GATE abdicates its mission

By From page A6 | April 19, 2013

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

* 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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