GATE-Closing Plan Stirs Parental Debate at Lincoln Middle School

Adam Klawonn, San Diego Union-Tribune, May 19

VISTA—Parents of Latino students at Vista’s most ethnically diverse school are incensed over a campaign by other parents to preserve an honors program there.

The policy debate is taking place at Lincoln Middle School, where the principal is proposing mixing some of the school’s most gifted students with others of mixed academic abilities in an effort to pump up test scores.

The proposal to dismantle the Gifted and Talented Education, or GATE, program at the school is supported by the Latino parents, opposed by parents of the GATE students.

The matter returns to trustees of the Vista Unified School District for review Monday night.

“All students should be treated equally,” Latino parents said in a letter to the board and district administrators. “We believe that the school should not create differences between students who know more and students who know less.”

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After news of the proposed changes to Lincoln’s GATE program became public in late February, parents whose children are in the program protested on the school steps at lunchtime.

They held signs that read “Don’t punish the bright ones.” They said the change would be “dumbing down” their child’s rigorous education.

One parent said mixing the brightest with other students wouldn’t work because “you can’t compare an orange and an apple and say you’ll get the same juice.”

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GATE parents said preserving the program is about making sure their children stay challenged so they have a better chance at college.

It has nothing to do with ethnicity, said Crista McClure-Swan, a Vista real estate broker whose daughter is a GATE student at Lincoln.

She expressed disappointment that Latinos had raised the ethnic issue.

Robb Scheele, another GATE parent, agreed. “What we’re saying is, ‘Why get rid of a program that has worked so well?’”

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The student body at Lincoln is 63 percent Hispanic or Latino. Of the school’s 1,293 students, 437 are English-learners, and 99 percent of those speak Spanish.

That group has pulled down test scores, putting Lincoln on “program improvement” status under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

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