G.A.T.E. Program in Middle School

Updated on January 08, 2015
L.M. asks from Nampa, ID
9 answers

Do any of you have any insight to the GATE program? (Gifted And Talented Education). My daughter is in 6th grade and her entire school "career" has been flooded with incredible reviews, grades and encouragement from teachers and others involved in her learning experiences. Last year, she got all A's except one B. This year (at end of 2nd quarter) she has straight A's and it seems to come so easily to her! I'm getting e-mails out of the blue telling me what a joy Emily is, how great she is, and we're often told straight out how teachers wish all their sturdents could be like her and what a great role model she is to others; i.e., helping others, befriending awkward or new students, going out of her way to help, etc.. you get the picture. :)

I've heard about this GATE program and think she could benefit from it, from what I know. I've contacted the person at her school in charge of it, but I'm curious what other parents think about it? Any likes, dislikes, etc.. would be appreciated. What are the benefits to the child? Are there any drawbacks? Would you recommend this to other parents/kids? I basically know nothing about it, so no bit of information is too small. :)



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So What Happened?

Dana K:

This is the first year she's been in this school, and we moved here at the beginning of last year (her last year of elem. school). I have only heard about GATE, and didn't know any information about it, so that is why I am asking. I was not aware that it had to recommended by a teacher for her to join. I posted the question so that I could learn more about it. :)

Thank you all for your responses and information. It's very informative and a lot to think about, even if they DO want her to join.

More Answers



answers from Sacramento on

I can speak as someone who was in GATE as a teen. For me, it meant the classwork was bumped up in difficulty. I was taking core classes a year ahead of the other students. For instance, I was in algebra a year before others would take it. You're in a class with other high achievers, so you're not slowed down by much of anything (you're not waiting for slow readers to finish reading aloud, troublemakers are non-existent, etc.). Expectations are high and homework levels are just as high (hours/night, even in junior high).

I really got a lot out of my time in GATE. It challenged me in ways school hadn't in the past.

By the time I got mid-way through high school, I started moving out of GATE in classes that weren't my strength. Math and science simply became too hard and I couldn't maintain the A grade necessary to stay in the program.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

The very best thing you can do is go to the gifted and talented program information night if the school holds one. Ours do; parents who have kids who might enter the program can go and tour the school (if it's in a different school --in our system sometimes kids move to another school if theirs does not offer GT classes), talk with teachers who teach these kids, find out how the program and the teaching are different from the base programs, etc. I hope your system has an information night like this. Stay on top of it -- sometimes announcements of things like info nights for special programs don't get widely publicized; you need to start asking now about it, and keeping track of the school system web site. There likely is a person in the school administration office who is the point person for all questions about GATE -- find out who it is, e-mail that person tomorrow and get started finding out about your school system's programs. Did the person at her school who is in charge of it tell you much? Ask to meet with that person and go with a ton of questions.

Each school system has its own gifted and talented (it's called "advanced academics" where we are) programs so it is of limited help for us in other areas of the country to advise you since our programs may be very different.

So I'd strongly advise you to find parents of kids already in these programs and talk with them. The school's adviser should be able to give you some references, possibly, if you do not have friends with middle schoolers in the program.

My daughter has been in advanced academics since third grade (that's when it starts here, but a qualified child can enter at any time in grades three through eight). It has been terrific for her. For kids who find school comes easily, it's important to challenge them and that does not just mean harder work or more work -- it means teaching that is unusual and creative, and classes with other kids who are on the same level as yours (having a peer group of kids who are at the same academic level really helps kids enjoy school and get a lot out of the teaching).

The benefits to these kinds of programs if they're run well: A child who is not bored, which means a child who doesn't have time to act out or get too distracted by social stuff. A child who makes friends who are as interested in school and learning as she is. Excellent preparation for high school. (My daughter's elementary gifted program had her very well prepared for middle school and I think her MS program will have her ready for HS.) More interesting assignments and projects that expect a lot more from the student, if the teachers teach well.

If your daughter balks at the idea at all, which she might do if she has to change schools (she'll change anyway to go to a new MS, right?), I'd have her go talk with a gung-ho teacher and some older students, or tour the school she'll be attending. When my daughter was in second grade and we were deciding whether to move her to another school for grades three-six to be in the program, a tour hosted by older kids made a huge difference -- she was ready to change schools the next day if it had been possible!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

GATE is different in each school, but sure, get her into it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Sounds like what we have here except we call it ATG (Academically Talented and Gifted). In our school this program is invite only. They have a criteria checklist for membership.

