Parents Protest Termination of AIM at NDE; Threaten to Pull out of State Testing

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AIM(The following is a reader-submitted letter)

To the Board of Trustees and the Acting Superintendent of DJUSD

We write this letter in protest of the termination of new 4th grade classes at the North Davis Elementary (NDE) AIM program.

Last year, approximately 140 students were placed into the AIM program. This year, we all understood that the program was to be reduced in size, and a cutoff of 96 percentile score on the OLSAT was established as the threshold for entry into the program.

The children of the co-signers of this letter were told by DJUSD that all are placed into the AIM program. The district website explicitly states that if there are more than 120 students who are AIM eligible, then a lottery would be held to determine who would be placed in the program. This year, 82 students were deemed AIM eligible and apparently 72 (or 66) students chose to be placed in AIM (different numbers have been shared with AIM eligible families, so we are unsure of the actual number).

Despite the fact that the placement process, as outlined on the website, clearly indicates that all of these eligible students were to have been placed in an AIM classroom, DJUSD has chosen to cut the North Davis Elementary AIM program, thereby forcing the creation of a waitlist (of apparently 14 or 10 students) because they cannot be accommodated in the two existing AIM classrooms (Pioneer and Willett).

Furthermore, when we raised the question at AIM information night on March 8th, the parents and children were explicitly told by the AIM testing coordinator, Stephanie Gregson, that the lottery process existed to establish WHERE the AIM eligible students would be placed, not IF they would be placed.

The core of our complaint is that DJUSD changed the formula during the time that parents were making decisions for their children. The district staff (specifically Gregson and the AIM secretary) mis-informed all the parents that were present at the information night. The decision was taken unilaterally by DJUSD without any consideration for the fate of AIM eligible students or their siblings.

This unilateral decision by the DJUSD is unfair to the kids who came to the AIM meeting on March 8th and who were told that they would be in the AIM program. They were not told “you are eligible, but there is still a lottery.” The process is unfair to the parents who were assured that their children were guaranteed a spot in the AIM program, and who were told that the lottery would only determine the location of that spot.

For example, our family was not convinced of having our child attend AIM until our daughter was assured by Gregson at the information night that she had a spot in the program. The DJUSD AIM placement information on the website confirmed that assurance. Furthermore, our family made placement choices for our incoming kindergartner based on the ASSURANCES that our 3rd grader would be in the AIM program.

As a professor at UC Davis, I have to deal with many students who complain, for example, that their grade is unfair. I define fairness to them as a process whose rules are established at the outset, during the first class of the quarter in the syllabus, and then adhered to throughout, until the grades are finalized.

This year’s AIM placement process is absolutely unfair by that standard. As parents, we understood going into this year’s placement process that the district wanted to reduce the number of students – this is why DJUSD set a percentile threshold. The threshold was based on a score percentile, not a target number. We understood that external/private testing was no longer allowed, and we all accept this as the established DJUSD AIM policy for this academic year.

In retrospect, we have come to believe that the setting of a percentile threshold by DJUSD board members was a subtle and disingenuous way of further contracting the AIM program, with an ultimate goal of eliminating the program completely. Since class sizes are set by target numbers (apparently 29 students per class for the AIM program) it is clear that any number of AIM eligible kids between 58 and 87 would create an argument for the staff to eliminate one AIM strand. By eliminating the NDE strand, you are eliminating the most convenient location for the most students, thereby impacting the program even more.

The truth of the matter is this: DJUSD has changed the rules in the middle of the process – after assuring us that the rules were fixed at the beginning of the process. Each family made decisions based on the original rules of the process, and their changing the rules is a burdensome impact on our families, who are voters, taxpayers and additional assessment payers of the city of Davis.

We therefore request what is simply fair, that DJUSD re-establish the North Davis Elementary 4th grade AIM program for the year 2016-2017. Moving forward for the next year, if the district sees fit to close one program, they must then set a threshold based on number of students, not percentile score on the OLSAT. [It is probably clear to all readers that we would also disagree with removing any more AIM strands in the future. There are students who have been, and in the future could be, very well served by the AIM program. Given that the teachers will still be on the payroll and the programs are placed in existing schools, there is not even a decisive cost argument against the AIM program. But this is an argument for another time.]

We also request fairness for future AIM identified students. If the District chooses to make any changes to the program, they must inform families and the general public PRIOR to running the AIM placement test. The Board of Trustees must do this in open session, not through some surreptitious administrative process which passes the buck to District Staff.

An additional AIM strand means 24 (or 22) students per classroom if there are 72 (or 66) AIM eligible children. While these numbers are on the low end of DJUSD classrooms, they are not the lowest (for example, two Montgomery Elementary 4th grade classrooms have 22 and 23 students, respectively). If this is too low for the DJUSD, more students can be added from among students who were at the threshold of AIM admission under these new standards.

This solution has a fourfold effect. First, it ensures fairness for the children who were originally told they’d be in AIM. Second it gives the opportunity to children who would have been in AIM in previous years to participate in AIM. Third, it allows the AIM program to contract less rapidly, moving from 4 AIM strands to 3 AIM strands instead of from 4 AIM strands to 2 AIM strands in the span of 1 year. And finally, it avoids another prolonged fight between the District and the families it serves.

We are simply asking for a fair and consistent process and expect that to be delivered. We believe as parents, as voters, and as taxpayers, the DJUSD board members have an obligation to do their job in a fair manner. We have tried meeting with the Board of Trustees, writing to them and reasoning with them, to no avail. Given that our appeals to fairness have not prevailed, we feel that we have to go further in order to force action. If the District does not deliver a fair process, we, the co-signers will ensure that our children will opt out of the state mandated SBAC test this year, we call on all AIM and AIM eligible children opt out of the SBAC tests. We do not wish to take this action and we do not propose this course of action lightly, as we understand that such action has the potential of hurting individual schools, and the district as a whole, by increasing the likelihood that DJUSD and some of its schools will fall into (or remain in) the category of program improvement.

