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GATE keeps their classes challenging

June 23, 2010|By Britney Barnes, britney.barnes@latimes.com

Students all learn at different paces, leaving teachers the challenge of repeating information for some students while maintaining the interest of those who absorbed the information the first time. Many people acknowledge the special needs of students who struggle with learning, but those who learn quickly aren't always recognized to have special needs as well.

Students who absorb and process information at an advanced level need an accelerated curriculum to keep them engaged and interested in school, which is exactly what the Ocean View School District's Gifted and Talented (GATE) program set out to do.

GATE clusters students at Circle View Elementary and Mesa View Middle School for classes that meet their specific needs and spark their interest.

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The students are taught the grade-level content with one exception, but at an accelerated level that allows teachers to go deeper in the subject and touch on more complex ideas. The students are also put in core classes with only other GATE students.

"When you have students with such a high intellect," they are able to delve into subjects to analyze them on a higher level, said Mesa View Principal Leona Olson.

Mesa View's math program is the class where students have the opportunity to work at a higher grade level. Sixth-grade students skip their grade-level course and are taught seventh-grade math, said Lorie Kooken, a GATE math and science teacher. By the time students move on to high school, they are ready for Algebra 2 trigonometry, a class normally taken by sophomores or juniors, Olson said.

When Olson took the helm of Mesa View seven years ago, she said she didn't really understand why the program was needed, but now she sees how the accelerated classes are necessary to challenge advanced students and keep them engaged.

The program is traditionally for students in fourth through eighth grade, but next year it will be expanded to third grade, said Circle View Principal Kathleen Jaquin.

"We know that we have a lot of students that have a lot of diverse and unique needs, and those kind of surface in third grade," she said.

Entrance to the program is based on the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test, or a combination of that test and state test scores and teacher recommendations.

Teachers are asked to look out for students who display unusually advanced vocabulary and logical reasoning, are eager for new projects and challenges, question information, are insightful and learn quickly, Jaquin said.

"I really believe that the program is beneficial for those students because they learn in a different way," Jaquin said.

Students throughout the district can be involved in the program, and those accepted are invited to transfer to the district's two magnet schools.

Students who don't make it into the program their first year can retake the OLSAT test every year.

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