Wednesday, April 16, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Does GATE test raise anxiety?

Our community is in the middle of a debate over the future of self-contained gifted and talented education. As a Davis parent with a master’s degree in marriage, family, child and school counseling, I am concerned about the emotional needs of the children and families in Davis, especially the high levels of anxiety and stress that our children are experiencing.

I recently attended a school board meeting where the district’s crisis manager gave a report on student health and well-being. It was distressing to learn that there has been an 81 percent increase (94 incidents) in suicide risk interviews with students this year over last year. There were 52 interviews in 2011.

Additionally, the district counseling staff is seeing higher incidents of risk-taking and self-harming behavior among youth, and I believe much of it is related to the levels of stress and anxiety that they feel due to the push for high academic performance.

The school board, district staff, parents and community must ask ourselves what are we doing to set our children up for this reaction to their environment. Could it be that expecting all third-graders to take a test that will determine whether they are placed into the “gifted” track from third through ninth grade increases their level of anxiety at such a young age?

Did you know that when you Google “Olsat 8,” test preps for the GATE entry test come up first and that the district GATE web page gives suggestions on how to prep children for the test? Could this be the beginning of the anxiety that we are seeing more and more in our elementary-age children? Or is it being forced to make the decision to choose GATE over staying at their neighborhood school or with their closest friends? Yes, the district’s crisis manager reported that she is seeing suicidal thoughts in our elementary students as well.

Please support the school board and district staff as they explore alternative models for serving all our children in ways that provide quality education and an environment that is protective against unhealthy anxiety.

Cathy Sacks

Dvis

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Discussion | 6 comments

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  • kimApril 12, 2013 - 10:26 am

    Correlation is not the same as causation. While I am also concerned about the apparent increase in student anxiety, it is not clear that our current GATE program is its cause. In fact, the current program has been in place for years, so blaming it for a jump in self-harming behavior in the past year makes little sense. Have you considered the Newtown shootings and myriad other possible causes for recent increases in student stress and anxiety? Even if our GATE program truly is to blame, perhaps it is more worthwhile to see what parents and educators can do help reduce any pressures associated with the selection process. Debbie Poulos makes excellent suggestions how parents can minimize potential ego bruising when a student is not admitted to the program. Finally, I'd think it more helpful to the child in the long run if s/he is taught healthy ways to cope with stress/anxiety, whatever the source. We do a disservice to our kids by trying to remove all stressors from their lives when we can instead help them learn to navigate them.

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  • ChristineApril 14, 2013 - 11:23 am

    How can the GATE test raise anxiety on kids when they don't even KNOW the test they are taking IS a GATE test? Parents aren't even notified; it just quietly happens at school. Additionally, there is nothing new about GATE and GATE testing. I have adult friends, fellow parents, here in Davis whoSeems rather convenient to attribute this new crisis of student anxiety to a long-standing program with which you (most certainly) already disapproved. If it were the program and/or the testing to get into the program, wouldn't this new wave of anxiety have started back with the program inception? I have adult friends, fellow parents, here in Davis who went through the Davis GATE program decades ago; there is nothing new about GATE nor GATE testing. Also, how can the GATE test raise anxiety on kids when they don't even KNOW the test they are taking IS a GATE test? Parents aren't even notified; it just quietly happens at school. Lastly, I need to inform you that Google results are tailored to the individual, based upon your IP address' prior searches and other very complicated algorithms. Thus, when YOU google "Olsat 8" YOU get test preps. When I Google "Olsat 8," I get an entirely different set of results. went through the Davis GATE program decades ago. If it were the program and/or the testing to get into the program, wouldn't this new wave of anxiety have started back with the program inception? Seems rather convenient to attribute this new crisis of student anxiety to a long-standing program with which you (most certainly) already disapproved.

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  • ChristineApril 14, 2013 - 11:25 am

    Seems rather convenient to attribute this new crisis of student anxiety to a long-standing program with which you (most certainly) already disapproved. If it were the program and/or the testing to get into the program, wouldn't this new wave of anxiety have started back with the program inception? I have adult friends, fellow parents, here in Davis who went through the Davis GATE program decades ago; there is nothing new about GATE nor GATE testing. Also, how can the GATE test raise anxiety on kids when they don't even KNOW the test they are taking IS a GATE test? Parents aren't even notified; it just quietly happens at school. Lastly, I need to inform you that Google results are tailored to the individual, based upon your IP address' prior searches and other very complicated algorithms. Thus, when YOU google "Olsat 8" YOU get test preps. When I Google "Olsat 8," I get an entirely different set of results.

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  • ChristineApril 14, 2013 - 11:26 am

    Sorry, my comment formatting got all wonky, so I've replaced it below. Ignore above. :)

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  • PrunellaApril 16, 2013 - 11:37 am

    Many of the kids in my daughter's 3rd grade class were -quite- aware that GATE testing was going to be afoot, and had some idea of what the "stakes" might be for those who did not make the cut. Kids were discussing who would get into Yale and Harvard, and who would not right around the time GATE testing was going to happen. I'm sure this was something they heard from their parents, because kids don't just organically discuss things like this. So, I have no doubt that some kids are aware of GATE testing, and do have some anxiety related to this--especially when you factor in all the kids who are tested (and some re-tested) in a private setting because they do not score high enough on the school-administered version. Again, if there's any anxiety, it's coming from the parents and not the schools. When GATE testing was about to happen, several parents of my child's were already on about GATE testing, and saying things like, "My child will get in," or "My child better get in," etc.

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  • KimApril 17, 2013 - 10:12 am

    Wow, I haven't seen the kind of parent behavior you describe, but whether it's widespread or not, it seems we'd all benefit from educating parents on what the program is about (and not about), and work on parental attitudes and behavior. Perhaps a general info meeting for parents -- all parents, not just those whose kids are identified as "gifted" -- should be held early every school year for 3rd grade parents to educate them on the program, the selection process, etc. Rather than tell parents not to talk to each other about GATE (as the district currently does), we should encourage open and civil dialogue at every step of the process.

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