Sincerely,

Joseph A. Biello
Connie R, Saint
Shruti Khanna
Nagudinesh Ugrappa
Laura Scott
John Terning
Aki Ito
Vanessa France
Gayatari Sarkar
S.P. Dinesh-Kumar
Gayathri Gomes
Deepali Bhargava
Hemant Bhargava
Dominik Haudenschild
Anne Haudenschild

cc:
Davis Enterprise
Davis Vanguard
Board of Trustees
Superintendent
Sacramento Bee

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75 thoughts on “Parents Protest Termination of AIM at NDE; Threaten to Pull out of State Testing”

  1. zaqzaq

    Another top DJUSD employee in the district office caught misleading the public again.  Shocking.  Roberson tried to push the end of the lottery at the March board meeting until he was called on it by a board member.  Either the DJUSD leadership is corrupt or they are incompetent.  Either way they do not instill confidence in me that they can be entrusted with deciding how parcel tax monies are spent based on this pathetic performance.  Any claims they make about meeting students needs is just more hot air.

  2. Scheney

    This saddens me.  When I pulled my son out of GATE in May of his 5th year, he returned to his neighborhood school at NDE, which did not have a GATE program.  In sixth grade the three teachers collaborated and taught different subjects. The students moved to different rooms for different subjects, which helped ease the students transition into 7th grade.  No child was excluded or segregated from others and all benefited from the expertise of every teacher.  The sixth grade class was one group, paricipating in a mock U.N., the sixth grade play, and class parties.   Students flourished.  It was because of this model that many parents of GATE identified children had chosen to stay at NDE.  My son had the best year, both socially and educationally.  Members of his sixth grade class went on to become successful adults, many attending top colleges and universities.  My son made life-long friends in that year with Students who had a wide variety of interests and talents.  I was sad when I heard that this was abolished with the addition of GATE at NDE.   It saddens me to read this letter from North Davis parents.

     

    1. DavisAnon

      I fully support these parents. The district has outright lied to them on many occasions through this process and continues to do so. There has been no accountability by DJUSD for their broken promises.

      Scheney, the rotations between classrooms at the sixth grade level does persist at NDE for World Summit. Ironically while my child enjoyed working with other classrooms, it very much confirmed that having my child in AIM was a good choice as within a couple weeks, my child started losing interest in that work and getting frustrated due to the slower pace of the non-AIM rooms.

      1. DavisAnon

        But I do think it’s a good idea to keep the mixing for occasional activities so they know each other and maintain friendships. Just because they have different learning needs doesn’t mean that they are not still part of the same school community. AIM and other programs can coexist and do well with the neighborhood programs at all of these schools. I think it’s great that your child found the perfect mix at NDE. We have enjoyed it as well.

        1. Scheney

          Mixing for one unit of one subject does not work to achieve the collaborative environment that the NDE program had pre-GATE.  There are lessons to be learned to mixing in a more diverse educational environment and it seems that there are many parents of GATE identified children who have chosen to remain in their existing program or neighborhood school.   We seem to only hear from the GATE community here, but hardly ever from the non-GATE community or ex-GATE community, so we are getting primarily one view.

          The threat to pull out of testing is of little concern, really.  There is a large number of families who already don’t participate in the District.  And since testing is interfering with classroom instruction (the bandwidth problem) maybe more parents should opt out.

        2. aimteacher

          I am currently the AIM 6th grade teacher & was a 6th grade non-AIM teacher before that – and have taught at NDE for 20+ years.

          Although you are totally accurate that the departmentalized 6th grade rotations was AMAZING, that level of teaching just could NOT sustain when the fabulous teacher, Nancy Adams, retired. The two remaining teachers went part time and a new teacher joined our grade level. It was decided by the principal to go back to self-contained classrooms. We had these “self-contained non-AIM classrooms” BEFORE the AIM program came to us (when Valley Oak closed).

          Unfortunately all good things must change, but please do NOT make the reference that that change was BECAUSE of the AIM program coming here!! That is just not accurate.

          Also, our 6th grade TEAM makes many opportunities during the year to have ALL 6th graders together/mixed:

          1) walker creek

          2) PE rotations

          3) carnival

          4) special projects – visiting guest speakers, fundraising, etc.

          frankly – some years the kids truly bond across classrooms & sometimes not…it just depends on the different/unique mix of 90-115 personalities – NOT whether they are AIM or not.

          For the sake of our children/students, please stop making generalizations that are not true – it is hurtful & disrespectful – exactly what I am trying to NOT facilitate in my classroom everyday!!

        3. JosephBiello Post author

          Scheney and aimteacher below are talking about something different than the issue of this letter – and it seems that there are people who want to change the subject and muddy the waters of the issue addressed in this letter.

          Please, stop changing the subject.  The subject is about transparency and governance, not about these old fights regarding AIM.

          Most of the parents who co-signed this letter are on our first pass through all of this.  This is my oldest child that was lied to by the district.

          Can we keep our focus on the issue.  If you want to talk about AIM issues more generally, I think it should happen in another forum.

        4. Scheney

          aimteacher – Are you the teacher that either wrote a letter or made a comment on the Vanguard about how disillusioned you were about teaching, until you became a GATE teacher with only bright, motivated students in your class and how much personal satisfaction you had with teaching after that?

          I agree Nancy Adams was a fantastic teacher and I am sorry that after she left the teachers could not sustain or replicate that wonderful program.

          Token mixing of classes or activities will not nearly replicate the collaborative and integrated community that NDE once had.

          Again, this is primarily the GATE view we are hearing and we don’t hear much from the non-GATE or ex-GATE students or families.

      2. JosephBiello Post author

        @Scheney:

        again, I ask you to focus on the issue at hand.   I can see your point about NDE and community, etc.    This kind of stuff has the potential for arising in any institution where there are separate activities happening.    However, the point is this year’s process and the changing of the procedure in the middle of the process.

