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Now is not the time to throw up our hands and forget about thinking strategically. The pandemic may have upended education, but it has also provided an unprecedented opportunity to reimagine our schools. Now is actually the best time to get involved, speak up, and push for reforms that will improve public education for our children.
The best way to support gifted education is to be informed and to participate. Here are key links to information about San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) and the GATE program, plus some ways you can take action.
Opportunities to Help GATE - What Things Can YOU Do?
Where you live determines who your SDUSD BoE member is. There are 5 Districts (A-E). You can attend BoE meetings and provide public testimony. Board presentations and handouts are archived on the BoardDocs tab on the BoE webpage. Find out more here.
BoE Elections - three BoE seats will be on the ballot in Nov 2020 (Districts A, D & E). John Lee Evans (who has not been a supporter of GATE) has announced that he will not run again in 2020 for District A. Read about the candidates here. Mike McQuary will not run again in 2022 in District C. FYI there has been a recent push to reform BoE elections in San Diego due to recommendations in a 2017 Grand Jury Report and there also will be something on the ballot about that (more info to come). Get involved and elect BoE members who are informed about GATE and support strong and equitable gifted programs in our public school system. Get out and talk with the candidates and ask them about their views on GATE (and take the opportunity to educate them about it). Only YOU can make GATE an election issue.
San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE)
With an annual operating budget of nearly $600 million, the San Diego County Office of Education offers support services — in the way of budget oversight, curriculum development and teacher training — to the region’s districts. The office also operates schools for foster youths, severely disabled students, the homeless and those in juvenile hall.
SDUSD has 6 Area Superintendents who are responsible for all schools and issues in their designated Area. They are in charge of the Principals, so now that Principals have all the power to decide what GATE classes are provided in schools, the Area Supers are key people who should understand the importance of gifted education. Go to your Cluster meetings and talk to them about GATE. There are 5 Areas that are based on the high school "clusters". Find out more about the Area Superintendents here. The school district org chart is here.
SDUSD schools are organized into 16 "clusters". Each one consists of a high school and all the middle and elementary schools that feed into it. Some clusters even have foundations associated with them that you can become involved with. Attending your cluster meetings is very informative and your Principal, BoE member and Area Superintendent often participate so it is a good opportunity to interact with them and find out what is happening in your neighborhood schools. Find out more here.
The SDUSD GATE program website is here. In grade 2 all students are universally screened using the short CogAT screening form (not the full version) and other factors to determine eligibility (unless parents opt out). Gifted students may be identified as either "GATE Cluster" or "Seminar". depending on how they score. Appeals are handled by the Principal at your child's school.
Identified students must attend the GATE program offered at their own neighborhood school (unless there isn't one) or use the School Choice application during the open enrollment in October to request to change schools. GATE classes are taught by GATE-certified teachers who differentiate the depth, complexity, and rigor of the curriculum to suit the needs of the GATE-identified students in their class.
The BoE approved administrative procedures (policies) that guide the GATE program can be found here (scroll down to Series 6000 Instruction and find the link to BP6172 and AR6172).
The GATE program is currently the responsibility of the Executive Director of Leadership & Learning (Jim Solo) but since 2017 there is no longer any central GATE office or GATE Manager due to budget cuts. The District subsequently moved to a "site-based model" for GATE, where each Principal is in charge of their own GATE program.
Questions/concerns should first be directed to your school Principal, before contacting the central administration at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling them at 619-725-7242
California changed the way that public school districts are funded when it passed the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) legislation in 2013 (for more detail, see an LCFF Guide here). That ended the categorical funding "buckets" - including the one that earmarked money to support GATE programming - and it also repealed the Education Code pertaining to GATE (see the history of these changes here). Now it is up to each local school district to decide how to spend its own funding, and whether or not to fund GATE. Districts do this via their LCAP, which is a 3-year planning document that outlines the District's priorities and plans for funding them.
School year 2019-20 is the last year of SD Unified's first LCAP so development of the next 3-year plan is underway. This is the most critical way for GATE parents to advocate for gifted programs. If the District does not include strong protections to support GATE in the LCAP then it will cease to exist. Get involved in the GATE DAC and actively participate in LCAP planning/development to help protect GATE. See this handout prepared by CAG that explains LCFF and suggests questions you can ask the District about how it is including GATE in meeting California's 8 State Priorities. Use this information to help you formulate feedback on the District's proposed 2020-23 LCAP.
San Diego Unified Mission & Vision 2030
The mission of San Diego Unified is: All San Diego students will graduate with the skills, motivation, curiosity and resilience to succeed in their choice of college and career in order to lead and participate in the society of tomorrow.
Vision 2020 (Quality Schools in Every Neighborhood) is a community-based school reform plan that "engages all parents, staff, students and community members". It outlines the 12 Indicators of a Quality Neighborhood School - does your school meet these criteria? Vision 2020 is being updated now and input is being gathered on the priorities the District should include in its next 10-year vision statement, Vision 2030. To comment on the priorities the District is considering, fill out the Vision 2030 Survey here!
SDUSD Reports and Data - You can access data by school or by cluster by selecting "District Reports" on the Research and Evaluation Department website. It compiles, processes, analyzes, and reports student, school, and district achievement, assessment, demographic, and other data. District "Fast Facts" are here. The table of demographics for 2013-2019 that shows the trend towards a decreasing number of GATE Cluster and Seminar students in District managed schools is here.
California School Dashboard - Now you can search on any school using the new California Department of Education Dashboard and call up reports describing how districts, schools (including charter schools and alternative schools), and student groups are performing across state and local measures. Note that GATE students are not broken out as a student group in these reports but CAG is now working with legislators to get that changed. State measures include chronic absenteeism, graduation rate, suspension rate, and academic (which includes performance in English language arts/literacy and mathematics). Future state measures will include performance on the new California Science Test (CAST). Local measures are reported by school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools based on data available only at the local level. These measures include clean and safe buildings, school climate, parent engagement, and access to a broad course of study.
California School Climate, Health, and Learning Survey (CalSCHLS) - A tool supported by the California Department of Education to help districts meet LCAP priorities to improve school climate, pupil engagement, parent involvement, and academic achievement. Provides school districts and their partner communities with quality local data which can be used to improve student academic performance and social-emotional, behavioral, and physical health of all youth. Includes 3 different surveys: CA Healthy Kid Survey; CA School Staff Survey; CA School Parent Survey. The reports available here include the School Climate Report Cards and results of the CSPS.
Relevant to GATE parents is the California School Parent Survey (CSPS) which is an annual online survey for every parent/guardian of students in grades TK-12. CSPS identifies the high priority needs and concerns of parents that schools should address in promoting greater involvement. The short survey provides a means to confidentially obtain:
Every GATE parent needs to fill out this CSPS survey each year! This will ensure that GATE issues are part of the conversation at your school site and in the District (e.g., how are supplemental and concentrations funds being spent to support GATE? Did your school have 2 GATE Parent Meetings per year as required? How well is the school communicating with GATE parents? Are GATE parents being given opportunities to provide meaningful feedback on the GATE program at your school? Does your school site have a parent representative actively participating in the GATE DAC? Is the GATE Program Summary that describes the GATE program at your school up-to-date? Is it being followed?)
Parent participation in the CSPS survey is very poor (only 31%) and GATE parents in particular have not been using this important opportunity to make their voices heard. Ask your Principal about when this year's CSPS survey will be coming out - and participate!