Tuesday, July 22, 2014

GATE in Davis: It’s apartheid

From page A6 | April 16, 2013 |

While Davis citizens pride themselves in political correctness, equal opportunity for all and correcting disparities for all citizens, their actions contradict their lip service. The GATE program for “gifted and talented” students is essentially a form of segregation of children at an early age.

Economic and socioeconomic factors likely greatly influence a student’s admittance to this program. Testing, coaching, etc., at a young age, primarily under parents’ aspirations of having a successful student, greatly skew the appearance of a child’s potential to succeed in life.

Having children of all races and economic status interact together at this formative time will enhance their lifelong skills.
Unfortunately, this program is an elitist program for parents’ “bragging rights” and serves no purpose other than to segregate
the masses. Is this Davis or Alabama (no offense to Alabama)?

In the long run, the students will do better in life with more interaction with everyone at this stage in life. Whether they get into Stanford or Chico State or a trade school to repair all the BMWs in our town, it’s their character that’s most important and,
unfortunately, the current segregation in our schools does not foster that. My suggestion is to avoid the GATE program for your kids; they will be better off in the long run.

(And the forever “underfunded” administratively-heavy school system may survive a few years without more bond initiatives.)

Richard Blohm


Letters to the Editor


Discussion | 31 comments

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  • ChristineApril 15, 2013 - 7:07 pm

    Can't help but wonder why you make the assumption that minorities aren't able to get into GATE classes in Davis. A quick look through the DJUSD demographics (http://www.djusd.net/schools/schdemogr/schdemog) show that there is no such discrepancy. In fact, two of the four GATE schools have MORE minorities than the non-GATE classes. A quick look at the data shows this: Korematsu: Gate has more Asian and African American students than the neighborhood program.. As a percentage, there are more white in neighborhood school than in GATE (50% white in Neighborhood vs. 43.3% in GATE)…so more diversity in GATE than in neighborhood. North Davis: Gate has more Asian and African American students and only slightly less Hispanic. As an overall percentage, 53.61% white in GATE vs. 52.48% in neighborhood…so pretty even at North Davis. Willet: more American Indian/Alaskan Nat., Asian, and Hispanic students. As a percentage, there are more white students in neighborhood than in GATE (43.75% white in GATE vs. 52.76% in neighborhood)…so far more diversity in GATE than in neighborhood at Willet. Pioneer: Has the least minority students represented in GATE, with only Asian more as a percentage. However, overall fairly close as a percentage with 66.32% white in GATE vs. 59.06% in neighborhood.

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  • richard blohmApril 15, 2013 - 8:37 pm

    There is no mention of racial make up in the letter. The point is --putting your child in GATE is putting them at a disadvantage in life. Interacting with others from different backgrounds levels will better them down the road. GATE walls your kid off from many rewarding interactions with others.

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  • KimApril 16, 2013 - 1:14 am

    I don’t know, phrases like “It’s apartheid,” and “Having children of all races and economic status interact,” and “Is this Davis or Alabama” made me also believe you were talking about race. In that case, as the other poster explained, the GATE program has a much better representation of racial minorities than your editorial suggests. If you honestly didn’t mean to make this a discussion about race, then please don’t throw around words like “apartheid.” They have real, ugly, historical significance and should not be used lightly. Like an earlier editorial, you seem to suggest a GATE classroom is not diverse in itself. While the students all had similar test scores to be in the program, that doesn’t mean they are not a heterogeneous group. Believe it or not, I have heard anecdotally they have very different personalities and interests, strengths and weaknesses, and even different family backgrounds (racial and otherwise). I would hope that being in such a group would not undermine their character development. If your concern is rich families buying extra testing and coaching to get their kids into the program, then by all means let's examine the policies regarding re-testing. Or focus on the selection process itself to ensure it truly, and fairly, captures its target student population. But getting rid of a program simply because it can be manipulated by the wealthy seems a short-sighted solution. Finally, I may be misreading (again), but you also seem to suggest that getting rid of GATE will save money for our schools. As has been pointed out in these comment boards, the GATE program does not cost the district any extra monies. Please, can we take some of the emotion and hyperbole out of these discussions and have real discourse on how our schools can be improved? I am actually not a totally pro-GATE-status-quo parent, but darn if I’m not being pushed in that direction by the lack of rational arguments otherwise.