        It seems that so many people on both sides of this issue want to muddy the waters with their own pre-existing problems:  taxes, last years arguments for or against AIM, school climate when there are multiple types of education at the same school.

        None of this is relevant.   I just want fairness and accountability.  Don’t we all?

         

         

  3. Don Shor

    District staff misled parents and changed the process after parents made placement decisions based on published district policy.

    This is directly harmful to students. The damage done to DJUSD students by the board majority and the administration becomes clearer and clearer.

    The board majority still has time to do their job and correct this harm, and these parents have laid out a clear set of steps. I hope the board majority will heed this letter.

    1. JosephBiello Post author

      Thank you commenters for your support and please continue to support us by vocally participating in the SBAC boycott.  It is the only leverage we have.

       

       

        1. JosephBiello Post author

          Ha, I don’t know how well I’d work on the school board.

          As for voting down school parcel taxes – that’s like using a nuclear bomb to take down a lion.  Sure, you’ll get the lion, and every other animal in town.

          We are not doing this to hurt the children of the district and I, for one,  do not support voting down the parcel tax because of this issue.  There is a great post by Poppenga on the Vanguard that explains the need for parcel taxes.     I don’t know the exact numbers, but for about $1 per day per parcel in town,  we are trying to counterbalance the under-funding of public schools by the state.    Of course, there are some who will never want taxes – especially if the benefit is not directly linked to their own pocketbooks, but this is not a farsighted approach to creating a community.

          Our SBAC boycott is intended to be solely directed at the reputation of the district – for which the upper staff and trustees hold responsibility.  We do not want to engage in this boycott,  but it is our only proportionate leverage.

        2. wdf1

          Biello:  Our SBAC boycott is intended to be solely directed at the reputation of the district

          There is an opt-out movement that has been growing, though mostly in pockets nationwide, and interestingly mostly in middle class + communities, for instance, Palo Alto.  I don’t think Palo Alto’s reputation as a school district has suffered because of it.  

           

    2. JosephBiello Post author

      @wdf1:

      Comparing Palo Alto to Davis is like comparing Denmark to the US.

      But fine, this may not work as a tactic.  Ultimately, I’m not happy with any of these tactics because we should not have to be fighting to get what we were told would we would get.

      So give me another tactic that won’t hurt the kids of Davis.   I’m all ears.

  4. Barbara

    Hi all – I haven’t ever commented on the Vanguard as a board member. But I felt it necessary to comment today. I understand why these parents are upset. We thought that there would be enough students to fill three AIM strands based on the number of students who qualified for the program. When the final numbers came in, we had a a high number of families who decided to stay at their current program whatever that might be – Chavez, neighborhood, Montesorri, two-way bilingual at MME.

    This letter (in this article) states that the letter writers tried to reason with the board to no avail.

    I personally was not contacted in any way (email, phone or in person) by any of these letter writers in advance of this letter. I meet with anyone who asks and respond to every email I get so I was confused when this letter said they tried to reason with the board to no avail because I was not contacted by anyone in this group. I did speak to one letter writer yesterday after the letter had been sent. I believe some of the letter writers went to one board member’s office hours. I believe some have met with our Interim Superintendent Kevin French. To say they that tried to reason with the board to no avail is not true – talking to one board member is not addressing the entire board and a final decision has not been made on how to place these students.

    Interim Superintendent French and his staff are working on solutions to place all qualified students. Charges that parents were deliberately misled or lied to really are out of bounds. It saddens me when people make accusations like this when the district is actively trying to come up with a solution to place these kids.

    I’m not going to respond to comments here, but if you’d like to talk to me personally, please email me at barcher@djusd.net.

    Sincerely,

    Barbara

    1. Frankly

      The crickets are deafening.   So the lower numbers are due to parents of qualified students opting out?   Hmm… that sort of shots holes in all the outrage arguments.

      I wonder what the reasons are for this?  Certainly some of the parents would value keeping their kids in the same school.  But I wonder if some of these parents also have been struggling with the stigma of elitism.

      1. The Pugilist

        Let’s put this into perspective.  Last year 146 was the number.  There year it was 82, ten opted not to participate, leaving 72.  Is that really shooting holes in anything?

      2. Don Shor

        So the lower numbers are due to parents of qualified students opting out?

        There are always parents who opt out, preferring to keep their kids in their neighborhood school or choosing another magnet program.

        1. JosephBiello Post author

          Please, these are not relevant points to the letter that I worked on.  Can we stick to the issue at hand.

          This is not about AIM, itself.  This is not about “why” the parents put kids in AIM or whether or not the District should have an AIM program.

          Stay focused people, the issue is a simple one of administrative transparency and proper trustee oversight of the DJUSD administration.

          Somebody made a mistake.  No big deal, as long as they fix it.

          Next year we can talk about “why” or “if” AIM should exist and what it should be.

          So so so simple.

           

           

           

           

    2. The Pugilist

      Thank you Barbara for posting.  As one of the dreaded-anonymous posters, I am going to stay on my best behavior.  I know you have said you are not going to respond here, I respect that.  However, I would like to ask this question here and you can decide (if you are still reading) how to handle it – why can we not have three classes of 24?  Thanks.

      1. JosephBiello Post author

        Why can’t we have 3 classes of 29 and simply let in a few extra kids.  This will still work toward the district’s stated goal of keeping the program from growing unwieldy.  It will also allow the district to stick by its original stated policy and procedure.

        So so so simple.

         

    3. JosephBiello Post author

      Hi Everyone,

      let me say that Barbara did work with me yesterday to try to come up with “solution” to this problem.  I put the word “solution” in quotations because none of the proposals actually succeed at addressing the question of fairness in the process.  This is my point of disagreement with Barbara.  There is only one solution, that is to revert to the process as originally stipulated.

