Friday, April 18, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Improve all Davis classrooms

Superintendent Winfred Roberson and his top administrators state that the AIM program serves “high-achieving students,” despite the wealth of available accurate information. In fact, AIM’s self-contained classes serve high-potential students regardless of level of achievement.

A large number of students in AIM are learning-disabled, or are under-achievers in reading or math or both, and who, nonetheless, are identified as high-potential. And then there are the students who score “off the charts.”

A classroom of AIM students is as diverse as, or more diverse than, a general ed classroom. Even the best-trained teachers, specializing in gifted education, are challenged to meet these highly diverse needs.

The superintendent says he is balancing “diverse perspectives,” “educational research” and “community expectations,” when the public record regarding AIM indicates that his statements give no evidence that he’s considered any of these factors.  Therefore, AIM advocates mistrust the district’s ad for the GATE coordinator’s position that lacks any requirement of GATE certification, training or experience.

It would appear from the ad, and the superintendent’s quotes reported by Jeff Hudson, that the job is for a “public relations expert.” The superintendent’s quotes suggest he believes that whoever fills this new position will bring all ‘stakeholders’ together around a ‘consensus’ that is ‘inclusive’ of all students in all programs. A less possible scenario I cannot imagine.

Despite all evidence presented at school board and private meetings, the superintendent and his cabinet persist in their view that self-contained AIM should be changed. If students not in AIM are not reaching their potentials, the district should focus on what can be improved in their classes, rather than on what can be changed to degrade AIM, a proven, highly successful program.

All Davis parents, not just AIM parents, should be concerned about this new direction. I fully support improving the general ed classrooms (lower class sizes, teacher support, etc). The superintendent and his team have the power to make these positive changes without changing AIM. How can all students expect to have their potentials nurtured if classroom teachers are burdened with larger class sizes and students with even more diverse needs?

Debbie Nichols Poulos
Davis

Letters to the Editor

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Discussion | 12 comments

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  • GrantJuly 18, 2013 - 7:13 am

    Theoretically, the AIM/GATE classes contain students who score in the 96 - 100% range on the OLSAT or TONI. The "neighborhood" classes therefore house students in the 0 - 95% range. How can you possibly say the AIM/GATE classes are more diverse ability-wise than the regular classes?

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  • BobJuly 18, 2013 - 1:20 pm

    "A classroom of AIM students is as diverse as, or more diverse than, a general ed classroom." I've worked in those classrooms. That is so far beyond the case it is laughable. I think you need to take off your GATE/AIM rose colored glasses and get your facts straight.

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  • debbie nichols poulosJuly 18, 2013 - 1:45 pm

    grant, you have expressed a common misunderstanding of the relationship between percentile scores on the OLSAT and TONI tests, and intellectual potentials, or IQ score equivalents. the highest score possible on the above mentioned tests is in the 99%tile. the tests' 96 to 99%tiles mask the fact that students with these scores can have IQ's ranging from 130 to 185 or above. these are the students the AIM program seeks to serve. general ed classrooms typically have students with IQ's in the 100 to 130 range. it is unlikely, given Davis' demographics, that there are many students with IQ's below 100. there may be a few students in the 80 to 100 range, but it is unlikely there are enough to be present in many classrooms. it would be interesting to see the full distribution of %tile scores from the district's universal testing of third graders, showing the numbers of students at each %tile. this is why i assert that the range of 130 to 185 or above in self-contained AIM classes, a range of 55 or more IQ points, is greater than the range of 100 to 130 in general ed classrooms, a 30 point range. it is clear there are many people, parents, teachers, administrators, board members and others, who misunderstand the relationship between %tile scores and IQ equivalent scores.