Ours is not determined by grades alone. We have an honors program that requires a GPA of 3.5. A big chunk of the honors program is not in our ATG. Ours look at state academic proficiency scores, creativity, and some other things I can not remember off the top of my head. It also requires its members to be involved in at least one other extra-curricular academic program like Lego Robotics, Math Olympiad, Science Olympiad, Social Studies Olympiad, etc.

My experience is limited to my daughter's ATG experience. Every year they have a theme and then they do a project based on that theme. It pretty much involves research and a presentation complete with a trifold board. They also do a service project at the end of each year. Ours meet after school twice a month for 2hrs each time.

I personally think the gifted program is great because my daughter loves it. She is the type who drools over research and presentation. I'm not sure if it is a drawback but it can get busy especially if your child has other things in her plate. Mine loves to be busy and I stay at home so for our household these are non issues.

My advice is to go for it. If your daughter realizes it is not her cup of tea then…

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

GATE programs vary so much from school system to school system.
Some are great while others are cut to ribbons due to budget cuts.
The gifted program in our son's middle school gave them more leeway to do projects/reports in different ways - powerpoints, making songs/poems, building models - but they covered the exact same material as the non gifted and took the same SOLs.
Sure give it a try and see what it's like in your area.

I take the option to not limit my son to JUST learning what the school is teaching.
Yes he has to slog through the boring stuff but once that is finished to the best of his ability (he's in 10th grade now and has had straight A's forever) he can go do what ever else interests him.
He's built catapults and rockets for fun and other science model kits.
He reads all the time, takes taekwondo and archery.
But the school work has to come first before all the fun stuff.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Programs vary greatly so it is difficult to really advise you. My son has been in his school's gifted program since he was in 2nd grade. He LOVES it - it is STEM based and he gets lots of individual attention. There is ZERO homework for the program and there is ZERO requirement that he maintain a particular grade. What his gifted team told us is that once you are in - you are in. His program involves 2 pull out hours a week. He is also in accelerated math and reading. These are separate programs for us - in many schools they are part of G&T. It means he is pulled out with the gifted reading teacher and a small group of other accelerated kids for reading each day - it is at the same time the classroom teacher does reading, so he doesn't miss anything. For math, he goes to a fourth grade math classroom (he is in third grade) with the other accelerated 3rd graders. I do not see any drawbacks and I suspect way less boredom.

In our school, all the teachers (so far) have been fully on board with the program and DS does not have any extra work and does not miss anything (they even noticed he would miss a few minutes of art and juggled his schedule to fix this). This is apparently not the case in every school, especially in full day pull out programs. You will need to investigate your particular program.

It is odd that if your daughter would be a good fit, that it has not been recommended to you years ago that she be tested for GATE. Most school districts have fairly rigid cut offs for entry into their programs and most of the time the testing is triggered by the classroom teacher, other teachers who may interact with the child or certain scores on various tests. Are you new to the district?

ETA: I would talk to her classroom teacher to find out whether she thinks GATE would be appropriate and what the process is. In our school, a student can be tested and enter the program at any time during the year. In some schools, testing may be done only once a year. Best of luck :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

I used to teach GATE and I was in GATE when I was in middle school. Programs really vary greatly between school districts.

When I was in GATE in middle school it meant one special class a day. We did some projects, but to be honest I remember very little about it. It was more of a "fun" class. There really wasn't a curriculum that was followed. It was just more what the teacher thought would be fun to do. I was also in the "top" section of three which basically just meant we moved a little quicker through the curriculum than the "low" group.

Our district has a highly gifted school-within-a-school for middle school students. It is very high caliber. Students must qualify through test scores or a very specific and formal portfolio process. There are a limited number of spaces and qualifiers are entered into a lottery system to see who is accepted. It has a high caliber curriculum that partially uses curriculum specifically developed for gifted students. It is more project based and requires a lot of higher level thinking skills. The teachers have had specific training in teaching gifted students.

Our other middles schools have programming for gifted students as well. Involvement is dependent on meeting certain qualifiers through a formal process. Some of the programming happens within the classroom. Classroom teachers get help from a gifted specialist to design assignments that require more than the average curriculum, but students aren't in a special class. They also have some honors classes (that are not high school level classes--students cannot earn high school credits). There is an accelerated math program that also provides an opportunity for students to go to the state university for math classes (they do not earn credit for it). There are some extra-curricular opportunities that are usually open to anyone--chess club, Destination Imagination, History Day, MathCounts, Math Masters, National Geographic Bee, spelling bee, science fairs, etc. There are also some literature circles.