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  • KimApril 16, 2013 - 1:16 am

    I have no idea how to make paragraphs in this forum. If someone can share, my comments *might* be less painful to read. :)

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  • ChristineApril 16, 2013 - 9:07 pm

    No mention of racial make up? The entire article is about race. The word apartheid has meaning and connotations we all know and understand. Same goes for "segregation." In addition statements like, "Economic and socioeconomic factors." Then there is the phrase "children of all races," which is pretty hard to deny is MENTIONING race.

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  • WendyApril 15, 2013 - 9:37 pm

    Just for the record...the racial makeup of the elementary GATE program is 30% asian (42 total), 57% white (71 total), 3.2% african american (4 total), and 5.6% hispanic (7 to.tal). That is 200%, 96%, 107%, and about 30% respectively, compared to the total elementary population. That's not racial parity, but I don't think that was the author's point anyway. There are so many better models for delivering high-acheiver education...we can do better by our children

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  • KimApril 16, 2013 - 1:23 am

    I agree that this is a reasonable goal in critiquing the current GATE program -- to seek a better model for delivering education to a specific group of students who need it. I am truly interested in learning more about other methods and hope we as a community can focus on that as well.

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  • richardApril 16, 2013 - 10:07 am

    This has nothing to do with race. Its about an elitist program , which parents "game" the system to get their children in. Ironically, with less exposure to the "average" kids the GATE kids will have a skewed view of the world and themselves to the deteriment of their life experiences. Your fooling yourselves if the program helps them. If you want a fancy boarding school or parochial school you can ship your kids to santa barbara etc, then they can prepare for the SATs, go to fancy college, and then what. While a well balanced kid (non GATE), learns how to interact with people of all levels (educational, economic etc), goes to Chico State, and likely out compete your child in the marketplace in employment and in life.

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  • KApril 16, 2013 - 10:44 am

    Richard, while I respect your opinion, I do not agree with it. It is the parents' job to make educational decisions for their children in the context of their family values, cultural beliefs and needs of their children. Let's let parents be parents, even when they make decisions that are not what you would choose (unless you'd like to let others make the decisions for your family?). There are many educational programs in Davis I have not chosen for my child, but it doesn't mean I think the program should be abolished or judge the parents for putting their child in it. And if any is genuinely concerned about the ethnic or gender makeup of special programs in Davis, the one to look at is DaVinci.

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  • ChristineApril 16, 2013 - 7:08 pm

    Wow. I'm hearing the same old tired ad hominem attacks on GATE kids and parents. I especially love hearing how, since this man disapproves of this special education program, I should send my child to a boarding school. That's productive dialogue right there! Fact is, I am FAR from wealthy. Very, very far. I didn't "game" the system when my eldest entered GATE. I debated long and hard whether or not to put him in but it was a GREAT fit for his learning style. He isn't a stressed out mess, and I really REALLY hope he doesn't want to go to an Ivy League or competitive program. In fact, he knows I'm a huge advocate of junior colleges. None of his attacks apply to me not to any of the GATE parents I've gotten to know over the years.

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  • ChristineApril 16, 2013 - 9:22 pm

    My numbers are from the DJUSD website. Not sure what you're getting at with the "200%" et al. However, the greater point I was making is that looking at the GATE vs. Neighborhood numbers, there is racial parity when comparing apples to apples. If you're looking for racial diversity on par with California in general (or even Yolo County), you aren't going to find that in Davis.