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  • Rich RifkinJuly 18, 2013 - 2:03 pm

    "Given Davis's demographics, (it is unlikely) that there are many students with IQ's below 100. There may be a few students in the 80 to 100 range, but it is unlikely there are enough to be present in many classrooms." ...... Given your experience, you would know this better than I would. However, your claim seems too strong based on what I see in Davis. ...... An IQ of 85 is just one standard deviation below the mean of 100. Two-thirds of all Americans have IQs from 85-115. An IQ from 90-110 is considered normal or average. If the mean IQ in Davis is very high--say 110--a large fraction (20%?) of children in Davis should have an IQ from 90-100; and some smaller percentage have IQs under 90. If I am wrong, it must be that the mean IQ in Davis is much higher than 110. However, our standard test scores don't appear to support that.

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  • GrantJuly 18, 2013 - 4:04 pm

    Debbie - Let's be clear on this - the OLSAT is NOT an IQ test! It is a "scholastic aptitude test." A true test of one's cognitive reasoning abilities would not involve a multiple choice test where students are not penalized for incorrect guesses. A few lucky guesses here and there and your labeled as having an IQ between 130 - 185? Let's be real here. Many students (not all) do not "pass" the OLSAT simply because they've never been exposed to that type of exam. Likewise, many students who have been prepped know not to bubble the first answer that seems reasonable because it might be a distractor. I'm not saying its wrong to prep your kid for the test, but let's not confuse intelligence (IQ) with getting a few more questions correct than someone else. The one thing I am in agreement with is the the district should release the full data on how many students fall in each percentile. L.D. - if there are "below basic" students in GATE, why are they there to begin with? Wendy - I agree. The data suggests what many suspect - if a parent really wants their kid in GATE, they will find a way...

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  • GrantJuly 18, 2013 - 7:53 pm

    Debbie - One final thought: If the range of diversity of students in the 96 - 99th percentile is so great, perhaps you should be advocating for a SuperAIM program in addition to the regular AIM program. After all why should a 185 IQ student have to be held back by a mere 135 IQ student?

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  • Evelyn FalkensteinJuly 18, 2013 - 9:36 pm

    Actually, Grant, there are school districts that have what you call a Super Aim class. My current Davis student was in one in Washington State for rapid learners. They also test students in second grade which is anathema here! They have to be "held back" -- your term -- because no student is ever at the same level of achievement in all subjects. It's impossible to get the idea of the rapid learner into the discussion in Davis. Rapid learners learn so fast that they begin to learn differently. What happens looks almost intuitive. They grasp the gist of a new lesson almost before the teacher is done presenting it and move on to the possible consequences, related prior experiences, and if there are several sides to the idea, they see and think about them. Sometimes they get the material so fast that it seems as if they already knew it. There usually are several students who learn like this per class, but not in every subject. Associate Supt. Bryant estimated that the great majority of this year's beginning GATE students tested into the 99th percentile. Fortunately our AIM/GATE teachers have the training to keep everyone learning with open-ended projects at their own pace in their strongest subjects and at the class's pace in others. Without a self-contained class these students do what bored kids do. Third grade in WA was like moving from black and white second grade in Kansas to Oz in technicolor. The best thing about being in AIM/GATE is that you can be your best but there is always someone better than you in something to admire and emulate and it works both ways. (1) Speed changes how they learn. (2) They must learn with others who "get" them. (3) There is no 100% because everyone makes mystiques.

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  • L.D.July 18, 2013 - 2:12 pm

    I have had experience in GATE/AIM and "neighborhood" classrooms across DJUSD from k-12 grades and I can assure you that AIM classrooms do have a wide range of student ability,work output/completion, academic success and engagement. Just because a student has high academic potential does not make him/her either a good or compliant student by any stretch of the imagination. In both types of classroom settings students run the gamut from high potential & high achieving to below basic. If you think of GATE as a method of delivering education based on student need, instead of as a label of smarter/less smart you might have a clearer understanding of gifted education as it is intended.

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  • WendyJuly 18, 2013 - 2:32 pm

    I agree with the author that appropriate educational programs are important. But the GATE/AIM program has morphed into something with serious "red flags" that need to be discussed and addressed. Here is a red flag I'd be interested in the author's response to. The majority of students who qualify for the the GATE/AIM program fail the first test (IQ's less than 130?) and then score at the top percentiles upon retesting (IQ's of 185?). Students who gained admission upon retesting have tested as low as less than 50% on the initial test and have shown no potential "giftedness" in the classroom. Either the admission test is seriously flawed or the admission system is being gamed...either one is unacceptable (the specific numbers are available from DJUSD).