      Let’s stop worrying about “accusations”.  There is a problem – the district changed the procedure in the middle of the process.  There is a clear solution – revert to the original procedure.  There are people who can implement this solution – either the Acting Superintendent, or the Trustees by agendizing this issue.

      All we need – so so so simple – is that the district do that.   How simple!!?  IT IS SIMPLE.  There is no need for all of this if only the parents had heard the following from someone in the district, “yes, you are right, parents, we goofed in the process.  We will make good by implementing the process as we had stated it would be.”

      All we have heard is, “well, how about this other solution instead.”

       

      That’s what we mean by no cooperation.

       

      I would further emphasize that we, as parents, should not have to keep fighting for the basic request that a public institution simply follow its own established policies.

      We’ve got other jobs people.  We have delegated this SIMPLE responsibility to you.   Follow your own established policies.

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

        1. JosephBiello Post author

          Hi Scheney,

          that’s a good question.   The point I tried to make (maybe too implicit) in the original letter is that a policy having both a percentile cutoff (96) and a resource cutoff (29 per class) dooms the program to a continual decrease in size.    Case in point is this year where the percentile cutoff and the resource cutoff resulted in the board cutting an AIM strand.   Any non-whole number multiple of 29 AIM eligible kids will (nearly always) create a rationale for cutting 1 program.

          In extremis, imagine if 80 students qualified, but 87 were needed to fill 3 classes.  An argument could be made that only 2 classes could exist, with 29 in each, and a waitlist of 22 students.   I would like to think that this wouldn’t happen and 3 stands would be maintained, while balancing the three strands,  but I could see how people who are charged with fairly allocating district resources might try to make the argument that the average AIM class size in this instance would be unfairly small.

          To avoid this, my proposal is simple.  Simply make a list of students who attained less than the 96th percentile into the program in ordered way.     There is no “magic percentile score” for which we can be certain a student should or should not be in AIM.  In previous years, we there were double the number of AIM classes due to all the re-testing and different testing – I don’t know the details.  By definition, these other students had a lower percentile than 96 on the OLSAT.    So, why not let similar students in to the program this year, upto the resource allocation limit.

          Isn’t that better than denying the students entry into the program WHO THE DISTRICT TOLD they would be in the program?

          I’m really not arguing that my kid has some absolute right to be in AIM.  I’m saying that the district policy and words from administrators told my child that she’d be in AIM.    I also don’t want to unbalance district resources – that’s not fair either.

          Everyone has a test score already, some were within the margin of testing error for AIM eligibility and were retested.  Some of those families (I have spoken to a couple) might like to try AIM for their kid.   If it was in the margin of error in the first place, there was no need to retest.  Just give them a chance to come in, up to the constraint of limited resources.

          Honestly, I’ve made this argument a few times and I’m completely convinced by it.  BUT, I am open to understanding where the flaw is.  Please, can someone tell me why this is not a good and fair solution for this year?

        2. wdf1

          Biello:  Honestly, I’ve made this argument a few times and I’m completely convinced by it.  BUT, I am open to understanding where the flaw is.

          Doesn’t directly answer your argument, but I think the flaw underlying all this is assuming that there is a robust way to identify AIM students, and that the district has such a method, either currently or what existed before.  It’s hard for me to understand how a standardized test of measurable cognitive performance (OLSAT or whatever) tests adequately for these criteria within a diverse population of students:

          1. How do I know if my child is “gifted”?
          Certain characteristics are indicators of giftedness.  The most common myth—all gifted students are motivated and perform well in school—results in many students not being recognized for their potential.  Some indicators of giftedness include level of questioning, sensitivity to issues of morality and justice, understanding abstract ideas, making connections and establishing relationships between ideas beyond that of their age mates, having varied and multiple interests, demonstrating a sophisticated sense of humor, learning more quickly than their peers, being curious, having highly developed vocabulary, etc.  Adults in the lives of these children need to recognize that sometimes these behaviors are manifested at home and/or in school in a less than positive manner:  class clown, know-it-all, etc.…  Obviously, children are unique.  These are some of the more common characteristics used to identify giftedness.  source

        3. JosephBiello Post author

          @wdf1:

          Implicit in my argument is that there is no fixed number (on OLSAT or any other test) that can be a sure fire  assessment of and individual’s need for an AIM classroom.   This is obvious to all of us who’ve ever given a test or taken a test (i.e. everyone).

          However, if AIM is here (which it still is) then the board has to use some assessment (they chose OLSAT) and then set some threshold (they chose 96, but had effectively a lower threshold in previous years due to re-testing).   Then the District said that everyone who exceeded this threshold would get a spot – they said it online and at the information night straight to the kids’ faces.

          So, again, I say to the District, do what you said you’d do.  In order to make sure the classes are not too small, welcome some other kids into the program who would have been there with last year’s criteria.

          Then, in the spring and fall the board needs to think carefully about how to structure AIM and how to place kids in AIM in subsequent years.

          By the way, I had an email exchange with Barbara Archer yesterday, and I’m quoting right out of her email:
          “When the board voted in open session on the administrative recommendation to order the campuses in order of strand placement, I can honestly say I thought that was for next year’s placement and that it would not apply to this year.”

          Deep sigh.

        4. Frankly

          JosephBiello:

          First:

          So so so simple.

          Then:

          make a list of students who attained less than the 96th percentile into the program in ordered way.     There is no “magic percentile score” for which we can be certain a student should or should not be in AIM.  In previous years, we there were double the number of AIM classes due to all the re-testing and different testing – I don’t know the details.  By definition, these other students had a lower percentile than 96 on the OLSAT.    So, why not let similar students in to the program this year, upto the resource allocation limit.

          And lastly:

          I’m really not arguing that my kid has some absolute right to be in AIM.  I’m saying that the district policy and words from administrators told my child that she’d be in AIM.

          The conclusion is that it is NOT simple in consideration of the fairness question… not at all.   But you have a bias in that you want your child to be in the program.