I've taught in districts were the GATE program is nothing more than extra projects for whoever wants to do them.

The type of programming available will really be a big factor in determining if it will be a good fit or not for your child. The highly gifted program that our district has requires students to be very academic minded and very focused on school. I know some parents (and some kids themselves) who have chosen not to enroll their students in the program because they don't want their kids to have that much pressure on them and some who don't want their kids to be "nerds" and "miss out" on the social or athletic aspects of middle school. However, some of my former students who attended the highly gifted program were also very successful in athletic programs as well.

The extra curricular types of activities are usually a little more laid back. Chess Club is more about learning the game and strategizing. History Day and science fairs usually takes more dedication and focus, but usually for a short time span.

Honors type classes fall somewhere between. There may be more homework, or more challenging homework. In our district those classes tend to move through the required curriculum at a much faster pace with more complex enrichment type of assignments. It requires that students be pretty serious students who are pretty dedicated to their school work.

Benefits: more challenging school, less "boredom" if classes are too easy; strengthen higher order thinking skills; build self-confidence; opportunities to explore new areas of academia; more interaction with like minded students; more responsibility for taking ownership of your own education. Some of the benefits could be drawbacks is your daughter doesn't handle pressure well or if she isn't a really dedicated student.

Drawbacks: potentially more homework; being required to do more; more pressure to do well academically; maybe some distance developing between friends who are not involved in GATE programming and don't need to study as much. I've also seen some GATE students develop a perceived sense of entitlement because they are "smarter" than everyone else. But those students seem to be the same ones who have parents who think it is a life or death situation if their kid isn't identified as gifted and see identification as gifted as being a bragging point. Many of the drawbacks might not be drawbacks if your daughter is a very driven student.

Ask lots of questions about what qualifications there are to be in GATE classes. Does a student have to qualify to be involved? What are the qualifiers? What does the GATE program look like? What is required of students who are involved? What can you expect from the program? Is there a parent group that can answer questions for you? Our district has a parent group specifically for parents of kids in the GATE program. Can your daughter visit a GATE class and see if it would be a good fit for her?

Probably most important, be sure that your daughter wants to be involved in the GATE program. Don't force it on her. I had students who were just miserable in GATE classes because they really didn't have the drive or ambition to do the required work. They were only there because their parents wanted them to be there. I think GATE programming in our district is really good. I'm hoping that my kids will both qualify for it, but I also know it isn't a big deal if they don't.

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answers from San Francisco on

At our school the teachers identify kids they think would benefit from the program based on many factors, mainly test scores, classroom/study habits, grades, consistently performing ABOVE grade level and social/emotional maturity. I'm pretty sure if your child was a good candidate she would have been approached by now.
I mean, of course you can ask for her to be considered but just know that they may not put her in the program based on just your opinion/recommendation. And while she sounds like a wonderful, smart girl there are many like her, getting straight A's has become somewhat common in the modern, competitive, academic environment!

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answers from Atlanta on

Nearly all GATE programs are dependent on IQ scores, not grades. Although you can argue that the school test her, once the score comes back there's nothing else you can do. It's not typically something you just sign up for.

My husband and I both were labeled as gifted and went through gifted programs. We both enjoyed our experiences and don't have any negative things to say about it from a personal standpoint. Generally the gifted kids are all grouped together, especially in middle and high school. Some like the clustering, some don't.

In our experiences (different schools) the classwork was faster paced. There was usually more homework because we moved at faster speeds. Most subjects, the GATE kids were a full 1-2 years ahead of the "normal" population. For example, I was taking calculus when most kids in my grade were taking geometry.

If your daughter is competitive with her grades, she could put more pressure on herself, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. While my classes weren't cut throat, there was a lot of grade comparison due to 1. the desire to be the "smartest" and 2. vying for the valedictorian spot in high school. My lowest grade in middle/high school was a 94, and that's only because I'm weaker in English. I never got anything lower than a 98 in math/science and frequently had a 100 in those subjects as a term grade. If she's truly GATE (based on test scores), it can be a wonderful thing. If not, it's a lot to get swamped by. In my experience, the GATE kids still didn't study - they just got it. Most homework was done before they even got home from school. Projects were just a blip on the radar and were frequently started only 1-2 days before they were due. The high achieving kids that were grouped with the GATE kids would get boggled down with the studying necessary to keep up, all the homework, and projects.

Start by getting her tested. See if it is even an option. If it is, then I think it's worth trying.

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