Expert Guide to GATE Program: All Your Questions Answered!

Although the “GATE program” can refer generally to gifted programs throughout the United States, here we’ll focus on gifted programs in California, which uses the acronym GATE in its literature.

We also have information on gifted programs in New York City, Chicago, and Virginia Beach, as well as helpful advice on finding gifted programs.

The GATE programs are designed to provide enriched, accelerated, and rigorous instruction to pupils identified as gifted by the California Department of Education.

The programs are planned and organized as integrated, differentiated learning experiences that occur within the regular school day.

## What does GATE stand for?

GATE stands for Gifted and Talented Education. “Gifted and talented” students are defined by the California Department of Education as pupils with one or more of the following:

  • Intellectual, creative, specific academic or leadership ability
  • High achievement
  • Performing and visual arts talent
  • ## How to Qualify

    Now that we’ve answered the question, “What does GATE stand for?” how can your child qualify for these opportunities?

    According to the California Department of Education, gifted students should be identified based on a wide range of data that indicates abilities far beyond those of the student’s chronological peers. This data may include:

  • School, class, and individual pupil records
  • Individual tests (including summary and evaluation by a school psychologist)
  • Group tests
  • Interviews and questionnaires (teacher, parent, and others)
  • Pupil products, such as portfolios
  • Often, the major requirement for gifted identification is achieving a high score on a challenging exam meant to measure cognitive abilities and potential for academic success. These tests include the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test, the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test, and the Cognitive Abilities Test.

    The exact test your child will be required to take varies by district, so you’ll want to contact your district or check out your district’s website for specific information.

    For example, Los Angeles requires students to take the OLSAT. GATE program hopefuls in Redondo Beach can take either the OLSAT or the NNAT and must score at or above the 95th percentile. The San Diego Unified School District requires students to take the CogAT in order to qualify for the GATE program. Look below for more details on these districts.

    First, let’s take a brief look at these three entrance exams.

    ### Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT)

    The Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test evaluates problem-solving and reasoning abilities with nonlinguistic test questions. Your child will answer questions relating to figures, shapes, symbols, and patterns. All objects and shapes on the test appear in blue and yellow, and each question offers five answer choices.

    There are four types of questions on the NNAT: pattern completion, reasoning by analogy, serial reasoning, and spatial visualization. The test is considered the most unbiased available, accurately evaluating students regardless of socioeconomic status, academic background, or even color vision impairment.

    ### Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT)

    The OLSAT measures verbal comprehension, verbal reasoning, pictorial reasoning, figural reasoning, and quantitative reasoning. The test is evenly split between verbal and nonverbal questions. The content, structure, and time limit of the test vary according to grade level.

    OLSAT questions are read aloud to K-2 students, and these questions can be read aloud only once. For this reason, it is important to work on focus and concentration with younger students before they take the OLSAT. If you are able to choose which test your child takes, the OSLAT is not the best choice for a child who speaks English as a second language.

    ### Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT)

    The CogAT measures cognitive reasoning in three areas that are closely correlated to academic performance: verbal, quantitative, and nonverbal abilities.

    The test is administered to K-12 students, and there are ten different CogAT levels based on age. Depending on the level, the CogAT has between 118 and 176 questions. Students are typically given 30-45 minutes per battery (section). In total, the test should take 2-3 hours to complete.

    ## What educational options does the GATE program provide?

    If you believe your child can score highly on the admissions test to the GATE program, you’ll want to explore the options offered to you.

    Let’s take a journey into the particulars of different programs: In California, each school district may design its own gifted and talented programs. Options include part- time groupings, cluster groupings, and special day classes.

    Part-time groupings involve classes or seminars that provide advanced, enriched subject material to gifted and talented pupils for a portion of the school day.

    In cluster groupings, gifted and talented pupils are grouped within a regular classroom for differentiated instruction from the regular classroom teacher.

    Special day classes are classes consisting of gifted and talented students taught by an experienced and trained gifted teacher.

    The classes total a minimum school day and are meant to meet the needs of gifted students for advanced and enriched instruction.

    Below we have provided information for several individual districts in California so that you might find some actionable information about the GATE program in your neighborhood.

    ### Redondo Beach School District

    For example, gifted students in Redondo Beach receive differentiated instruction in clustered groups throughout the school day, as well as enrichment opportunities over the course of the year.

    To qualify for the GATE program in Redondo Beach Unified School District (RBUSD), students will need to score:

    A percentile score of 95 or higher on the Otis Lennon Ability Test(OLSAT), or

    A percentile score of 95 or higher on the Naglieri Non-Verbal Ability Test (NNAT)

    All 3rd grade students are universally tested in the spring of each school year. 4th or 5th grade students can participate in testing if the student is new to the school district, if a parent requests it, and students who have not already been tested.