          Makes sense, but it is not simple.

          1. Don Shor

            It’s actually very simple. Just expand the cutoff (lower the threshold) to meet the spaces available.

        5. JosephBiello Post author

          @Frankly,  I’ve been saying repeatedly that it’s not about having my kid in the program.  In fact, I’ve been on the fence about this the whole time.

          It’s about a fair and transparent procedure which was not followed.  But, I guess after spilling thousands of words on this issue, commenters are going to read whatever they want into what I’ve written.

           

           

        6. Frankly

          It’s actually very simple. Just expand the cutoff (lower the threshold) to meet the spaces available.

          No really… because there are still those that are left out.

          Where you draw the line is 100% of the challenge.

        7. Matt Williams

          Frankly said . . . “No really… because there are still those that are left out.

          Where you draw the line is 100% of the challenge.”

           

          Frankly, I am surprised you said that.  I would have thought that an old school fee market capitalist like you would have known the you simply set the cutoff for each selection at the level of supply.  If each class is 29 students, then the cutoff would be 29 times the number of classrooms the District wants to support.  So 29 or 59 or 88 or 117 all work.  You take the highest scoring students down to the desired supply metric.

        8. JosephBiello Post author

          @Frankly:  You are making what is called a “Straw man argument”.  There are always people left out.   You are conveniently changing the issue.

          The issue is that the district told the children, to their faces, that they were all in AIM.  They pointed us to the website which said that the process would only revert to a lottery after 120 eligible AIM students.   There were far fewer, so we all had doubly verified that entry into the program was assured.     The district, after providing us with that information, changed the process.  We had made made the AIM placement as well as other decisions based on the process at hand.

          The solution I propose restores fairness in that it hews to the process as originally stated.  Since the original process did not plan for what would happen in the event that fewer students would be identified, I proposed further a simple solution of allowing other students in.  These are students who, under last year’s process, would have been AIM identified anyway.

          As I said in the letter, this has a  four fold effect

          ” First, it ensures fairness for the children who were originally told they’d be in AIM. Second it gives the opportunity to children who would have been in AIM in previous years to participate in AIM. Third, it allows the AIM program to contract less rapidly, moving from 4 AIM strands to 3 AIM strands instead of from 4 AIM strands to 2 AIM strands in the span of 1 year. And finally, it avoids another prolonged fight between the District and the families it serves.”

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

        9. JosephBiello Post author

          @Frankly, there is no challenge in drawing this line. The district drew the line at 96%ile and they drew the line at “all classes need to be filled up”.

          One interpret these criteria as “allow the minimum number of students who exceed 96%ile and still fill up the classes”  I.e. this discards the remainder and rounds down.  Or one can interpret this as “let all the students in who exceed 96%ile” and figure out the most fair way to fill up the classes to make sure resources aren’t mis-allocated.

           

          Since the district told us that they were letting in all the students who exceed 96%ile, then it follows that the most logical course of action is to find fair method with which to fill the remaining spaces.

          Dude, this ain’t rocket science.

           

           

    4. Napoleon Pig IV

      Thank you for your post, Ms. Archer. Did you write it yourself or did Ms. Lovenburg write it for you? You and she lost my trust a few meetings, votes, and speeches ago, and you certainly know why.

      Your misrepresentation of your intentions (and harmful decisions) on AIM are a basis for any reasonable person to assume you will similarly mishandle other issues.

      I wish these parents well in their efforts to overcome the obstacles you are placing in the way of a quality education for their kids.

  5. Scheney

    It seems like the parents do not want their children to have to go to the other locations, but want to stay at NDE.   The District could move one GATE classroom to NDE, but South Davis or West Davis parents will complain.

     

  6. mendel

     

    This is interesting that the board member Barbara Archer is now responding because this will hurt their reputation.

     

    The statement she is making is not true: ” talking to one board member is not addressing the entire board and a final decision has not been made on how to place these students”.

     

    If this is true, why then they sent out the letter of placement based on the lottery. If this is true why then they put students on wait list? If this is true why then they closed North Davis strand. This is an escape blanket statement saying one board member is not addressing the entire board. Why then sent out the letters before all board members discussed this issue? The fact of the matter is that board members are not working together for the Davis community; they have their own personal agenda.

    “I’m not going to respond to comments here, but if you’d like to talk to me personally”:

    This is the problem; many parents of AIM eligible parents try to contact and expressed their dis-satisfaction on the way they have handled the AIM placement since the March 8th parents information meeting. Now, after one month Barbara Archer is saying we are open for discussion. Once the board decided that they will close the North Davis program because of low number; they should have called all 66 AIM eligible parents for a meeting; and they should have explained their strategy moving forward; they should have taken some suggestions from the parents. This decision should have been made in collaboration with the parents not unilaterally before deciding on the lottery to eliminate 8-14 AIM eligible students. Now Barbara Archer saying, we are looking into this after the letter was sent to them yesterday is really interesting how they changed their statement within 24 hour time period.

     

    1. DavisAnon

      Not to mention that meeting with these individual Board members, in my experience and others’, is utterly pointless. Sure, they “listen” and give a few platitudes about serving everyone, but then they say they are sticking to the current plan (i.e. Decimate and suffocate AIM til it dies on the vine).

      I have met so many parents this year who felt completely powerless to do anything after meeting privately with Susan or Barbara (Tom often doesn’t answer). Making parents feel demoralized and unempowered seems to be part of their approach so we will simply give up and not band together. This Board needs to stop hiding behind closed doors and meeting individually and start repairing this completely broken and dishonest process.

      So much for being public servants…

       

    2. wdf1

      mendel:  The statement she is making is not true: ” talking to one board member is not addressing the entire board…”

      This part is actually true.  It is reflective of Brown Act policy.  Board members may communicate personally with constituents, but have to be in official public session to talk about that issue with LL the other board members.  It’s to keep public officials from coming to a decision on policy behind closed doors and away from the public.

