The first step in identifying whether students in our District are eligible for GATE is a multiple-choice screening test automatically given to all 2nd graders (unless parents opt out). Each school decides when to hold the test for their students, so it may be in the fall or the spring. The test is done in a group setting, takes about 30-45 mins to complete, and is taken on a computer or tablet. Ask your Principal for details.
Since 2015, our District uses the short, screening version of the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT Level 8, which is for 2nd grade) and not the full battery (long version). The District no longer uses the Raven Progressive Matrices test for GATE identification (it was a non-verbal test designed to measure abstract thinking, spatial reasoning, and cognitive functioning). Find information about GATE testing here.
The Screening Form of the CogAT has 3 parts: 1) VERBAL: Verbal/Picture Analogies, 2) QUANTITATIVE: Number Analogies, and 3) NON-VERBAL: Figure Matrices. It is very important to know that for 2nd graders, the entire test is actually non-verbal (even for the VERBAL part of the test) because it relies on pictures to ask the questions, rather than using written or spoken language. This prevents English language learners from being disadvantaged in the test. In addition, because it measures reasoning abilities instead of testing the student’s knowledge, it is considered to be fair to all students.
According to the test authors, the CogAT measures general and specific reasoning abilities that reflect the overall efficiency of cognitive processes and strategies that are “closely related to an individual’s success in school”.
Because it is a test of cognitive ability, there is nothing you can study to try to “pass” the short CogAT screening test, other than to ensure that all the 2nd graders understand what an “analogy” is. A word of caution about searching online for CogAT practice tests – those focus on the full battery test which is not the test that our 2nd graders take - so they are not even applicable. The CogAT is not the same for every grade level either. It is unnecessary and unadvisable to stress out about practicing to take the test. In any case, in the interests of fairness, it is best for every student to take the test on an even, level playing field, so as not to bias the results in anyone’s favor. Read more in this article on testing posted on Hoagies Gifted website.
After testing, the District uses a computer algorithm to access the student record and pull the composite CogAT score (a single number) plus data from the math and English Language Arts portions of your child’s Standards Based Report Card (SBRC) into a scoring matrix. If the total matrix score is 135 (or more) points the student is recommended for the Seminar Program. A score of 121 (or more) points means recommendation for GATE Cluster. Find the "Short Guides" to GATE Seminar and Cluster here. You can also read the District's "Standards for GATE Program" policy document (AR 6172.2) on the Downloads page here.
Families should receive a letter from their home school with the results before the end of the school year. Watch out for this letter so you don't miss it (it could be in your child's backpack or mailed to your home or you may need to pick it up in person in the school office). Check with your school office if you don't get one because some action may be required before the end of the school year.
For new Seminar-identified students, if the home school does not offer any Seminar classes, you may use the “Seminar Intent to Enroll” process (before the summer recess begins) in order to request to switch in the fall to the closest neighborhood school that does.
Achievement tests measure what a student has already learned, and whether they are more advanced than other students in their grade level. You can study and practice to prepare for achievement tests. They can be formative (i.e., quizzes taken every now and then to measure progress) or summative (i.e., final exams taken at the end of the year). Familiar examples of achievement tests include the SAT, ACT or GRE (or even a driver’s test). They’re not intended measure how a student thinks or determine their potential. Doing well on an achievement test shows that the student is learning what they are supposed to be learning in school. As an example here in California, the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) System (which includes the Smarter Balanced Assessment or SBAC) was implemented in 2014 for grades 3-8 and 11 to replace the older STAR achievement tests.
Ability tests can assess cognitive and motor skills that have been acquired over a long period of time and are not the result of any specific instructional program. So, they can’t really be studied for or practiced in advance in the way that achievement tests can be. Ability tests predict the potential for academic success and often challenge the test taker to mentally manipulate symbols, numbers and the written language. Common examples of ability tests used for GATE identification include the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT), Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT), Raven's Progressive Matrices, Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, 5th Edition (WISC-V), Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT), or the Stanford Binet Intelligence Scales. Cognitive skills are not really learned in the same way that academic skills are; however, you can work on improving weak executive function, or exercising your brain’s ability to process, analyze and retain information.
Components of General Intelligence
In psychology, general intelligence is considered to be a combination of what is known as fluid and crystallized intelligence.
Crystallized intelligence is DEDUCTIVE. It is the ability to use learned knowledge that was previously acquired through education and experience. Crystallized intelligence correlates with abilities that depend on knowledge and experience, such as vocabulary, facts, and general information. It appears to be centered in regions in the brain involving long-term memory e.g., the hippocampus.
Fluid intelligence is INDUCTIVE. It is the ability to solve novel reasoning problems and is correlated with a number of important skills such as comprehension, problem solving, and learning. Fluid intelligence generally correlates with measures of abstract reasoning and puzzle solving. Fluid intelligence depends on working memory (i.e., the temporary holding of information for processing) and is centered in the “higher, thinking brain”, the pre-frontal cortex.
No one score on any one test (even an IQ test) can define the knowledge, ability, or potential of any student. Nor should referrals for GATE be entirely determined by parent or teacher recommendations (which can be biased). According to the California Department of Education, best practices support using more than one factor to identify GATE students. Achievement, intelligence quotient (IQ), ability, and other test scores; motivation; parent/guardian, student, and teacher recommendations; classroom observations; and portfolio assessment are some of the possible factors a district may use to identify GATE students.
Many districts use high academic achievement as a key factor for identifying students for their gifted program, but it does depend on how the particular school district defines giftedness and what services it has decided it will provide. Some districts consider intellectual or specific academic ability (highly advanced levels of performance in math or English language arts) and others also consider ability in visual or performing arts, creativity, or leadership.
San Diego Unified GATE Policy
According to District Administrative Procedure AR6172(a) that went into effect in Feb 2018:
Students may be recommended for the GATE program by administrators, teachers, counselors,
other staff, or parents/guardians. Identification is made under three state-established criteria selected by the district to provide an equal opportunity for all students to be considered for participation in the GATE Program. The three categories are:
1. Intellectual Ability. A student demonstrates extraordinary intellectual development or a
potential for extraordinary intellectual development.
2. High Achievement. A student consistently produces advanced ideas and products and/or
attains exceptionally high scores on achievement tests.
3. Specific Academic (secondary only). A student functions at highly advanced academic
levels in a particular subject area.
You can read the 2 Board of Education approved GATE Administrative Procedure documents that are posted on the Downloads page here.
Who Makes The Decisions?
Especially since the implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) legislation in California in 2014 (when the language in the state Education Code about GATE was repealed) decisions about identifying and serving gifted students are left entirely up to individual school districts. Our District has decentralized that decision-making even further by going to a site-based model for gifted education, where Principals make the decisions about GATE at their own schools.
In San Diego Unified, there is no longer any GATE department, GATE manager, or staff to handle the identification process, so students are assigned to either the Seminar or GATE Cluster program, depending upon the total number of points the student obtains in the automated scoring matrix. Appeals are handled at individual school sites by the Principal, along with all decisions about placement in Seminar or GATE Cluster classrooms. Not every school site offers GATE classes, and Principals can decide whether to group gifted students or distribute them across different classrooms. Best practice indicates that gifted students should be grouped and assigned to classrooms taught by experienced GATE-certified teachers who will differentiate their teaching to meet their special needs.