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  • WendyApril 16, 2013 - 8:05 am

    If you would like more information on how other high performing districts deliver high-achiever education and how that contrasts with the Davis model, go to davislearningtogether.org

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  • KimApril 17, 2013 - 12:44 am

    Thank you for the link. It seems the info on that website and the Davis Excel site present the most level-headed arguments for and against the current program.

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  • Rich RifkinApril 16, 2013 - 9:54 am

    Richard Blohm seems to believe that those left out of GATE are being harmed in Davis. I don't think logic or the evidence supports that. The non-GATE students benefit from the opportunity to learn at a pace comensurate with their gifts and talents... At the same time, what strikes me as a much more serious problem in public education in our state (and likely in our entire country with NCLB) is the misguided belief that every child in the 9th through 12th grades ought to be in an academic program which prepares him for college. That approach does real harm to the 30% who end up dropping out and never finishing high school and others who graduate high school but never get the preparation they need to enter the work world. ... While we are pouring thousands of dollars per child into GATE at one end of the academic spectrum, we should be spending just as much money, if not more, to give children who are not college-bound an industrial arts education. Don't just have an auto shop class. Have an auto shop major where a child learns enough to go to work repairing cars the day he exits high school. Have a culinary arts degree program for those who want to become chefs. Have a degree program for future plumbers, elecricians, carpenters and so on. ... We seem to have a mindless ideology which pushes all students into an academic pursuit, regardless of their ability, interest or personality. And anyone who says, "Billy is not college material," is branded a rogue reactionary who needs to be sent to the Gulag for re-education.

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  • richardApril 16, 2013 - 10:19 am

    Agree with Mr. Rifkin. The point is to let kids be kids, elementary school is not the place for the test-prep, favortism of select groups to occur. The students can seperate themselves academically at the high school level with course choices and advanced placment courses. GATE is really detremental to the GATE kids and non GATE students.

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  • KApril 16, 2013 - 10:24 am

    I'm confused by Mr. Rifkin's assertion that "we are pouring thousands of dollars per child into GATE". To the best of my knowledge, that statement is totally inaccurate (and inflammatory). The only "extras" the GATE kids get are some vocabulary books - and that may even come from local PTA money. The GATE teachers spend their personal money to supplement the classrooms, no different than the non-GATE classes. What are these thousands of dollars per child that you are speaking of? And I'm not even going to dignify the "apartheid" statement other than to say that this type of overblown rhetoric is irresponsible, inaccurate, minimizes the tragic nature and victims of the real situation of apartheid while doing nothing to further a calm and rational discussion of important educational issues in our town.

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  • richardApril 16, 2013 - 10:43 am

    The word simply means "to seperate". Let kids be kids. The GATE program is basically an elitist program meant to placate overly concerned parents who believe the only path to success is for Johnny or Suzy to get into Harvard and they are already pushing their kids ( to their detriment). Focus on more opportunities at the high school level , advanced placement courses etc. Let elementary school kids have a CHILDHOOD.

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  • kApril 16, 2013 - 11:20 am

    Again, it is not your or my job to make decisions for other people’s children or to pass judgment on their cultural beliefs or family choices. Everyone’s view of childhood differs as do children’s interests in how they want to spend their time. If your assertion that GATE only serves those who “believe the only path to success is for Johnny or Suzy to get into Harvard,” I would wager that the program would be long gone due to lack of parent demand as the number of students who end up attending Harvard must be quite small. Parents choose a special program in our schools for a variety of reasons. Let’s look at additional ways to serve Davis students rather than destroying options that parents feel serve their children’s educational needs well. Class sizes at the K-3 level have increased 50% in the last decade – why aren’t we discussing ways to ameliorate that change?? If the author meant “separate”, then why was such an inflammatory term chosen instead? The use of the term “apartheid” is loaded with connotations of decades of repression and violence against a single ethnic group. Will we be equating GATE at Korematsu with Japanese internment next? What about Jann Murray-Garcia’s use of the word “eugenics” in her discussion of GATE? This type of rhetoric is demeaning, inappropriate, and irresponsible and does nothing to promote a rational and respectful discussion of educational issues.

