Research shows that advanced students do just as well in mixed-ability classrooms as they do in tracked classrooms. Classrooms at James Lick are primarily mixed-ability; GATE students are not separated into special classrooms. Each classroom with GATE students will include several GATE students.
The needs of James Lick’s GATE students are met mostly through differentiation of the curriculum. Departments work collaboratively throughout the year across grade levels to develop curriculum to meet student needs. In all classrooms, teachers provide deep learning experiences that allow for personal learning growth. Teachers also may provide extension activities or independent learning contracts for students who master concepts more quickly. Learning with mixed-ability peers allows GATE students to benefit from real diversity.
Teachers in all subject areas often incorporate project-based learning. Students work together, usually in groups, on complex tasks that deepen understanding for all students. These projects can be highly engaging on many levels. Most teachers also use graphic organizers, which, as research shows, support learning at all levels.
Some other great methods used by our teachers include using technology to present information, using role playing to demonstrate, supplement or assess learning, as well as inquiry based projects and games. All of these strategies are specifically recommended for GATE students and they are beneficial to all students.
Many GATE students at James Lick are in the Spanish Immersion Program, which provides a challenging curriculum in two languages. Learning and discussing language arts and history in a second language adds complexity and novelty to already high-level concepts and activities.
In sixth grade mathematics, students participate in once-a-week leveled “switch” classes, but are in mixed-ability classrooms the rest of the week. There are also some support classes in 6th and 7th grade. All eighth graders take Algebra I, with differentiation for advanced students.
In some of our P.E. and keyboarding classes, GATE students are expected to do more in depth research as well as show a higher level of mastery of skills.
Throughout the academic day and through elective and extracurricular activities, students have opportunities for personal development and teacher mentorship. It is our philosophy that GATE students do not need to be separated from their peers in order to explore their academic and creative potential – in fact, all students benefit from learning with peers of all backgrounds and abilities.