GATE Frequently Asked Questions

This page provides information about GATE and the District’s GATE Program. To review this information you can click on the following Frequently Asked Questions.

What is Gate?
What is the District’s GATE Program?
How are students identified for GATE?
What Academic and enrichment services does the District provide to GAGE-identified Students?
What social and emotional support services does the District provide to GATE-iedntified students?
How do the District’s professional development programs support GATE?
What is the GATE Advisory Council?
How does the District Evaluate its GATE program?
Where can I go for more information?


The State of California provides program and grant support to local school districts to establish Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) programs. Local GATE programs are to develop and provide unique opportunities for pupils in California public elementary and secondary schools that have been identified as gifted and talented, including those who are high-achieving and underachieving. The state provides general standards that offer districts considerable flexibility in defining who are “gifted and talented” and in designing local programs.

In September 2011, the District received a three-year re-approval of funding for the District’s GATE program, from the California State Department of Education, based on conformity with the state’s Exemplary Standards. The District’s application reflects substantial changes in the District’s GATE program compared to prior years, while continuing to incorporate GATE activities as integral parts of the District’s curriculum and student services. As explained in the District’s application for state funding:

A board adopted, Piedmont Unified School District goal is to engage teachers, administrators, parents, and students in the process of continuous improvement of the quality of the k-12 educational program, so that every student is inspired to achieve his/her fullest potential. Central to this District goal of inspiring students to achieve their fullest potential is the implementation of a GATE program that reaches the unique learning styles, abilities, and needs of students who perform at or show the potential to perform at an exceptionally high level of performance in one or more areas of expression.

The District’s GATE program is consistent with our belief that all capable students should be provided the opportunity to meet or exceed state academic content standards. This program emphasizes differentiation in the classroom and opportunities for enrichment in math, language arts, and the visual and performing arts. A large percentage of Piedmont students are GATE eligible, which necessitates consideration of the needs of our most capable and highest achieving students in all aspects of the general education program.

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The Piedmont Unified School District GATE program is coordinated at both the District and site levels, by specifically-assigned District and Site GATE Coordinators who work with other District personnel, parents and community members. The District GATE Coordinator provides program planning and implementation support District-wide, facilitation of GATE Advisory Council meetings, parent education, and content for the District’s GATE web page. The District and each Site GATE Coordinator plan for and provide teachers with in-service time and professional support from educational and counseling experts, to ensure teachers’ proficiency in identification of student learning styles and strengths, and in provision of differentiated instruction.

The Site GATE Coordinator at each school is responsible for ensuring GATE identification and program implementation consistent with the District-wide plan. This includes searching out students who are GATE eligible, supporting teacher-parent communications about the needs of individual students, providing teacher in-service, and planning for GATE expenditures with the school Site Council.

The District estimates that a high proportion (approx. 17%+) of students are eligible for GATE identification which means that the District must have a well articulated program that addresses the needs of GATE-eligible students across subjects and grade levels as part of the regular education program. Given the central program focus on cluster grouping and differentiation within general education classrooms, individual teachers ensure that the curriculum of GATE identified students is both consistent with state standards and intellectually and developmentally appropriate.

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Because students have a wide variety of “gifts” and “talents” the GATE program’s student identification efforts are quite broad, and different identification techniques are appropriate to different categories. PUSD considers all the following categories (which the State of California also recognizes):

  • Intellectual Ability: A pupil demonstrates extraordinary or potential for extraordinary intellectual development.
  • Creative Ability: A pupil characteristically: perceives unusual relationships among aspects of the pupil’s environment and among ideas; overcomes obstacles to thinking and doing; produces unique solutions to problems.
  • Specific Academic Ability: A pupil functions at highly advanced academic levels in particular subject areas.
  • Leadership Ability: A pupil displays the characteristic behaviors necessary for extraordinary leadership.
  • High Achievement: A pupil consistently produces advanced ideas and products and/or attains exceptionally high scores on achievement tests.
  • Visual and Performing Arts Talent: A pupil originates, performs, produces, or responds at extraordinarily high levels in the arts.

The District recognizes that ability and talent may occur across multiple domains (e.g. student who excels at multiple academic subjects, or in several performing arts) or one domain (e.g. student who excels at math or visual art). Regardless of how broad or narrow a student’s giftedness may be, teachers strive to foster advanced development in the areas in which students are intellectually and developmentally ready to delve more deeply into curriculum and concepts than typically developing peers.