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  • richardApril 16, 2013 - 11:37 am

    Parents have the choice, they can send their kids to an elitist boarding school. The PUBLIC school system should give equal treatment to all. GATE is like a little special elitist program for a few and should be discontinued.

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  • ChristineApril 16, 2013 - 8:41 pm

    By all means, let's treat everybody the same and pretend that all children are little soldiers, with no difference in learning styles or academic needs. While we are at it, lets abolish the wonderful Montessori program, Spanish immersion schools, all IEP's (INDIVIDUAL PLANS? Talk about special treatment! Children of some of the wealthiest people I know in Davis have kids with IEP'S. Unfair and certainly gaming system!), the Madrigals, Symphony orchestra (only rich people can afford the private lessons that MUST happen to get kids into that competitive PUBLIC school course)...and let's not get started on the thousands of dollars poured every year into one-on-one aides some kids get. Then, once we treat all kids EXACTLY THE SAME like the little clones they are, we will certainly achieve the diversity that the original author claims to want so much.

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  • richardApril 17, 2013 - 12:37 am

    Your kids will do fine without the GATE program. Your seperatist mentality is typical of societies with large discrepenies of wealth and poor populations. Its PUBLIC ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. The place for special programs is later in high school. It is what it is, an elitist program which serves a few at the detrement of others

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  • ChristineApril 17, 2013 - 6:52 pm

    You sidestepped my point. Do you think that the other programs I've mentioned in Davis' PUBLIC ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS should also be eliminated? Such as Montessori, Spanish Immersion, IEP, ESL, music strings program (also starts in fourth grade), Supplemental Education Services…just to name a few. All of these separate kids based upon needs and abilities. I don't have a separatist mentality, sir...I just know that Mr. Rogers is correct and that we are all unique individuals, and that's a beautiful thing. I applaud society's attempts to help kids develop their unique talents, help develop a life-long love of learning, and foster their strengths. Even from a young age. Early intervention in an age-appropriate manner is essential in some cases. Goodness, President Obama is currently backing universal preschool for just this reason (I actually disagree with the notion that ALL kids NEED preschool...mine sure didn't and we all got a few extra years of sleeping in). Lastly, saying, "Parents have the choice, they can send their kids to an elitist boarding school." is in itself quite an elitist statement. Just because we live in Davis doesn't mean we have the financial resources to send our kids to a private boarding school (not that I'd dream of it anyway…and I'm hoping they go to a local junior college after graduating from high school, so sending them off and having them grow up too fast is certainly not on my agenda)…I can barely afford gas in my car some days. Many days. Regardless, I'm not sure what is more laughable. The notion that a parent can just switch to a pricy private school on a whim…or that Davis' GATE program is even remotely akin to a ritzy boarding school. I get hyperbole, but you've stated that enough here that I'm thinking you just might believe it. PS: Yes, I know my kids will do fine without GATE. I perhaps won't put my youngest in it, regardless of testing. However, for other kids? That is absolutely not the case. Some kids very, VERY much need it.

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  • LauraApril 16, 2013 - 12:52 pm

    If, K, it is not your job to "make decisions for other people’s children or to pass judgment on their cultural beliefs or family choices," and you wish to promote a "rational and respectful discussion" without "inappropriate" and "irresponsible" rhetoric, I wonder about your statement that, "if any (sic) is genuinely concerned about the ethnic or gender makeup of special programs in Davis, the one to look at is DaVinci." This is neither relevant to a continuing discussion of GATE nor respectful of the choices of Da Vinci families. In fact, it appears to be a negative and self-serving attempt to deflect the discussion off the GATE program.

