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Currently, the school district provides little guidance and no funding for GATE programs. Students are assessed in their third grade year, and if they meet academic criteria, are assigned the GATE label -- usually by October of their fourth grade year.
WCCUSD in February 2011 assigned Harlan Kerr to oversee GATE within the district. At an El Cerrito High School GATE meeting in March, he outlined the existing program and discussed it's limitations and opportunities. The meeting was well attended, with parents and representatives from about ten feeder elementary and middle schools for ECHS. Feelings about the "GATE" label were mixed, but all in attendance recognized the importance of keeping kids engaged in the classroom and challenged among their peers. However, at least two others have administered the GATE program since then, and a top-down approach is at present unlikely.
So where is Fairmont in all of this? Our principal is among those who doesn't care for the GATE label; she feels it doesn't recognize the abilities of those who don't test well and those who demonstrate special abilities outside the standard boundaries. But she is a strong advocate of academic achievement. Teachers all have training in differential education and both the former Open Court tools and the new Treasures materials support challenging investigations beyond the standard curricula. At Fairmont, teachers are encouraged to teach the standards and to go beyond them when possible. So in effect, support for advanced learners is built in.
Still, we as parents want the best for our kids and want to support an academically challenging environment. Through it's Academic Program Excellence (APEX) committee, Fairmont is currently formulating a strategy in this regard, with an eye toward coordinating all of the existing efforts to provide fun and stimulating growth activities for our students, such as FASEP classes, family reading, math and science nights, our Spell-a-Thon and spelling bee, special science events, and sustainability activities. In Spring 2013, we resumed our judged science fair, with over 200 student participants. Future work might include a geography bee, rocketry and more -- we're limited only by our imaginations.
For more information or if you're interested in helping guide this effort, please contact the PTA.