GATE alternatives are not the answer

By From page A8 | January 29, 2013

Currently, there is an organized effort to change the existing Davis GATE model for meeting the needs of intellectually gifted students. One proposal being put forward is to change to a differentiated instruction model in which students with a broad spectrum of academic abilities are grouped together with the hope that all students’ academic needs can be met.

The fallacy of the proposed model is that it is unlikely to work and proponents have presented little evidence that it can work, particularly without significant increases in district resources. It seems to defy logic that a single teacher, responsible for 30 or more students, can effectively address the academic needs of all of their students through differentiated learning.

When Fred Brill, superintendent of the Lafayette School District, visited Davis in November to discuss how his district instituted a differentiated instruction model, he was not able to provide objective data showing that students who had developed or showed the promise of developing intellectual abilities and talents at high levels benefited.

The California Association for the Gifted (www.cagifted.org) has provided a position paper that discusses grouping practices for gifted learners. Specifically, the position paper states that “strong research evidence supports the effectiveness of grouping students with others of similar ability levels and finds that this strategy, when used flexibly, elevates the level of challenge and learning for all children.”

The comment in a Jan. 22 Enterprise article that the current GATE program is “inconsistent with community values of equity, inclusion and a shared commitment to raising healthy and well-adjusted young adults” and that it should be replaced by an unproven differentiated learning model seems to ignore the needs of a substantial subset of Davis students. What evidence is there that we are failing to raise healthy and well-adjusted young adults because of GATE?

We agree that, as a community, we should strive to meet the educational needs of all Davis students and to make access to the current GATE program as fair and equitable as possible. However, despite the good intentions of proponents, the alternatives to GATE that are being put forward are not the answer.

Robert Poppenga and Amy Kapatkin


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