The controversy over the Davis school district’s GATE program has unnecessarily pitted parents against one another. It is not the school board’s job to mediate hurt feelings among parents or students.
Intellectually gifted students have educational needs that must be taken into account just as we recognize the special needs of the physically and/or learning disabled students, and of students struggling below grade level. The school board’s decision regarding GATE must be based on what is the best educational policy for meeting students’ needs, not on misunderstandings among parents.
Parents need to be better educated about making the best choice for their students. GATE is not an exclusive club. GATE is an educational program that is suited for meeting the needs of some children. All intellectually gifted students do not have the same needs. Some may be well served in neighborhood schools as long as teachers are trained to meet their needs. Others can have their needs met only in self-contained classrooms. Concerns about the GATE program getting too big can best be addressed by offering students real options in neighborhood schools.
The district must offer a choice between neighborhood services for GATE students and self-contained classes. Unless the district ensures strong GATE programs at all neighborhood schools, it is only natural that the self-contained option has grown. Serving GATE students in neighborhood schools is the core issue. The district must devote adequate resources and teacher training in differentiated instruction to assure that GATE students who remain in neighborhood schools are served. If the district provides effective neighborhood programs, then more parents will choose that option rather than leaving for a self-contained classroom simply because it is the only option.
Self-contained GATE classrooms must remain an option for those students who are best served there. Parents, not the district, must decide which program is best for a child. The current lottery is wholly unsuited to meeting GATE students’ educational needs. More and effective programs, and education about them, would better assure that all students’ needs are met while still respecting parental choice.
Debbie Nichols Poulos