      1. JosephBiello Post author

        To be clear, no one of us talked to the whole board, I admit that.  However, subgroups of us have contacted different members on the board and the Acting Superintendent.

        Doesn’t everyone see that the basic point is that we shouldn’t have to fight to have the District do what it said it was going to do?!  That’s the point, everything else is secondary.

        What if I were to do this in a class I teach.  “Hey kids your grade is based 50/50 on homeworks and tests.”  And then at the end I say, “oh wait, your grade is based only on the homeworks”.  Students would have allocated their time and energy based on a certain understanding of the procedure, and then I change the procedure under their feet.   The only way I could make things right is to revert to the originally stated procedure.

        We should not have to fight for this.

         

         

         

  7. Misanthrop

    The district has made a bad decision and instead of fixing it they are making it worse when they could not only fix it but make things better for kids at the same time.

    First, they put in another dreaded lottery something they said they were getting rid of. So not only did they go back on their word they continue to lose credibility. Of course I stand by my assertion made previously that the only thing the majority of the Trustees care about is shrinking the program so rounding down the number of classes and drawing straws to see which child is left behind, or left out, if you prefer, is consistent with their unstated but empirically observable goal.

    Sadly, in this particular instance, adding students to the program in order to fill the partly filled classroom would have been the correct choice but would have resulted in a bigger program, an outcome in opposition to the true goal of the board majority. First, adding students would have eliminated the need for a lottery for qualified students, as the trustees promised thereby not further eroding the credibility of the current majority. Second there is evidence that the students who benefit the most from gifted programs are not those who qualify by examination but those who score just below the qualifying scores and thrive due to the scaffolding provided by being in the program with higher scores. A recent article in the New York Times “Why Talented Black and Hispanic Students Can Go Undiscovered” lays it out:

    “But the separate classes did produce enormous, positive effects for children who were high achievers but did not qualify based on the I.Q. test. A quirk in the rules helped these children: Broward requires that schools with even one child who tests above the I.Q. cutoff devote an entire classroom to gifted and high-achieving children.
    Since a school in Broward rarely had enough gifted children to fill a class, these classrooms were topped off with children from the same school who scored high on the district’s standardized test. These high achievers, especially black and Hispanics, showed large increases in math and reading when placed in a class for the gifted, and these effects persisted.”

    With the parcel tax renewal looming it is imperative that the board seek to get everyone pulling in the same direction. Yet this board continues to alienate and divide the community by sowing mistrust and eroding their own credibility with the people they are elected to serve by throwing those interested in the gate program for their children under the bus at every opportunity. I respectfully ask the DJUSD Trustees to reconsider not having a third class of gate in the hope that my own children do not reap the grapes of wrath that the board majority is sowing by potentially alienating the electorate before an important election to secure the funding the district needs so badly to remain excellent.

  8. MrsW

    Doesn’t everyone see that the basic point is that we shouldn’t have to fight to have the District do what it said it was going to do?!  That’s the point, everything else is secondary.

    100% Agree.

    Over the years, I’ve heard that the program size is “demand-based” and “needs-based”.  If that were true–There are at least 3 ways to ADMINISTER the program, today, that would mitigate for the fact that the number of students who intend to enroll in the program does not come in multiples of 29.  A lottery for 58 spots is not one.

     

  9. Tia Will

    JosephBiello

    I write as someone who has no stake in this whatsoever. My children did not attend Gate and are respectively a Berkeley graduate and a current student at CSU Sacramento. However both did attend NDE and both had Ms. Adams as a teacher ! As for ulterior motives, I have never met a parcel tax that I did not actively support as well as vote for.

    I am truly perplexed with one line of reasoning that you have stressed.You have said repeatedly that all you are asking for is “fairness” defined by you as consistency in implementing the policy as originally stated. Now I see this as a fairly narrow definition of fairness, but that is beside the point.

    You have then gone on to state that you see the solution as simple.

    So, again, I say to the District, do what you said you’d do.  In order to make sure the classes are not too small, welcome some other kids into the program who would have been there with last year”

    I may be missing something here, but if what they said was their intended policy was to decrease the number of students in part by changing the entry requirements, would not a change in those numbers also require an abridgment of their stated policy ?  Is that not the same process that you are claiming is “unfair” only in a way that you consider more favorable.

    1. JosephBiello Post author

      @Tia,

      my point is that District changed the purpose of the lottery without telling anybody that they’d changed the purpose of the lottery.  They had set the cutoff this year and had begun the process already.

      Again, Tia, I was not totally convinced of AIM until they told us (i.e. the parents and kids) at the meeting that, yes the kids are in the AIM program.  The AIM document online corroborated that.

      That’s called changing the rules in the middle of the game.  I can’t do that as a professor, I can’t do that as a sport’s official, why can civil servants do that?

      You go to the DMV with all the documentation that the website tells you to bring.  If they say to you, “no no no, we decided that only the first 10 people in the door get a license this year – oh yeah, and we didn’t tell anybody about this.”   Is that fair?   You may have made your choice to go into the office based on the fact that you had other responsibilities to tend to.   You allocated your time in a certain way based on what you were told was to be the policy.

      If  I can’t convince you that bait and switch is unfair, then there’s no common ground between you and me.  Let me say that if I knew that the lottery was an “if” not a “where” lottery,   I would have changed a whole bunch of other decisions.

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

  10. Michelle Millet

    I’m going to agree with my good friend Joseph, this decision is not fair to the families it effected.

    That being said, I don’t see it as anything more than the district making a promise it thought it was going to be able to keep, but the numbers did not pan out. I think it was an honest mistake, one I’m sure they regret making.

     

      1. Michelle Millet

        The honest mistake was thinking they were going to have enough interested students who qualified for AIM to fill 3 classes. They don’t. They corrected it by dropping down to two classes.

