by Debbie Nichols-Poulos
This spring, only 82 students qualified for the fourth-grade AIM program, almost half of previous years. This lower number was due to the elimination of private testing and the way the TONI was previously used.
This year, students with learning disabilities such as ADD/ADHD, or those who have language, ethnic or socioeconomic risk factors, are far less likely to be identified as gifted. This year’s brand-new testing protocol surely resulted in under-identifying gifted third-graders.
At the last minute, the board decided to eliminate AIM classes at North Davis Elementary even though a majority of the qualifying students selected North as their first choice and some as their only choice. Why? North students are now at the bottom of waiting lists for Willett and Pioneer AIM strands.
What is the board’s rationale for cutting the program to only two strands? Does it believe only high-potential students in certain neighborhoods deserve AIM classes?
Students from Central and East Davis who still want to attend either Pioneer or Willett will have a hazardous bike commute, or they will have to rely on non-working parents who are able to car-pool, in order to get to these distant schools.
When I taught the fourth-grade self-contained class, the district always lowered the eligibility score to fill our classes. The board could easily lower the eligibility score to fill classes at North, Willett and Pioneer. Given the margin of error, there is no clear line at the 96th percentile. The new testing methods surely under-identified gifted students, so it would make sense to reach out to high-potential kids on the cusp of qualifying who could benefit from the program.
This would be an easy fix. But don’t hold your breath. The board majority is clearly getting its wish of squeezing the life out of this program that has served Davis schools since the 1960s. One way or another, they won’t rest until GATE is eliminated for every single gifted student.
I feel so sad for the entire contingent of GATE-eligible children in our district whose needs will not be met. There are going to be more lights out in Davis than those notorious street lights!