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  • debbie nichols poulosAugust 04, 2013 - 11:19 am

    the "red flag" you refer to, wendy, is an indication of why alternate tests are needed to identify many high potential students. it is a "red flag" that argues in favor of alternate tests not against them. the issue is that many high potential students don't show expected or stereotypical signs of giftedness or high potential and do not do well on the reading and math based OLSAT. the only way these students are found is through the alternate tests. these are the high potential students with learning disabilities, or racial, linguistic, or socioeconomic factors that mask or hide their potential abilities. without the alternative tests these students' needs would go unmet. this is an example of why it is so important for those who are knowledgeable about identification and testing to make these kinds of decisions. education professionals with degrees, training, and experience are those in the best position to make decisions about how to meet students' needs. this applies to educators trained in special education, reading specialists, GATE, and other teaching specialties. the credibility of these programs depends upon the education, training, and experience of professionals. by and large i think it is safe to trust their judgment, and it is not a good idea for those without such training to try to micromanage them.

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  • Evelyn FalkensteinJuly 18, 2013 - 2:39 pm

    Grant, one reason the AIM/GATE classes are more diverse because the 99th percentile does not flatline at the far upper end of the "bell curve." Tests are capped, kids are not. Students can continue to score far higher in some or even all areas, but only on an out-of-level test like the SAT, given at their parents' expense, to qualify middle-school (5th-8th grade) students for high ability summer programs like those offered by the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. AIM/GATE classes have all the sources of diversity of "neighborhood" classes and then some. The range between the 96th and the 99th percentiles is much larger than the range between, for example, the 80th and the 83rd percentiles because the 99th continues on and on and on. It's not comforting to know that Bob has "worked in those classrooms." He only needs to monitor spelling tests as a parent volunteer, like me, to see diversity! GATE or AIM teachers have taught in both GATE and regular classrooms and can teach him a few facts. No classroom in Davis deserves anyone's jeers.

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  • debbie nichols poulosJuly 19, 2013 - 1:13 pm

    perhaps a difficult thing to understand is that the olsat level test used for third graders has a "ceiling" against which students of a wide range of "potential abilities" or "IQ's" get stacked. this ceiling means that a normal curve spread, that would most accurately illustrate the range of potential abilities, becomes a single location blockade or drop off. picture a curve that sweeps up, reaches the top, starts to curve down, then stops at a single test percentile, the 99%th, and drops off... no tapering of the normal curve to show the real spread of potential abilities of all those students stacked at the 99th percentile. students blockaded by the test at the 99%tile have a tremendous range of "potential abilities." there is no easy way to quantify these without referring to an IQ score. yes, the olsat is not an IQ test, but its scores could be interpolated as IQ scores if it weren't for the problem with the test's ceiling. so, unfortunately, the structure of the test makes it impossible to interpolate the range of individual "potential abilities" or IQ scores. all we know is that they all top out with the highest score possible on that specific test. that is enough to qualify these students for the AIM program. i know from my experience, when students in the gate program took the cognitive abilities test and received IQ scores, that the range can be from 130 to 185 and above. if today's students were given the same kind of test i doubt that their IQ profiles would be much different. thankfully, the AIM/GATE teachers are trained and skilled at differentiating curricula and methods to meet the diverse needs of these students. they are also prepared to meet the needs of the formerly "hidden high potential" students who have been lost in general ed classrooms. contrary to popular opinion, just because you are "high potential" doesn't mean you can make it on your own without specifically targeted interventions. these students need programs and teachers to address their unique needs. that's what the AIM program aims to do. more people should support these aims and stop trying to tear down a successful program. all the district's programs serve diverse needs. all programs for all students should be supported.

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