Are GATE classes bad for kids? : LUSENET : Novenotes : One Thread

Al didn't have a good experience in his gifted class. On the other hand, we sent our Bernadette to one from 2nd through 8th grades, and it was great.

She was reading in Kindergarten and the class was doing some transitional phonics alphabet "reading." She was, oddly enough, bored. The next year she was in a first-second class, which worked well enough, but when she tested for the Rapid Learner program, she was at 7th grade level in just about everything. This is the kid who was explaining fractions to me when she was 4, entirely on her own. There wasn't an ordinary public school that could handle this, and we had already given up on the Catholic school, to the relief of the teacher there.

I felt a little guilty at first, but someone with a retarded child pointed out that she sent her daughter to special classes, and that Bernadette deserved the same. And the gifted second grade teacher was a gem. She said it was important to the kids to realize that there were areas someone else was smarter in. None of the children was the best at everything, and she wanted them to know that. In later years they were made to do their homework and learned how to study. (This didn't happen to me till I was a grownup, and it was shattering in college... suddenly I didn't know everything, and I DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO LEARN. I lost a National Merit Scholarship for poor grades.)

Also, they were big on cooperative learning rather than competitive learning, and the kids did, indeed, as the teacher commented, "strike sparks off each other." Furthermore, they got some pretty exceptional field trips. In 7th grade, for instance, we took a trip to Ashland. One of the plays, "In God's Country", is plenty difficult for junior high age (or adults, for that matter), but the Theater had a number of very good workshops on the topic. We also went to Yosemite twice and the Marin Headlands once.

Admittedly, our school district has a well-developed gifted program. They do not just throw the geeks together in a classroom. However, I think that keeping my daughter in a regular class would have been a mistake. She'd have been bored, and wouldn't have liked school (and probably wouldn't have gotten the scholarships she did, either.) In high school we put her into the Catholic girls' school where she could take all the advanced classes she wanted.

In short, Al, (too late!) I don't agree! Nor did I agree with this article, mostly because, indeed, the other kids do hate the "smart ones" so the smart ones learn to hide it. (I was lucky enough to go to a university lab school, and we had a LOT of smart kids.) If the smart ones are all in a class, they learn they aren't so smart, that someone is always smarter in something, and that there are ways to learn stuff other than osmosis.

-- ---Jan--- (, June 12, 2000


I'm glad it was a positive experience for you, Jan. And certainly I believe in special classes for the mentally impaired, so I'm somewhat contradictory on the subject.

I just know it was a change at the wrong time for the wrong reasons, and one of my greatest mistakes.--Al

-- Al Schroeder (, June 12, 2000.

I could read before I started school, this put me ahead of my age in some ways, not bragging, just stating. Due to an illness I missed the entire fourth grade. On my return the teachers and principal persuaded my Mom and Dad to let them pass me on into the fifth grade because of my "intelligence."

Until I dropped out of high school it was impossible for me to keep up with my grade level. I had fairly good English usage, punctuation and spelling. But did not know a damn thing about other aspects of grammar. But even worse, trying to catch up with the others in the world of figures was the worst thing that happened to me. Math of any form, geometry, algebra were in a language I knew not. One way or another I barely made it from grade to grade, doing summer school, etc.

I can see exceptional children given more or more challenging facets of learning, while keeping them with the core group.

In the outside world they will have to exist amongst all different kinds of people and segregating them in school does them a dis-service.

In my humble opinion..................

-- Denver doug (, June 12, 2000.

In my high school, kids were sorted into class groups based on their skill level. I was in the excelerated English and Science groups, while only in the 'above average' math group. The excelerated classes were better, because the subject matter was more challenging, and we weren't disturbed by the troublemakers who didn't want to learn. What is school about, but learning? It would have been awful to have been held back, because the teacher had to explain basic things we already knew. And it would be hard for those that need that special explaining to try and keep up with the others. There's plenty chance to be in groups with all types. (For instance, in gym, everyone is mixed together. If it had been skill-related, I'd have been in the lowest group!

-- Joan Lansberry (, June 13, 2000.