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  • KApril 18, 2013 - 5:19 pm

    Laura, I'm sorry if I didn't make my point very well. I have no problem with Da Vinci's ethnic makeup, nor with any of the other programs in Davis, as I feel that different programs will appeal to or better serve different groups of people. For example, Spanish Immersion may potentially appeal to those with a Latin background and Da Vinci may appeal to those who are interested in technology. I don't think the ethnic makeup of the students is especially relevant - we need to look at whether the program is successful for the students it serves. I only raise Da Vinci since the original letter focuses on "apartheid" and racial segregation. Looking at the ethnic diversity that GATE appears to have based on the numbers reported, especially in comparison to other programs in the district, I am at a loss to understand why the "apartheid" charge is being thrown at GATE and no one else. I can see why my response may have been confusing - hopefully this is clearer.

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  • ChristineApril 16, 2013 - 9:14 pm

    There is NOTHING "simple" about the word apartheid. Look it up in any dictionary (to double-check, I just looked at half a dozen). It's connotations in the modern world have become so entangled with racial segregation that, from Merriam-Webster on down, something along the lines of, "a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race" is the FIRST definition.

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  • KimApril 17, 2013 - 1:21 am

    Why don't we continue your logic and let the high school kids be high school kids? Why not have them all take AP classes regardless if they can or want to do it? Or don't offer any AP classes because not all kids can handle them? Why should we only allow some students to take special classes, or join the Madrigals, or play football or . . . ? At some point children do benefit from individualized programs. And I'm not saying a rigid tracking system based on a single test in the 3rd grade is the right thing either. Whether it is through IEP’s, GATE, English Language Learners, Spanish Immersion, Montessori, or the DaVinci model, having the ability to tailor the schooling to the student’s individual needs/abilities is usually considered a goal of education, not its enemy. Even most who oppose the current GATE program suggest differentiated instruction, clusters, etc as alternatives -- i.e., even they recognize that individual students have individual abilities which should be addressed in the classroom. But in your utopia -- *any* differentiation = segregation = “simple” apartheid = evil elitists who belong in Santa Barbara. Again, I understand you and others have issue with how GATE works in practice and so, again, I suggest you focus on how the program can better identify its target population, re-examine how/when the services are provided, and of course look into reducing those opportunities for “gaming” the system which you think are so rampant.

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  • WendyApril 16, 2013 - 1:34 pm

    Here's my 2-cents...I'm actually a big proponent of high-achiever programs, but only if done well. Here are my problems with our program... seriously "gamed" admission, half the high-achievers are left out, rigidity of the program requires the incorrect assumption that all high-achievers are high-achieving in all subjects, and rigidly "tracks" children until high school based on a test taken at 8 years old. Even if you ignore (or don't believe) the social or emotional implications of such a program, does this really sound like an acceptable format? Just my opinion, but I don't think "separate classroom" and "public education" belong in the same sentence...unless you're talking special needs students.

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  • LauraApril 16, 2013 - 3:33 pm

    It is a common misconception that GATE students are high-achievers--many of them are not. From the district's GATE FAQs: 1. How do I know if my child is “gifted”? Certain characteristics are indicators of giftedness. The most common myth—all gifted students are motivated and perform well in school—results in many students not being recognized for their potential. Some indicators of giftedness include level of questioning, sensitivity to issues of morality and justice, understanding abstract ideas, making connections and establishing relationships between ideas beyond that of their age mates, having varied and multiple interests, demonstrating a sophisticated sense of humor, learning more quickly than their peers, being curious, having highly developed vocabulary, etc. Adults in the lives of these children need to recognize that sometimes these behaviors are manifested at home and/or in school in a less than positive manner: class clown, know-it-all, etc.… Obviously, children are unique. These are some of the more common characteristics used to identify giftedness. In a very real sense, GATE is a special needs program.

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  • LauraApril 16, 2013 - 3:46 pm

    The last sentence of my previous comment was mine. It was not part of the district's GATE FAQs. I wasn't able to make it a separate paragraph. Sorry for the confusion.

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  • AnnetteApril 16, 2013 - 4:17 pm

    Simply put, "I'm agree with Richard."

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  • AnnetteApril 16, 2013 - 4:19 pm

    CORRECTION: I'm in agreement with Richard.

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