Op/Editorials 4/7/11

GATE program fizzles; budget funding shifted

By Rachel Hubert
Roar Writer

The creative writers held their Poetry Reading Night April 4, and the students read the poems that they wrote during the first quarter, as published in Age of No Reason.

As many students already know, California schools receive state and federal funding for classes and programs. One program that is funded by state money is the GATE program. The acronym GATE stands for Gifted and Talented Education.

GATE programs are operated in approximately 800 California school districts located in all 58 counties, with over 480,000 public school students that have been identified as gifted and talented in the state.

There are currently about 20 GATE students at Loyalton High; those students were identified by testing administered by a former district-level GATE coordinator who resigned at the end of the last school year. The district currently does not have a GATE coordinator, either for identification or for program development.

A State Department of Education webpage indicates that funding for GATE programs is meant to develop unique education opportunities for high-achieving and underachieving pupils in public elementary and secondary schools who have been identified as gifted and talented. Special efforts are made to ensure that pupils from economically disadvantaged and varying cultural backgrounds are provided with full participation in these unique opportunities.

Schools may establish programs for gifted and talented pupils consisting of special day classes, part-time grouping and cluster groupings. GATE curricular components must be planned and organized as integrated, differentiated learning experiences within the regular school day and may be supplemented with other activities related to the core curriculum, including independent study, acceleration, postsecondary education and enrichment.

For all programs for GATE students, including those programs for pupils with high creative capability and talents in the performing and visual arts, each participating school must provide GATE pupils with an academic component and, where appropriate, with instruction in basic skills.

GATE is a way of encouraging intellects and creative minds to do their best in school. Some of these students may find regular classes boring and therefore may even tune out and fail classes. The activities the program provides are not a means of punishment or an attempt to make life harder; they’re meant to engage the students.

Over the years at LHS, the program has varied some in its testing processes and activities. In the past the GATE program has even given students the opportunity to experience culture and creativity by taking them to see theatrical productions. While LHS is receiving GATE funds this year, the school is not offering a GATE program. Why?

GATE funding is considered “flexed,” which means it can be placed in a general fund and  used to buy books or pay for field trips.

There has been discussion of training teachers at LHS to teach to the underachieving GATE student. Since students all learn at different levels and paces from one another, teachers need to understand those students’ needs to help them according to their individual learning habits.

Teacher Janet McHenry, a former LHS GATE coordinator and parent of GATE-identified children, said she hopes to see the GATE program come back. She said, “The practice of teachers differentiating for GATE students is important to keep them engaged. For example, I have a GATE student in one of my classes who doesn’t need grammar instruction. Instead, she could submit a poem she has written related to the novel she is reading. That would be more meaningful for her and would challenge her, instead of boring her.”



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