Wednesday, April 16, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Baby Bear’s ready for his bed

Recent letters and commentary by those determined to preserve unchanged Davis’ self-contained, heavily tracked gifted model, or expand it, bring to mind the fairy tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Palo Alto and Lafayette districts are “too hard,” they are too wealthy and too “intellectually endowed” to be considered as an example. Napa district is “too soft,” it is too economically unprivileged and “intellectually unendowed” to be worth learning about and from. For a short time, the Rocklin district seemed to be “just right,” until it came to light that Rocklin’s self-contained GATE program is tiny, serving only 4 percent of the student of population, compared to the whopping 20 percent of Davis self-contained students in grades 4-8.

The story winds out, leading inevitably to the conclusion that only the current Davis gifted program ever can be “just right,” the kind of comfortable cozy bed worth snuggling down into for a good night’s sleep, as Goldilocks did in Baby Bear’s bed.

But as we all recall from the tale, Baby Bear finally came home and he didn’t like seeing that his bed had been completely occupied by the self-invited Miss G. The self-contained gifted program in Davis, which has claimed to occupy the field on “academic excellence” and rests on a premise of exaggerated entitlement, is like Goldilocks in Baby Bear’s bed.

Goldilocks may not have been happy about it, but it was only fair that Baby Bear reclaim a resting place in his own bed. So too, the remainder of the children and families in Davis might want to reclaim their own equitable place of significance, within the schools that belong to all of us.

Many in Davis join me in challenging and inviting the Davis school district to build a gifted program that best suits the needs of all of the district’s children. No other district is exactly like ours — but then again our district is not yet like what it could be, if it were to live fully into its mission of serving and promoting the academic excellence and social/emotional well-being of all of its students.

Karen Hamilton
Davis

Letters to the Editor

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Discussion | 9 comments

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  • Steven KelleherMay 03, 2013 - 11:06 am

    Does it really matter if the program serves 4% of the population or "a whopping 20%" of the population? The purpose is to serve all of the children who would benefit from the program. It is well known that demographics vary from population to population. Concentrations of adults with high academic achievement would be more likely to produce concentrations of children with high academic achievement. Is it the writer's assertion that there are children being served who are not entitled to the service? It is an academically competitive program just as sports is physically competitive and music is artistically competitive. It does not mean that children not in sports or not in orchestra are less than those that are. We are not moving to change any of those programs because they are successful in providing the services that their student members need.

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  • Moreen LibetMay 03, 2013 - 2:01 pm

    Mr. Kelleher, Yes exactly, the purpose of differentiated education is to serve all of the children who would benefit from the program. The point is that all children could benefit from differentiated education. It's not that "GATE" children all learn one way, and everyone else learns one other way. Everyone would be better served with differentiation in all classrooms for all children! As for sports and music, these are electives, not basic academic studies that all students must have. Furthermore, each year a child who really wants sports or music can take other specialized sports and music programs that currently suit them, practice, take lessons, and try out again if they still prefer a different specialized sports or music program that they did not get assigned to the first time around.

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  • WendyMay 03, 2013 - 1:32 pm

    I can't speak for the letter's author, but I would like to respond to Mr Kelleher's query "is it the writer's assertion that there are children being served who are not entitled to the service?" The service is not the problem -all students are entitled to an appropriate education; the "model of delivery" is the problem. At 4% of a population, you are dealing with students who need a separate classroom. At 20% (actually picked from 30%), you are dealing with parents who want a separate classroom. Public education means just that...public.

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  • GingerMay 03, 2013 - 2:30 pm

    Hm. We should, "build a gifted program that best suits the needs of all of the district’s children." So 4% in GATE (now AIM) like Rocklin is fine, 20% like Davis currently has is too much, but 100% would be juuuuust right?

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  • GingerMay 03, 2013 - 2:30 pm

    Hm. We should, "build a gifted program that best suits the needs of all of the district’s children." So 4% in GATE (now AIM) like Rocklin is fine, 20% like Davis currently has is too much, but 100% would be juuuuust right?

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  • wdf1May 05, 2013 - 12:03 am

    Kelleher: "It is an academically competitive program just as sports is physically competitive and music is artistically competitive." -- I think it might be misleading to make a direct comparison between GATE and athletics and music. The way I understand the GATE program is that it serves students who naturally learn differently, who are "born that way," who are "naturally gifted." But then on the other hand, the framework that students are taught in music and sports is that if you train or practice hard and diligently, you'll succeed. That these activities are suppose to instill discipline and perseverance. Am I misunderstanding something?

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  • wdf1May 05, 2013 - 12:28 am

    There's another way in which it would be inappropriate to compare GATE to music and athletics programs. Music and athletics are usually very much team activities. In any GATE or non-GATE classroom, most of the assignments and assessments are made on an individual basis. Ultimately students take an individual STAR test in ~April. Given that assignments and assessments are individualized, it wouldn't be difficult to develop differentiated instruction. In music and athletics, an individual's performance very much affects the performance of everyone else in a team setting. Differentiated instruction is harder to pull off.

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  • Steven KelleherMay 05, 2013 - 1:49 pm

    I'm not clear on the proportions that people are stating. Are you saying that there are not 20% of the population testing as qualified for services? OR that if 20% is qualifying they should be given different accommodations than self contained? GATE is public education and self contained is a viable model for providing services to certain portions of the population. And Moreen, it IS that GATE children learn in a different fashion. And yes all children could benefit from differentiation. My point regarding competitive academics was not to compare the different fields, academics, sports and music. The point is that there are competitive aspects to school. Anyone graded on a curve is in competition with their cohort. Sports and music DO have an intelligence according to Howard Gardner, and some people are stronger in those areas than others. We have all seen the precocious 8 month old who is already walking and will quite possibly be the next champion volleyball star or high school quarterback. Hard work is invaluable and applies similarly to academics, sports and music. GATE children are not natural students, but they arrive with a thinking style and processing abilities that allow them to access the curriculum in a more abstract way. They will only succeed with hard work in the same way that a hard working gifted runner can beat a 4 minute mile. And GATE is not the end all and be all. All students have access to high level challenging curriculum, especially in high school with AP classes and honors classes. No one is losing out because certain children are given an appropriate placement for their needs.

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  • wdf1May 05, 2013 - 10:56 pm

    "My point regarding competitive academics was not to compare the different fields, academics, sports and music. The point is that there are competitive aspects to school. Anyone graded on a curve is in competition with their cohort." --- What is a visceral turnoff to describing this as academic competition at the GATE testing grade 3 (when, by the way, there is no auditioned music or sports) is that it has the appearance of being a proxy competition among parents. It's hard to imagine that a third grader has found his or her personal passions in life. Defining kids by standardized test scores numbers a la NCLB is also becoming a farce. Most teachers unions seemed to see the limitations early on. Do you think standardized testing for GATE identification is different from the NCLB mindset? It could be worse, though: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/18/nyregion/new-york-city-schools-struggle-to-separate-the-gifted-from-the-just-well-prepared.html

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