Davis Excel’s Initial Report on Proposed Changes to GATE Program
February 2013 [download the report]
The DJUSD’s Mission Statement is to develop “the knowledge, skills, abilities, and values needed for all students to reach their full potential.” The district seeks “an appropriately challenging academic course of study that promotes the highest possible academic achievement.” In Davis, we have different programs for different kids to achieve these goals, from Spanish Immersion, to Da Vinci, to Montessori and Fairfield. We recognize that one size does not fit all.
The Davis GATE program currently serves the needs of kids who require an alternative instructional model—and remains oversubscribed year after year. More than 360 people supporting the GATE program in Davis have signed a petition, sharing stories of how the GATE program is helping or has helped their kids. This program currently serves more than 1,700 students. Davis Excel believes the program is helping Davis schoolchildren, and should not be dismantled or dramatically altered without demonstrating that an alternative model would be affordable, viable, and equally successful in meeting student needs.
Members of the community and the Trustees have many questions about the GATE program. We are concerned about many of the same issues and have begun to research some of them. We share our initial research here. We intend to continue our research and to work with other parents, the Trustees and Administration in the coming months. We are eager to partner with the District to ensure that GATE and other district programs serve every student’s needs. Following is a summary of our initial findings:
- GATE is good for everyone. Reducing the range of academic ability in a classroom makes teaching more effective by making it easier to configure instruction to individual students’ needs. Non-GATE STAR test scores in Davis rise at much higher rates than do the scores in districts such as Lafayette and Palo Alto. [Read more]
- GATE helps a diverse group of students. The GATE program is more diverse than other district programs, like Da Vinci. GATE helps diverse kids from underrepresented backgrounds reach their highest potential without needing the wealth to attend private schools. [Read more]
- GATE classrooms and teachers receive no additional financial support. [Read more]
- Lafayette and Palo Alto are not comparable school districts. Lafayette and Palo Alto are both far richer and far less diverse than Davis. [Read more]
- GATE entrance criteria in Davis are actually more stringent than in many other jurisdictions. The cutoff is 85 percentile in Los Angeles and 90 percentile in New York City. Davis has a very high concentration of parents with advanced degrees. [Read more]
- A lottery may harm diversity in the program, and reduce the program’s ability to address the need of those most needing GATE classroom instruction. [Read more]
- We should rename the program, e.g., the “Alternative Instructional Model.” [Read more]
- Eliminating or radically reducing GATE may lead some parents to move their children out of the Davis public schools or seek the creation of a charter school, adversely affecting the school district. [Read more]
- Eliminating or radically reducing GATE will harm efforts among businesses and the University to attract employees, who might be drawn by the promise of an excellent public education for their children. [Read more]