School district failing our best and brightest students

Gilroy’s great debate over the merits of the Gifted and Talented
Education program ended with this:

Gifted students in grades eight to 11 saw the biggest math drops
overall: 27 percentage points in eighth grade; 31 percentage points
in ninth grade.

Gilroy’s great debate over the merits of the Gifted and Talented Education program ended with this: “Gifted students in grades eight to 11 saw the biggest math drops overall: 27 percentage points in eighth grade; 31 percentage points in ninth grade.”

That one statistic from reporter Lori Stuenkel’s recent report on disappointing test scores proves that the Gilroy Unified School District is long overdue for an entirely new approach that will challenge students who can do more. GUSD’s current gifted and talented education program is in shambles, wrecked by years of indifference and neglect. It’s a travesty that the district refuses to acknowledge and stubbornly resists.

Is there a Gilroy School trustee or candidate willing to go to bat for better students who want to be challenged? Is Superintendent Edwin Diaz willing to go “out on a limb” and propose a complete program overhaul that will recognize, reward and challenge high-achieving students?

Why is it that we as a community can accept that some players on the soccer team, for example, are more skilled athletes than others and will start the game, but we’re not willing to concede that is also the case in the classroom?

GUSD needs a 180-degree shift in its attitude toward GATE students. That begins with every employee, from trustees, district officials and administrators to teachers and aides, realizing that the following commonly held beliefs are myths:

n Myth: GATE kids are achieving at grade level, and that means their educational needs are being met.

Just like average and underperforming students, GATE-identified students have the right to a public education that engages and challenges them. Failure to give them that is a breach of the district’s responsibility to GATE students and to taxpayers. It also contributes to the brain drain of students to private schools, which continues to damage this district in a multitude of ways.

n Myth: GATE kids are only white students from rich families headed by pushy parents.

There’s no reason that GATE student population demographics should differ significantly from the demographics of the general GUSD student population. If they do, that points to a failure of the district’s early GATE identification efforts. Outreach efforts to socio-economically disadvantaged students and to minority students should be expanded to make sure that every kid who should be in GATE is identified.

Every parent, whether their kids are in GATE or special ed, is their child’s most important advocate. It’s time to stop penalizing GATE parents for advocating for their children.

Clearly, with a precipitous drop in math scores from middle school and high school GATE students, GUSD is failing.

Of course the district needs to pay attention to underperforming students. They need tutoring and homework help and extra support to achieve their potential.

But there should be equal opportunity for GATE kids who need to be challenged by their curriculum. Wasted potential is a tragedy, no matter the I.Q. involved.

This is an important matter for the Gilroy community, to be sure, but its impact goes far beyond our small town’s borders. If we don’t produce students who are proficient in math and science, our society will be forced to look to other countries for our engineers, our physicians, our inventors and our researchers.

We urge GUSD officials to heed the lesson from these shocking test scores: The district needs an immediate and fundamental change in the way it identifies and educates Gilroy’s GATE students.

Failure will have widespread negative consequences for Gilroy and beyond. So, let’s stop parroting the politically correct status quo pablum and move this change to the top of the list.

Gilroy’s best students deserve our community’s attention. Now.

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