Friday, August 29, 2014

GATE is good for all students

By Hemant Bhargava

Our public schools must meet the educational needs of all our children. The self-contained GATE program in Davis, which places gifted and talented children into separate classrooms, actually helps all students both GATE and non-GATE. By reducing within-classroom disparities in both GATE and non-GATE classes, self-contained GATE makes it easier to configure instruction to individual students’ needs. That makes teaching more effective. By taking out the students at the top extreme of a classroom, GATE helps creates stars in every classroom.

I derived this conclusion by analyzing STAR test scores available from the California Department of Education. I compared the Davis school district against Lafayette, which essentially eliminated self-contained GATE in 2009, mixing GATE and non-GATE children into the same classroom. To broaden the analysis, I also evaluated additional districts in Northern California: Rocklin, like Davis, has a self-contained GATE program, while Buckeye, Fremont and Palo Alto resemble Lafayette’s mixed classroom approach.

I looked at STAR data for English language arts and math, between grades 2 and 6. The results are striking and consistent. From second to sixth grade, Davis and Rocklin move a much greater percentage of students into the highest tier of students who are rated as “advanced.” To be sure, Lafayette, Buckeye, Fremont and Palo Alto started the race ahead, with greater percentage of second-graders in the advanced tier than Davis and Rocklin. But this metric merely reflects their richer natural endowment of elementary school children.

Second-graders are what the districts are given, not what their educational approach has shaped. The greater progress that Davis and Rocklin make between grades 2 and 6 is clear evidence that their self-contained GATE is more effective at enhancing students’ learning and academic achievement.

Davis and Rocklin’s statewide rank (among nearly 900 districts, based on the English language arts percentage “advanced” category, leapt up 134 and 129 points, respectively, between grades 2 and 6. Compare this with 50, minus 9, 12 and minus 5 for the mixed-classroom districts. The self-contained GATE districts are unambiguously more effective. The results are similar for math. The comparative performance is even better in 2010 and 2011.

Finally, these gains do not come at any cost at the lowest levels. All six districts placed only 0-1 percent of children into the “far below basic” tier by grade 6, after starting grade 2 at about 4-5 percent (for Davis and Rocklin) and 2 percent (for the rest).

What does this tell us about the relative impact of self-contained vs. mixed classroom models? Since GATE is highly selective (it picks students in the top 2 to 6 percentile of their nationwide peers), GATE students are already in the advanced bracket in second grade, which comprises roughly 28 percent of all California children. Therefore, the increase in percentage of advanced scorers at grade 6 comes from one source: children not in GATE. What my findings show is that districts with self-contained GATE propel a greater percentage of children into the advanced tier by grade 6 than districts where all children learn in a mixed environment.

This striking improvement in test results in our neighborhood schools in Davis calls into question the notion that GATE students mixed into a regular classroom necessarily raise the academic achievements of other non-GATE students. But even stronger evidence on this front comes from Lafayette’s (and Palo Alto’s) own performance back in 2003, when both districts employed self-contained GATE. Davis’ second-grade scores, then, were nearly identical to Lafayette and Palo Alto’s. And the same at grade 6. With a similar natural endowment and a similar educational model, they all achieved comparable progress!

The before-after comparison tells a remarkable story: Lafayette and Palo Alto were performing better under a self-contained GATE approach. Their performance drop in 2012 is on account of their switch away from self-contained GATE.

Equal education for all children is a worthy objective. But one-size-fits-all education implies neither equal opportunity nor equal outcome. We should be wary of changing our self-contained GATE program without proof that alternatives will produce the same or better results.

— Hemant Bhargava is a Davis parent.



Special to The Enterprise

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .


    Saving Putah Creek: a quiet concert at sunset

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Mr. Dolcini goes to Washington

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Winton to be feted for her many years of community work

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Davis Innovation Center team fields questions

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Researchers solve mystery of Death Valley’s moving rocks

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    California extends review of $25B delta plan

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Assembly approves statewide ban on plastic bags

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Celebrate the Senior Center at Sept. 9 luncheon

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Need a new best friend?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Equestrian eventing competition slated

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Dinner, auction benefit Yolo County CASA

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Forum explores local mental health services

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Solar-cooking workshop set at Food Co-op

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Kids can sign up for a library card and get a free book

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Explorit Science Center: Volunteers supercharge summer camp

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A4 | Gallery

    Tee off for Davis’ continued prosperity

    By Lily Holmes | From Page: A4

    Bodega Marine Laboratory hosts open house

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Local group charts a year’s worth of beauty in flowers

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Free blood pressure screenings offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Name Droppers: UCD honors two of its own

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

    Books, conversation and poetry at Logos

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7



    Let’s sell the MRAP on eBay

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

    Seeing both sides of ‘tank’

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

    What if we need MRAP?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

    How could tank be helpful?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: C2

    Don’t sentence our police to death

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: C2, 1 Comment

    Will Davis see river water?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

    Travel buddy is getting too fat

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5



    Forget the score; focus on the energy brought by Aggies

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

    Returning seniors, new faces lead promising DHS links squad

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Devil golfers return from Scotland with smiles on their faces

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Devils scrimmage with Sac

    By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    UCD-Stanford: the clock is down to counting the minutes

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

    Wire briefs: Aces cruise past Cats at Raley

    By Wire and staff reports | From Page: B6

    Sports briefs: DHS girls fall by the slimmest of net margins

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6 | Gallery





    ‘The November Man’: Who can be trusted?

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    B Street’s ‘The Ladies Foursome’ is aces

    By Bev Sykes | From Page: A9 | Gallery



    Technology makes a great car better

    By Ali Arsham | From Page: C1 | Gallery



    Elaine Dracia Greenberg

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Margarita Elizondo

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4