How does the GATE program assess students?

Formal assessment and identification of all students begins in third grade. However, administrators, teachers, and parents may refer k-2 students who appear to require greater differentiation to a Child Study Team. The team will review the needs of the child and consider appropriate accommodations in the classroom.

Kindergarten through Second Grade

Students in grades k-2 are not identified as part of the District’s GATE plan. However, the District recognizes that giftedness may be apparent in these grades. Any parent, teacher, or administrator who perceives that a k-2 grade student is gifted and not being appropriately served may request the principal to convene a Child Study Team meeting at which a team of educational professionals will review the need for further differentiating the child’s learning experience.

Grades 3 through 12

The District’s general GATE identification process begins in 3rd grade and extends through 12th grade. Each school conducts its own identification activities, following District procedures.

Site principals serve as GATE Coordinators at each elementary site. At the secondary level, site principals or academic counselors may serve as GATE Coordinators. Each site uses a GATE Assessment Review Team, whose members may include teachers, counselors, and the site GATE Coordinator. The composition of the team will be determined by the GATE coordinator at each site and will depend upon the nature of the referral. GATE Assessment Review Teams meet regularly to review referrals for GATE identification and to make a determination of eligibility. Students can be referred by parents, teachers, and administrators for participation, based on the criteria discussed below. Multiple sources of evidence for giftedness are to be used and a record is to be maintained in the student’s cumulative file. Transfer students whose cumulative files indicate that they were found to be GATE eligible in a previous District are to be reviewed for GATE eligibility based on this District’s GATE identification criteria within 30 days after enrollment. Parents and teachers are informed of the decision regarding their student’s eligibility and notified of the appeal process.

Each site administrator is responsible for providing teachers and other appropriate staff with training and information about the identification process. Students may be referred once annually. Sites maintain data on nominees and include these data in reassessing students who are referred more than once. Parents, teachers, and administrators may refer a student to be considered for GATE eligibility. Students who may be GATE eligible will be sought out by site and district administrators. The District provides a GATE referral form, which may be obtained from school sites and the District website [provide hotlink]. Any parent wishing to make a referral must complete a referral form and submit to the site GATE coordinator.

What general identification criteria are used?

The District’s formal GATE identification process begins with testing of all students in the spring of 3rd grade. All 3rd grade students will be given the opportunity to take the Otis-Lennon School Abilities Test (OLSAT) each spring. A passive consent form will be provided to parents to provide an opportunity to decline testing.  Any student scoring in the 98th+ percentile on any portion of the OLSAT will meet the eligibility criteria for GATE.

Students who are English Learners or students with language-based disabilities may be administered the NNAT, a nonverbal ability measure. A score in the 9th stanine is required to meet the criteria for GATE eligibility.

Parents may request to have their student reassessed once annually after 3rd grade, in the spring of each year.

In addition, a parent, teacher, or administrator may refer a student who has not obtained a 9th stanine score to a GATE Assessment Review Team for consideration of alternative criteria; these include teacher observations, work samples, and STAR assessment data.  The District does not base eligibility decisions on privately obtained assessments. A student must first have taken the OLSAT or NNAT in order for the alternative criteria to be considered. Transfer students, who have not been previously GATE identified in their previous District, may be assessed in the spring. Alternative criteria, such as teacher observation and work samples may be particularly important for identifying students who are gifted or talented in areas such as the arts, athletics, or leadership.

Each site uses a GATE Assessment Review Team, whose members include the site’s GATE coordinator plus other teacher(s) and counselor(s) he or she determines are appropriate based on the nature of the referral. GATE Assessment Review Teams meet as needed to review referrals for GATE identification and to make a determination of eligibility. Students can be referred by parents, teachers, and administrators for participation on the basis of intellectual ability, high achievement, creativity, leadership skills, and/or artistic talent. Multiple sources of evidence for giftedness are to be used and a record is to be maintained in the student’s cumulative file. Parents and teachers are informed if their student is found GATE eligible.

Transfer students whose cumulative files indicate that they were found to be GATE eligible in a previous District will be identified as GATE-eligible within 30 days after entering the Piedmont Schools.

How can parents become involved in identification activities?

In addition to identification based on the criteria above, and to referrals from teachers or other District staff, parents can refer individual 3rd through 12th grade student for GATE by using the District GATE referral form at any time.  Eligibility determinations are made within 30 school days after the Site GATE Coordinator receives the parent referral.

