I have heard a large number of false statements about the Davis GATE program, and their frequent repetition impedes reasonable discussion of the issue.
First, there is this false idea that the level of GATE identification at Davis is impossible, an idea that is often extended into an implication that such a high level is an indication that the identification process, or perhaps the whole program, has become corrupted.
The truth is that, based on California Department of Education data, several districts in California GATE-identify at a higher rate than Davis. And, significantly, districts that serve communities with UC campuses GATE-identify at rates similar to Davis. San Diego Unified (UCSD), Santa Cruz Elementary (UCSC) and Goleta (UCSB) all identified a larger percent of their students into GATE than Davis did last year.
Some districts with UCs serve much larger populations such that this “UC effect” is less pronounced but still readily apparent in the data. And it isn’t just towns with UCs — many school districts in Silicon Valley, for example, also identify a larger proportion of their students into GATE than Davis does.
Another misconception is that self-contained high achiever programs are unheard of at the elementary grade level. Yet there are self-contained high achiever elementary programs — some even begin earlier than fourth grade — up and down the state and across the nation. For example, our neighbor districts, such as Sacramento City Unified and Washington Unified (West Sacramento) describe their elementary school self-contained GATE programs on their websites.
There is a rich trove of peer-reviewed research about the benefits of self-contained GATE programs, to all students in a district, some of which is being gathered at DavisExcel.org.
Most importantly, there has been what I see as an attempt to redefine GATE as a program specifically for twice exceptional students or “real outliers.” But that is in no way articulated in the sections of state code (52200 through 52212) that define GATE programs, nor is it in the district’s GATE master plan. GATE provides an alternative learning paradigm, much as Davis’ other choices — the neighborhood program, Montessori, Spanish Immersion — do, and, just as those programs serve students with extraordinary needs, so does Davis’ GATE program.
While I believe the GATE program could be improved through careful consideration, we will never have careful consideration so long as this level of misinformation persists.