In her Oct. 28 opinion piece, Debbie Nichols Poulos speaks from personal experience as a teacher in the 1980s, but the law governing gifted education has changed since then. Current California law focuses on “gifted and talented” students, not just “intellectually gifted” students, and a district may design its GATE program to serve students with ability (or potential ability) in intellect, creativity, leadership, visual/performing arts or other areas that is “extraordinary” in relation to the pupil’s chronological peers.
Assuming the district elects to use “intellectual ability” as a category for GATE identification, state law does not designate what IQ cutoff (i.e., IQ 130) the district shall apply.
The number of GATE-identified students does not affect the amount of state funding received, so long as the district has some kind of GATE program for at least one category of GATE-identified student. So, if our district elected to offer self-contained placement only to “highly gifted” students (IQ over 150, approximately 1 percent of the student population) and twice exceptional students (high intellectual ability plus learning disability), it still would qualify as a participating district and get the full allotment of extra funds.
In a city like Davis, where approximately 30 percent of students are GATE-identified, it makes no sense to suggest that those students are “extraordinary” as related to their peers and have “special needs” that require their placement in self-contained classrooms. Meanwhile, the “highly gifted” or twice exceptional students are not well-served in self-contained classes full of high achievers who would succeed in any classroom.
In my opinion, it is time for the district to re-evaluate its approach to GATE education and build a model where differentiated curriculum for all students in their neighborhood/home elementary schools is recognized as the optimal placement for the vast majority of elementary students. At the secondary level, a smaller GATE program should be just one of several options including Da Vinci and the new project-based learning strand at Harper, both of which provide innovative and exciting educational alternatives to all Davis students.