Thursday, April 17, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

GATE abdicates its mission

For the record, when I wrote to The Enterprise about GATE’s “false premise” a few weeks ago, I was just venting and didn’t expect my letter to appear as an op-ed piece. The day after I submitted it, I asked to either withdraw it or delete the whiny portion about encountering GATE parents in the supermarket, which was admittedly an exaggerated dramatization, rather snotty, and a distraction from my point.

I was disappointed and embarrassed that my request was not honored. Unfortunately, the portion I sought to delete created confusion about the crux of my issue with GATE.

To clarify, my beef with GATE is the fallout from its complete abdication of the program’s professed mission. GATE purportedly exists to serve a minority of children whose learning pace is so extraordinary that they sit around twiddling their thumbs in class, yet the district doesn’t make even a token effort to screen GATE-aged children to determine which are under-challenged. Rather, GATE eligibility is based entirely on an arbitrary set of scores on a national standardized test, a threshold that cuts right through a cluster of comparably successful students — a meaningless distinction that can hinge on the accuracy of one or two guesses on the test.

The “gifted” assignation is also skewed by parents who hire test-prep tutors for their wee ones, or obtain private testing to circumvent their child’s shortfall on the school-administered test.

GATE supporters deny the program is elitist, insisting that the program does not glorify exceptional students, it merely salvages their engagement in learning. But the label “GATE (gifted and talented) identified” is an unambiguous exaltation, especially when used as a basis for sifting and segregating GATE children from their peers for three to six years.

And finally, with a 30 percent admission rate, GATE decidedly does not serve an underserved minority. To the contrary, between the GATERs and those who missed the cutoff by a hair, more than one-third of our students are verifiably intellectually gifted. Any responsible school district should be able to fashion a mainstream curriculum that adequately serves such a substantial segment of its students.

Again, thanks.

Susanna Mould
Davis

* Editor’s note: Regrettably, Susanna Mould’s request for withdrawal or editing of her original piece was lost in cyberspace. We never received it.

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  • GrantApril 19, 2013 - 8:31 am

    Good points about the blurred distinction between gifted and non-gifted. A multiple choice test cannot accurately measure one's ability to reason and creatively problem solve. Any rational person understands that there is not a significant difference between a 96% and a 94% on a multiple choice test, yet only the 96% student is labeled as gifted. When you combine that with the fact that the 96% student may have been prepped for the test while the 94% student was seeing that type of test (very different than regular school curriculum content tests)for the first time, the distinction is further blurred. Interestingly, I contacted the GATE coordinator regarding how many students qualified for GATE via the OLSAT test given to all 3rd graders versus through private testing. I was told about HALF of the GATE population qualified through private testing! I'll leave it to you to speculate why that statistic is true...

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  • ChristineApril 20, 2013 - 12:47 pm

    "…with a 30 percent admission rate, GATE decidedly does not serve an underserved minority. To the contrary, between the GATERs and those who missed the cutoff by a hair, more than one-third of our students are verifiably intellectually gifted." Honest question. Would you be happy if the GATE program was thusly expanded to accommodate, say, all 35% of the "intellectually gifted" students, as you call them? If the cut-off were lowered from 96% yo 94%, as another commenter has noted, that would probably do the trick. If this were the case, then your children would have been in GATE (you mentioned in your last oped that they missed it by 2 points, and you requested an exception be made for them but were denied). If that had been the case, I'll bet that you'd be like me…a former GATE parent who had a fabulous experience with lovely teachers and wonderful children. You also wouldn't be NEARLY as aware of the how much "better" the GATE people think they are…because we don't. We aren't the ones saying that our children have documented superiority, that's coming from outside of GATE. You may wish you hadn't said those types of emotional and snotty things in your last oped, but you did in a moment of honesty…and it is something those of us within the GATE community hear all. the. time. I can't tell you how many times over the past years I've had parents of kids who are not enrolled in GATE tell me how THEY never told their kids they weren't as smart but that they learn it from those cruel, elitist, snobby GATE students…while their child is standing RIGHT NEXT TO THEM at school pick-up, or in a grocery store, or at a Girl Scout meeting, or on a soccer field sideline, or at a park, etc.

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  • ChristineApril 20, 2013 - 12:51 pm

    But to your main point (doing a separate comment due to the formatting issues here of not being able to have paragraphs)...the "professed mission" of DJUSD's GATE strand is not to, "serve a minority of children whose learning pace is so extraordinary that they sit around twiddling their thumbs in class." From GATE website: "It is the mission of the Davis Joint Unified School District’s Gifted and Talented Education Program, in partnership with parents, community and post-secondary institutions, to provide a quality educational program for gifted and talented students in order to develop their knowledge, skills, abilities, and values." And, "RATIONALE: Gifted students are often capable of work beyond the academic content standards for their grade level. To ensure their continuous progress and intellectual growth, the academic objectives must include the grade level standards and allow for advanced and more complex differentiated study."

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  • GrantApril 20, 2013 - 6:25 pm

    So by GATE's mission statement, why wouldn't a student who scored 94% (no test prep) deserve the same special education as a 96% student who was prepped for the test? If your kid is truly gifted, why do you have to prep them for the test? Doing that would seem to push out other students who could truly use the extra attention. Sort of seems like cutting in line in front of a handicapped person at the grocery line...

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  • Susanna MouldApril 20, 2013 - 7:45 pm

    Christine.... HELLOOOOO.... You are so busy trying to poke holes in whatever I say that you are missing the point (once again). If GATE's mission is NOT to serve an underserved minority of students who are under-engaged, it's even a sorrier and less defensible program than I thought. If over 30% of our kids are equivalently advanced intellectually, then the district's mainstream curriculum should be able to adequately engage them. Which, as a matter of fact, it does. The fact that so many children have an unfair advantage in the GATE admissions process due to prep-test tutoring and private testing is compelling evidence of the status associated with the program, not to mention the elitism of a public school program that is more readily available to families with abundant financial resources than to families who lack the disposable income to "buy" their way in to the program. So tell me: Since the testing cut-off is undeniably arbitrary, since our non-GATE classes are abundantly populated with kids who are just as gifted as the GATE students, since admission is in many cases a matter of family economics, and since (as you admit) the the program is a source of great division and resentment in our community - Why on EARTH do we need or want to have it??? And how can ANYONE rationalize a PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT operating such a patently exclusive specialized program for the benefit of a selection of kids whose sole distinction is meeting an arbitrary standard, often due to economic privilege or lucky guessing on a couple of questions?

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