasn’t our children’s futures the district and Board were gambling with.

    1. lotaspark

      Sorry Don but you will be hearing crickets with that question. Not even the most skilled fiction writer could read that report and describe how any child will benefit from these suggestions. I could give you page after page of how every child in the district will be hurt by them, but benefited…….sorry, I am at a loss.

  7. VoiceOfReasonInDavis

    The story includes this quote from the district’s report:

    “Differentiation for the advanced learner incorporates information regarding differentiated classroom practices, but may have more emphasis on providing differentiated instructional methods that integrate a democratic learning environment with substantive information across the curriculum in advanced content, process and product.”

  8. zaqzaq

    They are going to get sued over a subjective criteria for admission that is base on a protected class of children.  That is why they went to a lottery system for admission into the program.  Does this do away with the lottery?

  9. Napoleon Pig IV

    This proposal should be a surprise to no one. It is indicative of the quality of thinking (or lack thereof) of our local school district’s administration and a majority of our local school board.

    Davis, as a a beacon of excellence in education, is a thing of the past. I like the music from the sixties and seventies also, but it’s time to move on.

    Charter school anyone? Parcel tax renewal anyone?

    Oink!

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