Tuesday, May 22 , 2018, 5:47 am | Fair 51º

 
 
 
 

Latino Achievement Collaborative: We Support Restructuring Secondary GATE/Honors Courses

Santa Barbara School District proposal strengthens our schools and educational opportunities for all students

The Latino Achievement Collaborative is a coalition of local nonprofit organizations dedicated to educational equity and the academic success of Latino/a students. The Santa Barbara community has recently been focused on the Santa Barbara School District’s proposal to restructure GATE classes in secondary schools, including the removal of the designation of GATE from secondary classes and the creation of a rigorous Honors Program.

Our collaborative believes this is a proposal based on concrete research and sound educational practice that would strengthen academic programs for all students, including those currently enrolled in GATE classes. The proposed changes would have broad benefits because they would increase access to advanced coursework without sacrificing the high level of rigor in current GATE classes.

One of the reasons that we support the district’s proposal is because it would eliminate an unfair barrier that disproportionally prevents high-achieving first-generation college goers (that is, students who are the first in their family to potentially attend college) and Latino/a students from enrolling in advanced courses. The plan would re-designate GATE classes as Honors classes and maintain the same level of rigor in the courses. The proposal would create a consistent set of criteria to assess student readiness to participate in these classes (possibly to include GPA, GATE designation, teacher recommendation, and standardized test scores), rather than relying primarily on GATE designation and/or parental advocacy.

The proposed changes would help all parents ensure that their children have opportunities to participate in the most advanced, engaging and motivating classes for which they are qualified. This would be an important step forward in increasing equitable academic opportunities for all students, while preserving a program that offers rigorous instruction to advanced learners.

We have reviewed the evidence to support the proposal and found a strong case for the plan’s success. In particular, we are impressed by the data regarding the similar performance of GATE and non-GATE students in GATE classes and the fact that exemplary GATE programs throughout California do not offer specific GATE courses. GATE classes are not recognized by most colleges and students can be equally if not better prepared for higher education without attending GATE classes. The proposal is based on the successful example of La Cumbre Junior High, which uses criteria similar to that in the proposal to accept non-GATE-identified students into GATE classes. Finally, research shows that all students benefit — both academically and socially — from learning in classes that reflect the diversity of their school.

The Latino Achievement Collaborative has offered the programs and services of our member organizations to help the Santa Barbara School District’s plan succeed, including training opportunities for teachers, parents, and students. We believe that training and follow-up support for educators will be critical to successful implementation of the plan. We look forward to continuing to be a partner to SBSD schools in their efforts to achieve academic equity and success for all students.

— The Latino Achievement Collaborative is represented by Linda Güereña, coordinator, Parent Project; Sal Güereña, president, United Parents-Padres Unidos; Raquel López, executive director, La Casa de la Raza; Marisela Márquez, executive director, UCSB Associated Students; Gabriela Rodríguez, program coordinator, Future Leaders of America; Jarrod Schwartz, executive director, Just Communities Central Coast; and Belén Seara, executive director, PUEBLO.

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