        It’s unfortunate, and I imagine very disappointing for the families whose kids got placed on the waiting list. It’s hard to get the rug pulled out from under you, but I don’t think anyone intentionally mislead parents.

          1. Don Shor

            Since they determine how many they “have to have” to fill 3 classes, your statement is factual. That is another component of the mistake they made. They can easily correct that.
            As noted in the letter:

            An additional AIM strand means 24 (or 22) students per classroom if there are 72 (or 66) AIM eligible children. While these numbers are on the low end of DJUSD classrooms, they are not the lowest (for example, two Montgomery Elementary 4th grade classrooms have 22 and 23 students, respectively). If this is too low for the DJUSD, more students can be added from among students who were at the threshold of AIM admission under these new standards.

        1. hpierce

          Michelle.. over 45 years ago, Don (and Joseph) was shown to be correct… they can do this… it was done when I was in a G&T program in the late 60’s…  it worked well for all, except for the parents who didn’t want the “lesser” children associating with Johnny and Sue… those parents were generally not G&T qualified… the children did quite well…

          1. Don Shor

            Failing to provide GATE for kids who qualified for it by the district’s own standards does not seem like a reasonable approach. If the district has determined that they qualify, if the parents believe it is the best placement, then it is really the district’s obligation to provide it. There are kids who would have qualified under the previous testing threshold. Or they can have smaller classes. There are reasonable ways that the district can correct this. It may be a mistake to call it a mistake. It seems to many that it is actually a strict implementation of a policy that is designed to meet only one goal: reducing the size of GATE — even if that implementation is not in the best interests of some specific students.

        2. JosephBiello Post author

          @ Michelle:

          as I said above, the threshold was higher last year, since retesting was allowed.  About 140 Students got in last year.  Only 80-ish got in this year.

          So, under the changed standards we got a drastically reduced pool.  However, our children were told that they were going to get in… all of them, yes, for sure, etc etc.

          So I have proposed that we keep 3 lines.  We could keep 3 lines with 22 students each.  This would match MME’s 4th grade class, so nobody could consider this “throwing extra resources at AIM”.

          But, I want to err on the side of  caution – and I want to say, “let’s let more students in that way we can make sure we are not overusing resources”.

          To achieve the maximum size class in the district, we need to let in 21 more students.  To achieve the average size class, we need to let in 12.

          Well, the OLSAT has an explicit “margin of error”.  That means the test cannot precisely distinguish students within the margin of error.

          The district decided to deal with that “margin of error” by re-testing, with other tests.  Whatever they are.

          Such a technique is not some “gold standard” by which you can distinguish in that margin of error.  It’s not like the second test is more accurate.  It’s a different test.  In fact, I could make a bunch of arguments why testing with a different test is completely irrelevant, but nobody would really listen to what I say.

          Nonetheless, I propose that we invite students who were within the margin of error to join AIM.

          Yes, they did not qualify by the rules of the district, but the district doesn’t seem to adhere to its own rules, anyway.

          What’s so hard about this and what, pray tell, is so bad about keeping the third strand?

           

          It is not costing anybody anything….. except our continued time.

           

          Next year, the district moves to 98th percentile.  That’s fine.  Then, next year, they need to make plans for 2 contingencies.

          1) Having more students than 87 (assuming 3 strands still exist).

          AND

          2) Having fewer students than either 87, 58 or 29.

           

          So, learn the lesson from this year.  Do the right thing this year and plan to not have the problem next year.

          Have a fun picnic day, all.

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

        3. Michelle Millet

          Joseph, have you followed this issue at all over the past year? Go watch the seemingly endless school board meetings where the issues surounding how to identify kids for AIM were hashed out. Then the idea of throwing them out the window for a year might not seem so simple.

          1. Don Shor

            Then the idea of throwing them out the window for a year might not seem so simple.

            Nobody is proposing that they “throw them out the window for a year.” They are proposing that they adhere to their own guidelines by providing GATE classes to the students that were identified for GATE.

      2. JosephBiello Post author

        @Michelle – my buddy, my friend, come now.  It is simply not true that they cannot fill 3 classrooms.  I went into so much detail above about how they could do it, remain consistent with their philosophy of shrinking AIM (they shrunk it below 4 strands already) and be true to what they repeatedly told our children.

        See how many times above I used the metaphor of grading a university class.   Please take a careful look at what I wrote, and how I spent a bunch of time rebutting almost every counter argument.

        Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how anyone “feels” about what happened.  I am asking for fairness not because I “feel” wronged – it is because unless we demand fairness and accountability, we will forfeit our right to it.

        I cannot overemphasize how much this is NOT about getting our own kid into AIM.  This is turning into a great civics lesson for her. She keeps reading all the posts.

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

        1. Michelle Millet

          The district blew it when they told you that your daughter was guaranteed a spot. Correcting that by lowering the threshold for admittance into the program does not seem like a reasonable approach. But I love you man:-).

    1. wdf1

      MM:  That being said, I don’t see it as anything more than the district making a promise it thought it was going to be able to keep, but the numbers did not pan out. I think it was an honest mistake, one I’m sure they regret making.

      It looks like a decision that the administration made on the spot because they have to move forward in planning for next year, and which the school board hasn’t had a chance to respond to as a body because the issue hasn’t been agendized yet for a board meeting.  It is agendized for this Thursday’s meeting, however.

      1. Michelle Millet

        I’m guessing that the person who said, don’t worry your kid has a spot in the program, regrets making that promise, and the disappointment it caused. I sincerely doubt that they were intentionally trying to trick or mislead anyone. That’s the point I was trying to make. We are humans, we make mistakes, I wish we could cut each other some slack instead of immediately assuming the worst intent.

        1. Napoleon Pig IV

          Michelle,

          It’s nice that you err on the side of thinking the best of people. I suppose we would all be better off if we all did that.

