Piedmont Neighborhood News

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GATE Program

Posted by drewbendon on December 14, 2007

There is currently a very interesting discussion going on in the GATE Advisory Council meetings and e-mail list. I am not able to attend the meetings, so I’m not certain of the genesis of the discussion, and am somewhat at a loss to describe its particulars, but here goes. If there is anyone who can shed more light on this, please comment.

It appears that in order to run a GATE program one needs to identify the GATE students. The educators are reluctant to do so because 1. The identification process leads to conflict between parents and teachers and 2. it negatively impacts school climate and student self concept. I don’t know if this is entirely correct, but it appears that the discussion is essentially asking the question of whether we should have a GATE program at all.

On one side of the discussion are the ideas that the philosophical decision not to differentiate is the right one and that State funds for the GATE program total $20,000 and that it is not worth this sum to create the kind of division that identification of GATE students would create.

One the other side of the discussion are the ideas that the district should do what it needs to to meet the educational needs of all students and that we are all different and that recognizing one another’s strengths and weaknesses (and presumably our own) is just part of life.

I think that this is a fascinating and important discussion and I hope the members of the GATE Advisory Council will permit PNN to host this discussion.  PLEASE comment.

My own inclination is towards the second of the two arguments. We are all different. We all have strengths and weaknesses. And the kids already know it. I’m certain that your own experience will bear this out. It makes no difference whether the school formally recognizes it or not, the kids know who the “GATE students” are, just like they know who the best athletes are or the best artists. Parents will, of course, fight to have their children included in the GATE program, but they do that whether or not there is a formal program. If we increase communication, respect our teachers, administrators and neighbors and work together to improve all of the district’s offerings, having a GATE program will just be one effort to provide our children with the best possible eduction the district can offer.

Drew

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3 Responses to “GATE Program”

  1. drewbendon said

    I received this e-mail from Dr. Roth:

    Hi Drew,

    Thank you for your comments. I agree that this is a fascinating and important discussion. I think that some of the questions that ultimately need to be considered are: Is a GATE program useful in meeting the needs of students and is GATE the best or a necessary mechanism for meeting those needs? If it is to be a GATE program, what should that program look like? Can a GATE program be fashioned in a manner that meets students needs without some of the drawbacks that many teachers and administrators as well as some parents report? Of course there are many more questions to address and I hope to do so with the GATE Advisory Council.

    I’m not sure that the conversation can be broken into the two sides you have described. I believe that everyone (parents, teachers, and administrators) agrees “that the district should do what it needs to meet the educational needs of all students and that we are all different…” Personally, I believe (and I suspect you and many others do as well) that recognizing strengths and weaknesses is more than “just part of life” but a process that can be constructively structured as to inspire students and us all to reach our potential and celebrate our individuality. Of course, without careful consideration, recognition of strengths and weaknesses can also become something rather ugly.

    I believe we all recognize the need to find a way to continue striving to meet the needs of all students in a manner that does not result in the
    negativity that is of concern. If we are to do this through GATE, then, as Jon Elliott (GAC participant) has put it, “we should be able to come up with a GATE proposal/program that meets the letter and spirit of state requirements while supporting (rather than distorting) what we actually want to do for our students.” And I would ask, if we can’t, would anyone really want GATE? We have a lot of great energy and thinking at the table and I believe we will move forward in meeting the needs of students no matter the direction that is decided upon.

    Please feel free to post this on your blog. However, I will not be monitoring the responses on the blog as GATE is only one of many duties I must keep up with in the District. People should know that they are welcome to attend GATE Advisory Council Meetings which are posted on the District Website under About PUSD. I do monitor comments that are emailed to droth@piedmont.k12.ca.us.

    I really appreciate your interest in this topic and wish you could be at the table with us.

    David Roth, Ph.D.

    Assistant Superintendent, Educational Services

  2. drewbendon said

    I do recognize that my initial post was a simplification of the discussion. I don’t mean to try to speak for everyone and can’t properly communicate their thoughts. Unfortunately, part of the problem is that I can’t attend the GAC meetings which are from 3:30 – 5:00 during the week. (I can’t attend the Curriculum Council meetings for the same reason.) This is one of the reasons why I hope that at least part of the discussion can migrate to a place where the whole community can drop in and see it. Ultimately, I hope that the District’s website will be a place for such a discussion, but it is not capable of that yet, so I offer my own. So please post here and send your comments via e-mail to Rd. Roth.

    Drew

  3. drewbendon said

    Jon Elliott writes:

    I share Mal’s agnosticism, and am pondering a couple of related channels, which I’ll stick goofy topic headings on:

    * Is GATE the label or a label or one of many passports?

    I see the self-image issues inherent in labeling some kids as ‘gifted’ and others as something else that will sound like something less. In that vein, I worry that David Roth’s starting idea of using test results as the dominant criterion, although handy because the data are there [and at least arguably ‘objective’], would inevitably tend to translate “tests well” into “gifted,” at the expense of other gifts and intelligences. Any narrow criterion or set of criteria seem more likely to risk the label/stigma problems Mary wrote about, because it’s more likely to end up with a narrowly-defined Bright Line between in/out and gifted/other.

    In theory, the potential downsides of labeling diminish if PUSD chooses broad and varied identification criteria, AND incorporates GATE into a richer and more varied set of enrichment opportunities. In that theoretical world GATE becomes more just one of the things available, along with Mad Science and DI and Math Olympiads and whatever, and less of a label. And more students find themselves qualified for and receiving at least some of these enrichments.

    * Is GATE the tail or the dog?

    What I care about is that PUSD continues to improve the degree to which offerings get tailored enough to support and challenge kids, including those who are ‘higher ability” with respect to one or more types of ability. It seems clear that $20k worth of GATE isn’t enought to do much of that in and of itself, so I only care about GATE to the extent that it’s ‘free money’ that we can apply to do more of what we want to do anyway. I’m worried that the emphasis on ‘GATE’ out in the world might lead to a “tail wags the dog” problem, where the broader effort to enhance instruction gets warped because there’s an undue emphasis on GATE criteria (such as they are) and terminology…

    It seems to me it would be most productive if we could flesh out more the broader set of issues and approaches to ensuring enrichment for higher-ability kids, and THEN figure out how best to make use of the GATE dollars, so that those GATE dollars enhance what we’re wanting to do anyway rather than distorting those goals. From my reading of the statute and regs I believe the state requirements are loose enough that we should be able to come up with a GATE proposal/program that meets the letter and spirit of those state requirements while supporting (rather than distorting) what we actually want to do for our students.

    But I realize there’s a timing and resources issue: how fast can PUSD and ‘GAC’ get clear enough on the big picture to be able to fit GATE into that picture?

    Jon Elliott

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