Parents wishing to appeal their student’s GATE eligibility determination may complete an appeal form in writing and submit it to the site GATE Coordinator. At non-elementary schools, where the site GATE Coordinator is not the principal, the Coordinator shares the appeal with the principal. The parent is provided an opportunity to meet with the site GATE Coordinator, principal, and a teacher who knows the student. If the concerns cannot be resolved at that meeting, then the parent may contact the District GATE Coordinator to discuss the issue further. The District GATE Coordinator’s decision on the issue will be final.

How are notifications of GATE eligibility made?

Once a student has been found GATE eligible, in grades 4-6, their parent will be provided, in writing, a list of differentiation strategies that will be used as deemed appropriate by the teacher, throughout the year.  Students transferring to another district will be provided with GATE identification information as part of their cumulative file which is sent on to the receiving district.

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General education classroom differentiation is the primary service option for identified GATE students. The District provides a differentiated curriculum, designed to respond to the needs, interests, and abilities of all students, including gifted and talented students.

A core purpose of differentiation for GATE students is to promote their deeper and more complex understanding of core content, so these students are appropriately challenged to meet or exceed state standards. Differentiation for these students provides for access to advanced content, the balanced development of critical, creative, problem solving and research skills, which will facilitate student preparation of products appropriate to their abilities and beyond simply greater quantity of work produced by students. When deemed appropriate by the teacher, core curriculum materials may also be compacted for enriched instruction and learning. Appropriate differentiation should lead to higher self-concept and efficacy for learning, as well as sensitivity to and respect for individual differences.

The form and appropriateness of differentiation is determined by teachers and administrators, with consideration of parent input. Families of GATE students are also informed of and encouraged to have their children participate in additional enrichment activities available at the student’s school. Furthermore, available supplemental instructional opportunities (e.g. elementary math specialists) and acceleration (e.g. 6th grade pre-algebra) are made available to GATE students as appropriate to their area(s) of giftedness.

The District’s program serves GATE students who are talented in traditional academic areas as well as areas including creative ability, leadership, and visual and performing arts. At the elementary level, programming primarily consists of in-class differentiation and enrichment activities. In addition, elementary GATE identified students with advanced mathematics aptitude are eligible to receive supplemental instruction from the elementary math specialist who clusters students of like ability and provides augmentation to regular classroom instruction. Elementary GATE students may also benefit from site librarians steering them to the rich selections of literature at each site. Students also have access to technology and support from site technology specialists. Furthermore, math/science, library and technology staff all support teachers in developing and providing appropriate curriculum materials to classroom teachers so that they may effectively differentiate instruction/curriculum for GATE students.

In middle and high school, GATE programming incorporates in-class differentiation, acceleration, and enrichment activities. Secondary level administrators also attempt to provide cluster groups of 5 students in language arts/English, math, and science courses (although such clustering may not be possible due to scheduling conflicts). Library and technology materials also support differentiation. The middle school currently also offers acceleration in math, which begins with placement of eligible 6th graders in 7th grade pre-algebra and continues through high school. If student numbers and budget allow, such acceleration can be expected to occur each year.

GATE students are also encouraged to participate in social and community group activities such as Peer Mediators at Piedmont Middle School and Youth Educators at Piedmont High School. In addition, students are encouraged to participate on the teen advisory board at the high school.

Once students enter high school, there are multiple opportunities to select advanced placement and honors courses across subjects such as mathematics, science, history, English, foreign languages and fine arts.

Middle school enrichment activities have included the National Geographic Geography Bee, creative writing, Mathletes, Shakespeare club, Chess club, film club, spelling bee, leadership, and after-school Jazz Band. Enrichment opportunities at Piedmont High School include Mathletes, the Piedmont Piper student literary magazine, mock trial, and the student art show. Enrichment opportunities vary from year to year based upon student interest as well as teacher/parent support and availability of funding. Although most GATE programming is provided by the District during the school day, Jazz Band, Mathletes, and Shakespeare club have typically occurred after school and some other activities, such as National Geographic Geography Bee and Destination Imagination rely on parents to organize and facilitate activities after school. The District supports these parent-organized enrichment activities by obtaining and providing facilities, communicating the activities to students and the community, and addressing materials and other related costs when appropriate.