          Unfortunately, in the current situation, I cannot accept that the District made a mistake. I do think they were, in fact, trying to trick or mislead – and that their ultimate objective is elimination of the AIM program entirely.

          The majority of the board is not to be trusted, as they themselves have so skillfully proven. Senior administrators in the District do not score any higher on the veracity meter.

          The boycott is a good idea, even if voting down the parcel tax may be going a bit too far (for now, at least).

        2. Michelle Millet

          Ha! I’m one of the most cynical people I know. This approach generally does not end well for me.

          When we decide someone is the enemy that is all we can see them as. Everything they do gets interpreted as part of their evil plot to destroy the thing we hold dear.

          Sometimes a mistake is just a mistake.

          If you cannot be convinced of that idea in this case, just give it some room and imagine it might be true. You may be surprised what you start seeing in others.

  11. Claire

    Pioneer has often had a couple classes in the low 20’s as well.

    And there is also the option of a hybrid 4/5 classroom to include rising 5th graders currently on a wait list.

    I agree with Joe Biello, that DJUSD has been shockingly unprofessional with this process. My husband and I absolutely supported the end of private testing as a step to even the playing field between families.  And if they had identified more than 3 classes worth of kids, we would have understood about the wait list.  (We have personal experience with the wait list: Our older son has been on a wait list for the last 3 years and has thrived in a regular classroom.) But the truth is, DJUSD announced 3 strands at 3 schools. They pre-published the process, sent emails and letters, posted details on the website, and held a public meeting to explain the process yet one more time.  It is not fair to establish and enforce ground rules and then change them 3/4th way through the process.

    We are in a fortunate position: Our child is already at Pioneer and was lucky enough to get a spot in AIM. It will be easy for him: he will not have to change schools and we don’t have to face tough decisions about moving siblings to keep them together.  We don’t have to have an uncomfortable discussion with our child about how the situation we told them to expect will not be happening after all.  ….  But just because things worked out for our family and will go smoothly for our child does not mean I am not incensed by how other families, other kids, are affected by this seemingly arbitrary changing of the rules. Like Joe Biello, we were on the fence about whether we were going to pursue a spot in the AIM track — when we talked about it as a family I think one of the reasons our son wanted to go for it was because it looked like it would be a simple and not very stressful process. It didn’t turn out that way for all the families.

    This is a terrible way to treat families, DJUSD.  You can’t always give every family what they want, but you have to play by the ground rules you establish.

     

  12. Ginger

    “As we have noted, the Superintendent in researching for his report found “that the qualification score ranges from 90-99 percentile in GATE programs throughout California.”

    He continued, “The current DJUSD qualification score for AIM-identification is the 96 percentile. Raising or lowering the qualification score will have a direct effect on the projected number of students who qualify.”

    From Vanguard article in November 2015.

    DJUSD was more than willing to reduce the size of the program by lifting the qualification from 96th percentile to 98th percentile. Now suddenly it’s preposterous to change to qualification to ADD a dozen students?

    I notice it’s never argued that those students wouldn’t be well served by being in AIM, just that *this* change, despite all of the changes the board has made to suit their goals, is the one that is ludicrous to consider.

      1. Ginger

        I completely agree! I find it ironic that the people who want to scale back or eliminate AIM because it’s “too exclusive” and is “bigger than originally intended” aren’t arguing to make it larger and more inclusive.

        They certainly aren’t arguing that the kids in AIM aren’t being well served by the program, just that it’s too big. And too exclusive. Whaaaaaa?

        1. wdf1

          Ginger:  I completely agree! I find it ironic that the people who want to scale back or eliminate AIM because it’s “too exclusive” and is “bigger than originally intended” aren’t arguing to make it larger and more inclusive.

          The problem is that most advocates of a larger self-contained AIM/GATE program (at least many those who comment on the Vanguard or write letters to the editor at the Enterprise) supported Deanne Quinn and the policies she implemented.  Although she yielded a larger number of AIM-identified students, it was still all based exclusively (or at least mostly) on standardized test scores, as far as I know.  So implied in much of the argument for lower thresholds of standardized test scores is that the AIM identification take place mostly or exclusively through standardized tests.

          If one feels disenchanted with standardized test scores for AIM/GATE identification, then consider what we do with the level of standardized test taking for the whole school population, as we enter SBAC (common core standardized test) season in our schools.  Now teachers and staff have to curtail use of the district internet and network system, even for class instruction and teacher/district staff e-mail communication with parents, because the computerized SBAC requires too much bandwidth.  Is the purpose of education to learn something in a classroom/school environment or to take standardized tests?  But the even bigger insult is what we do to students (and their teachers) who score too low on those tests.

  13. JosephBiello Post author

    Ultimately, the “why” of what happened is less important than the “how do you fix things this year”.

    I steadfastly stick by the “grading metaphor” I used in my original letter.   I would never even think of changing the grading process.   You stick to the syllabus, people.

     

     

     

     

  14. MrsW

    I made this comment on April 8th and it includes some suggestions for DJUSD administrators.  I was told that the decision to eliminate the NDE strand has not been made and these administrative approaches could still be on the table.

    The BOE and DJUSD administrators know that they will not hire a teacher to teach only 14 students (or 15 or 16 or ??? how few?).  Hence, they must have predicted that this scenario might occur.  If the program were truly “demand based” or “needs based,” before today I would have thought that they’d have a number of options: They could have had an agreement in place with DTA beforehand, in which class sizes might be larger. They could have had a plan to augment class sizes with high achievers for specific subjects, at specific times of the day, like math (differentiation). They could have had a plan to augment class sizes with children who scored just below the OLSAT cut-off point.  But, instead, they chose to deny 14 students placement.  Why?

    I understand that DTA has to agree, if any of these suggestions were implemented.  On Tuesday, I would like to hear that the DJUSD’s administrators have spoken to DTA and what they learned.

    I would like to hear about DJUSD administration’s efforts to be creative and to honor their word.

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