Monday Morning Thoughts I: Elk Grove Shows Us One Path Forward on AIM


In January, the Elk Grove Unified School District site had a blog entry that read, “New EGUSD eligibility and selection criteria for Gifted and Talented Education (GATE), as well as for Honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses, widen the entry for students interested in challenging themselves in programs and courses that help develop the ‘habits of mind’ to support future college and career success.

“These criteria aim to equitably and collaboratively engage students and their families and encourage access to rigorous instruction with support for students’ intellectual, social and emotional needs.”

As the article makes clear, these revisions to the selection process and eligibility criteria were not necessarily made voluntarily, but rather to address “concerns that underrepresented students faced several barriers to access and to ensure that consistent practices existed among schools within the district.”

Like DJUSD, the Elk Grove district faced an investigation from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), but they chose to go the direction of strengthening the pursuit to “provide a learning community that challenges ALL students to realize their greatest potential.”

Elk Grove went further, establishing a GATE Planning Committee composed of parents, teachers, school leaders and district administrators “to review, research, and propose ways to expand GATE outreach, develop and evaluate equitable identification and selection criteria, and train staff.”

OCR, in fact, would sign off on the changes to the identification factors which “were expanded to include students who exhibit exceptional ability in creativity, leadership, visual and performing arts, academics, and cognition.”

Elk Grove made the best of a tough situation, facing potential lawsuits and an OCR investigation and so, in April 2015, they began to make changes to their GATE identification process.   Those changes, according to the article, began with outreach to families.

Davis now faces an OCR investigation.  Last spring, the Vanguard and others in the community were troubled when the new AIM identification process greatly reduced the percentage of African American and Hispanic participation in the AIM program.

This spring we learned that the overall size of the AIM program, with new identification protocols, would be reduced nearly in half from what it was in 2015-16.  The two groups most impacted by this reduction are blacks and Latinos.

The number of black students identified under the program drops from eight in 2013, seven in 2014, and 20 in 2015 down to one in 2016 under the new protocols. The Latino numbers are almost as dramatic, falling from 31 in 2013, 20 in 2014, and six in 2015 down to four in 2016.

These two groups together represent around one-quarter of the overall student population and are on the wrong side of the pervasive achievement gap, where white students and Asian students perform substantially and consistently better on standardized tests than blacks and Latinos.

This was the concern raised this spring as we finally saw that the tests and risk factors put in place by the district last fall did not identify nearly the participation of these underserved populations as previous protocols had.  More concerning at the time was the lack of responsiveness of the school board to these concerns.

With the involvement of the OCR, the district may no longer have the choice, and may have to go back to the drawing board to address these concerns.  As the Elk Grove district’s response shows, there may be paths forward to produce a more diverse and equitable situation, which allow all students to realize their greatest potential.

The alternative is also possible – the board, or at least a majority on the board, may decide this is more trouble than it’s worth and attempt to end the program.  With an election looming, the voters may ultimately get the final decision.  Stay tuned.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Marina Kalugin

    and, the school where my brother almost graduated, Acalanes in Lafayette, successfully got rid of their self-contained GATE classes….  they even brag about it or were bragging not long ago…then the GATE parents left and created their own GATE charter school….

    think it won’t happen here?   try us….

      1. Marina Kalugin

        unless it is no longer a “public” charter school….in which case Davis will lose tons of money…..I believe that in Lafayette, the school district lost tons of funds….

        1. Marina Kalugin

          hp, the district doesn’t have enough students as it is for the costs…and that is why out of town students are welcomed….to a much larger % than in years past….much of N.N. Davis students come to Davis for school….many are children of staff who cannot afford to live in Davis

        2. hpierce

          If your 4:24 post is true, shouldn’t we be shedding teaching and admin positions to be proportional?  Am missing your point… most (the bulk of) of the ADA revenues go towards personnel costs…

        3. Marina Kalugin

          really HP, shed positions?   that is a truly odd statement …how does that serve the purpose of keeping a well trained and experienced staff if one sheds positions at the drop of a hat?   what about stability and security?  and caring about the personnel?

          why not search out additional students?

  2. Marina Kalugin

    there are many other examples in many other cities….it appears Elk Grove took the approach I have been kinda yelling about for a few months…and likely over a year now…

    and, for those who may have missed it

    1) return Deanne Quinn to her job

    2) listen to her guidance and advice

    3) open the door to anyone who wants to get in, and who has nationally rated scores to be so designated

    4) authorize the school district to pay for private testing for anyone who thinks they didn’t get a fair shake…and as many times and tests as needed for them to be happy

    5) open up the needed classrooms for justice for all…

    even Mensa doesn’t “discriminate” on the basis of “which test” and so on……..

    I would even add that the tests be administered in the native language, if that is the wish of the student/parent…

    1. hpierce

      So, are you MENSA qualified?  A member?  Just checking your ‘credentials’ as to your statement, “even Mensa doesn’t “discriminate” on the basis of “which test”…

      While it is true they accept various tests, with various ‘scores’, their core value is being in (or above) the 98th percentile…

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