I have two children who attended Davis schools K-12. We chose not to pull our children out of our neighborhood schools in favor of so-called GATE classrooms. During that time I saw first-hand the reality of the “gifted and talented” program. I saw many children pulled out of their neighborhood schools and put in GATE classrooms; the vast majority of these students were smart, but certainly no smarter than their non-GATE identified cohorts. Their parents often paid to be tested by private psychologists in order to qualify their children for the GATE program. Why? It seemed more to do with being able to say, “My child is in GATE” than anything.
I also have known children who do, in fact, need a special program to meet their needs. These children are in an entirely different category from their intelligent, but not off-the-charts intelligent cohorts. My understanding of the origin of the GATE program was that it was these children who were targeted for the program. Their numbers were few, of course, because such children are unusual.
With the watering down of the GATE program, we have created an entitlement based on … well, what exactly? We have created a segregated community based on a false differentiation of our children. We need all of our classrooms to provide the kind of education that reaches our children where they are and enriches their educational experience. We do not need a program that separates kids on the basis of a test, which makes some children (and their parents) feel somehow special over and above their peers.
We need to work on improving all of our classrooms. The parents who are fighting for the continuation of this irrational GATE program as it has evolved, could be, and I would argue, should be spending their energy on improving the educational experience in all of our schools and classrooms.