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The District recognizes that gifted learners may experience social and emotional challenges related to their unique talents and needs. As a result, staff in-service trainings are conducted to inform teachers and administrators of the social and emotional issues faced by gifted students. In this way, staff is able to observe for difficulties that may emerge for individual students and to refer them for counseling when additional support is warranted.

All students have access to extensive academic counseling at the secondary level. The District works with students and families to ensure that students complete an academic program that fits the students’ interests and prepares them for post-secondary opportunities that will continue to provide them with experiences that further foster their gifts and talents.

The District also works to ensure that parents are provided with resources and parent education opportunities that help develop awareness of the characteristic learning and social/emotional needs of gifted students.

All teachers receive training in recognition of at-risk behavior by students, including those that may be associated with gifted and talented students. In addition, the District has counselors at each site who are available to assist GATE students when social, emotional or academic difficulties arise. The District provides a variety of counseling and special support services, and also makes referrals to outside agencies when needed. Parents receive general information about these services, and are involved directly when their student requires assistance. At Piedmont High School, GATE students also have access to the Wellness Center, where any high school student struggling with academic, social-emotional, substance abuse, and/or relationship issues may receive assistance.[] Some GATE students may also struggle if English is not their primary language. The District’s English Language teachers are trained to observe for underachievement that may be the result of language barriers. When instances of underachievement emerge, teachers and administrators work with parents to differentiate the educational program so that students can access curriculum at an appropriate level. This may require implementation of remedial interventions or classroom accommodations

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District-wide professional development is constructed with the intent of meeting the needs of all students, including those who are GATE identified. The District strives to provide professional development that includes workshops and coaching experiences.

The current District professional development program aims to provide teachers with opportunities to develop their skills in differentiating instruction/curriculum for all learners, including GATE students. Most recently, the District’s elementary focus has been in the areas of math and writing. In the domain of writing, at the elementary and middle school levels teachers are receiving professional development in the Writers Workshop model of writing instruction. The Writer’s Workshop model is known for providing students with highly developed language skills the opportunity to stretch the complexity and richness of their written expression. In the area of k-6 math, teachers are receiving professional development in the Math Solutions model of mathematics instruction. Math Solutions is a problem solving based approach to mathematics that encourages students to make use of divergent thinking and extension of math concepts at the student’s level.

As the District plans professional development for the 2008-2009 school year, a key area of focus is differentiated instruction at all levels. The intent is to provide teachers with exposure to programs and instructional strategies that will serve the large proportion of high achieving students we have in the District.

While District-wide professional development is the primary manner in which teachers are trained in strategies for differentiation, teachers also have opportunities to attend workshops that occur outside the District as appropriate topics related to gifted education arise.

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The District sponsors a well-attended GATE Advisory Council that includes educators, parents and community members, and which meets regularly to address philosophical and program design issues. This process is facilitated by the District GATE coordinator. In 2008-2009, it is anticipated that 3 meetings will be held. In addition, the District will provide 2 parent information nights.

Click here to view GATE Advisory Council Meeting Dates

In an effort to see that all constituents are represented, the District publicizes GATE Advisory Council meetings in site newsletters and on the District website, and specifically invites parents of gifted students with special education needs or English language development needs to attend.

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What District-wide data on GATE-identified students’ achievement are available?

The state requires the District to provide data and information related to the academic progress of GATE students utilizing the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) testing data, or analyzing such data over multiple years for one or more standardized tests (STAR testing for English/language arts, mathematics, and science compared to overall district student results; California Achievement Test (CAT 6) for grades three and seven; or local tests) and/or other information related to the academic achievement of GATE students. The District compiled information test information in an Appendix to the District’s 2008 GATE application, which is available here.

How does the District track implementation of GATE Program activities?

The District GATE Coordinator works with individual Site GATE Coordinators to ensure the implementation of the District’s GATE plan. In addition, The District GATE Coordinator will provide a annual written report of the District’s GATE plan implementation and activities to the board of education.

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Site GATE Coordinators:

Piedmont High School: Karyn Shipp 594-2762
Millennium High School: Ting Hsu-Engleman 594-2702
Piedmont Middle School: Eric Mapes 594-2664
Beach Elementary: Julie Valdez 594-2666
Havens Elementary: Tery Susman 594-2699
Wildwood Elementary: Carol Cramer 594-2711

District GATE Coordinator:

Randall Booker 594-2877

GATE Advisory Council
GATE Resources on the Web

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