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Poll: Has GATE Gone Too Far in Davis Schools?

What do you think of the current state of the GATE program?

A recent letter to the editor in the Davis Enterprise criticized the GATE program in Davis schools, calling it divisive and oversized.

In her letter, Wendy Amundsen said that the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) Program brands some students as “special” and others as, essentially, the opposite. She says this goes against the inclusive nature of the town. 

She wrote that the “quest for a GPA higher than the kid next to me” attitude is turning high school students into robots. Even the teachers have tried to rein it in, she says.

Her argument is that GATE was intended for bright, but “socially problematic” students who might otherwise fall through the cracks, which makes up 3-5 percent of the population. That's not the case in Davis's program, she says. 

One commenter in the Enterprise says that cutting back these offerings "would put our kids at a huge disadvantage when they apply to college." Other commenters shared similar feelings. 

The California Department of Education says the program aims to serve “high achieving and underachieving pupils” in the state. 

A debate has taken hold around Amundsen’s letter, and it illustrates that there are varying (passionately held) opinions on this issue. Let us know what you think in this poll and share your opinion in the comments below.

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LIzzy February 23, 2012 at 07:05 PM
In an ideal world, classes would be small enough that teachers could accommodate each child's strengths and weaknesses by tailoring the basic curriculum. But as class sizes grow even at the lower grades, it is important to group kids by ability and learning style. Yes this means "tracking" instead of "mainstreaming," but it is the best we can do in a large system. GATE may have evolved since it was originally conceived, but I hope that is because it has adapted to serve our community's needs. I wish that parents whose kids are labeled "average" would not feel threatened by the "special" offerings for kids who have a knack for math, or want to read books above grade level, any more than they do by the "special" offerings for kids who need extra help.
Justin Cox (Editor) February 23, 2012 at 10:31 PM
I don't feel qualified to form an answer yet, because I haven't raised kids. When I size it up as a whole, I see some flaws. But then again, who wouldn't want the absolute best for their kids. The only way to accomodate that is to expand your offerings. Difficult stuff.
Justin Cox (Editor) February 23, 2012 at 10:32 PM
But then again, I've had many conversations with people about the extreme stress that falls on students who are taking several AP classes. They've always got one eye on their GPA and college prospects. Good intentions, but several parents have expressed concern to me.
Tammy February 24, 2012 at 05:00 AM
Wow I was surprised to see the states definition for the GATE program. I have always understood the program to be for above average kids. I know my kids felt the program was very exclusive. They were not in the program nor did they want to be. If they took a poll at the schools a lot of the kids would tell you that they feel GATE is exclusive. I have heard complaints from teachers saying that GATE allows even average kids who can pass the tests to enter the program thus removing kids that encourage the under achievers. For the 17 years that I have been living in Davis I have always wondered about the program myself. Davis presents itself to be accepting and that they treat everyone the same but this program leads kids and parents to see it differently.
Jazzyo November 17, 2012 at 07:32 AM
Not only is it exclusive, it no longer serves the intended population because of the huge amount of Davis parents who feel their kids are entitled to be in this exclusive program, so they go to any expense to get them in. You know who you are! It has become a real ugly program in town that represents the worst nature of people and fosters seperation in children. Very sad.
Bob Erwin January 29, 2013 at 06:07 AM
Even if the critics had value points, which I don't think they do, since when do we benefit anyone by harming others? Shall we place lead in the shoes of track stars so that kids who run more slowly don't feel bad, or allow anyone to be a varsity basketball player irrespective of talent or experience? Of course not. If some students do better in a classroom run at an accelerated pace and with a more acute focus on certain ways of thinking, how is that harmful to kids who prefer, or do better in, a more conventional educational environment? Those who would dismantle the GATE program do not have the best interests of Davis kids at heart.
Robert Poppenga March 07, 2013 at 11:05 PM
What is especially dismaying about GATE discussions within the Davis community is the frequent reliance on anecdote, emotion, and bias. It is the obligation of all interested parties to seek out the best available evidence with regard to what works and what doesn't work given available resources. If we had the luxury of small class sizes and unlimited teacher training, several educational models might work, but given what resources we do have, a self-contained GATE model is the best and most cost effective one available. There are multiple myths surrounding how best to educate our brightest students - not only in Davis, but nationwide. It is unfortunate that the needs of the brightest students are frequently unmet based upon the common myth that they will succeed irrespective of where they are placed. My plea would be for folks to become knowledgeable before engaging in such an important discussion!

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