In my teaching experience (special ed.) the best classes I've seen have been integrated ones, but ones where different kids were expected to do different things, based on their ability. For example, a group of kids could be working on a big project making maps, but for one of my mentally impaired kids their whole goal in the project could be learning to cut, paste, ask kids to pass art supplies- totally different goals from the other kids. Just because kids with different abilities are in the same class doesn't mean they should be working at the same level. No matter how much you try to break kids into ability levels your still going to have a variety of learning styles and abilities to deal with. That's what the work force is like too- and school should try to model itself after the work environment. The trick is learning to have kids doing a variety of things in one room and supervising it all. In my experience self contained classes just aren't as good. The kids learn more abberent behaviors from eachother, learn less social skills, and have a harder time keeping jobs once they get to the high school vocational programs. I've never really seen a gifted program, so I can't really have an opinion on that yet.

-- AJ (, June 13, 2000.

I was put in GATE classes after my first grade teacher decided not to let me skip second grade, since I was still smaller than a lot of the kindergarteners.

I stayed in GATE through sixth grade, and was transferred to a prep school for junior high, 7th and 8th.

I didn't take a "regular" class until my sophomore year of high school, when I took a regular english course out of sheer laziness. The teacher spent the entire hour, every day, babysitting. I learned nothing.

So in my opinion, GATE classes are good because they give the kids who want to learn an environment to do it, but on the other hand, I, and most of my classmates, was still bored in the classes we were taking. They always teach to the lowest common denominator, and in a large metropolitan area, even the "smart" classes are just a lot of wasted time.

-- Brianna Privett (, June 17, 2000.

I am now a college student but I took Gifted & Talented classes all through school. I, too, was an early reader; I was reading proficiently before preschool, so my English and reading scores were always sky-high on school tests (97th percentile at the lowest). Of course, math never made sense to me, so that was my weakness, but I was a quick learner in everything else. Eventually I was tested for the gifted and talented program and was accepted... in elementary school, I never felt all that "different" from the other kids - just lucky because once or twice a week I would hop on a bus and go to a different school where I took the G&T classes.

Mostly, these classes gave me a chance to exercise my mind beyond the three R's, so to speak. We had units on computers, archaeology, foreign cultures... and we were around people who were gifted, which was important. But more importantly, we were gifted in different ways, so we were always being stretched and challenged and tested, even by our classmates. That's why I think we were still not "homogenized" or "segregated" by being in the G&T courses. Yes, we got to escape from the yahoos who hated learning and school in the first place. But otherwise, we were a diverse bunch of characters. After 6th grade, the G&T program was not a pull-out program. Instead, a G&T student could take accelerated or different courses than regular students could, courses on par with honors courses, but always different than the honors courses, and generally taught by a talented and experienced teacher. That kind of special treatment is invaluable in a graduating class of 712...


-- Stephanie (, June 18, 2000.

I was in GATE starting in fourth grade (I think). Ours was a program where one afternoon a week we met and did various activities. In Junior High, it was an elective, and in High School there were AP classes. We still spent enough time with the other students that I think we were reasonably well socialized, but I know I would have had a much harder time with school without these classes. I knew that for at least one afternoon a week, or an hour a day, I wouldn't have to pretend I didn't know things I knew or that I didn't care about school, to try to fit in. I would have been different with or without GATE, but with it at least I fit in a little bit of the time.

Plus, we learned really interesting, non-traditional stuff. I can still identify Victorian architecture, but I couldn't diagram a sentense if my life depended on it. Our program focused on the higher levels of education (synthesis and evaluation as opposed to knowledge and comprehension).

Sorry to ramble, but I think it was a really good experience. I don't think I would want my (future) children in a program like that all the time, but part time I would definitely be in favor of it.

-- Amanda (, June 21, 2000.

I was identified as gifted at a young age. The school district's philosophy was to give you more work. I didn't see the benefit of being smart 'seemed like a punishment. Then when I did the work they asked they were angry when I got it done too soon so they gave me more. I didn't see any logic in that. I asked my Mom to not let the school system know that I was gifted when I moved to middle school. They treated me like I was stupid and I flunked the first quarter of my English class (my best subject). My mother was livid.

My most successful classes were because of intelligent and good teachers -they were not always labeled gifted classes and they were only in High school and College.

I wish the bias about gifted was not so strong. Gifted children are smart -not alien, not super-human.

-- K. Thomas (, January 02, 2003.

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