    Students who scored between the 90th and 94th percentile in the previous school year are also allowed to test again.

    ### San Diego School District

    In San Diego, gifted students attend seminars or learn in differentiated clusters, with some variation between campuses.

    Each year, about 12,000 students in the San Diego school district are assessed to see if they qualify for the GATE program. All second grade students are universally tested.

    Students, new to the district in the third, fourth, and fifth grade are also tested. In addition, fifth grade students who met a certain criteria from the first tests, are-administered the test.

    The identification process has a multi-factor matrix. Whereas in earlier years, Ravens Progressive Matrices was used, currently the San Diego district uses the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT), which is with standardized, norm-referenced, computerized test.

    The GATE program identification matrix includes test scores, grades. It also relies on teacher recommendations and parental input. The various criteria are given various weights, and the final assessment also takes into account socio-economic status, whether a child has a disability, and/or if the student’s first language is English.

    ### Los Alamitos Unified School District

    Los Alamitos Unified School District, gifted students receive differentiation in learning environment, teaching/learning processes, student products, assessment, and curriculum content.

    Teachers identify and recommend students (between third and twelfth grade) for formal testing. Results on the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT) as well as the student's academic and standardised test records are taken into account.

    For the ‘general intellectual ability’ category, Students must score at or above the 98th percentile on the OLSAT, and attain at least 15 points on the Multiple Measures Screening Summary

    Students who qualify in the "High Achievement" category must score at or above the 96th percentile in two or more areas of an academic achievement test (CAT 6; SAT 9; Woodcock-Johnson Passage Comprehension; The Key Math, Rev. 1988, Forms A and B; and/or another standardized achievement test).

    All students in third grade are screened. Students in higher grades can also be tested on recommendation of teacher.

    A GATE Identification Committee makes the final decision, the student's area of strength will be identified to determine the category in which the student qualifies for in the GATE program.

    ### Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)

    Los Angeles GATE program students may attend break-out classes, after-school or Saturday sessions, or enrichment opportunities throughout the school day. Students identified as gifted can apply to Schools for Advanced Studies (SAS), where elementary students receive gifted instruction with gifted peers for the entire school day.

    Secondary SAS students are typically assigned to advanced, honors, or AP classes for core requirements, but not for electives such as art and P.E.

    To be eligible to apply for a Highly Gifted Magnet school, a student must score in the “Highly Gifted” (99.9) or “Highly Gifted Applicable” (99.5-99.8) percentile range on the intellectual test. (Note that the Highly Gifted schools are different from the Gifted/High Ability Magnet schools).

    The screening committee at the school identifies students for GATE testing. In addition to testing results, the committee looks at student report cards, state test scores, and teacher recommendations.

    ### Long Beach School District

    There are GATE program opportunities in elementary, middle and high school.

    Identification of gifted students will be determined using the score on the COgat, along with other academic information Only 2nd and 4th graders are assessed for the GATE program, with the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT).

    Children will first take a pre-screening test, which is a 30-minute CogAT test. Students who score a rank of 77 or higher on pre-screening tests will have additional testing using the CogAT

    Student achievement is also a factor in identification. ### Oak Park Unified

    Gifted students are exposed to differentiated curriculum, and teaching is targeted to better meet the needs of gifted learners.

    Second grade students who score highly (130-155) on the CogAT (Cognitive Abilities Test) are considered for the GATE program, but they must also have obtained 95% on 2 of the most 3 recent MAP assessments and meet standards assessed by a ‘teacher observation checklist’.

    Students may qualify for direct services in fall of 3rd grade. Inclusive identification procedures using multiple criteria are used to ensure that all students are identified and nurtured in the program. Students are required to meet two out of the three criteria listed below. ### Manhattan Beach Unified School District

    Gifted students in the MBUSD receive differentiated instruction from GATE certificated or GAT trained teachers. Third graders can be assessed for gifted services using the OLSAT, and students must attain a score of 135 or higher.

    Students may also take a combination of the OLSAT and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests (SBAC) (students with scores of 130-134 in the OLSAT and performance above state standards in ELA and Math). Prospective students for 4th-8th grade can also apply for the GATE program.

    Students can retest two times in a three year time frame. ### Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District

    In the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District, GATE students receive differentiated learning experiences within the classroom. The curriculum is structured so that individual student experiences and activities can vary in acceleration, depth, complexity or degree of novelty.

    All students in fourth grade and sixth grade are assessed using the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test(OLSAT). Students offered a spot in the GAT program must score 130 or higher. About 12% of the students PVPUSD are GATE students.

    ### San Francisco Unified School District

    The San Francisco School District is undergoing a period of research and development to determine how to better serve its gifted students.

    To verify exactly what options may be offered to your child through the GATE program, it is best to contact your school district. Keep in mind that programs vary not only by district, but often by school as well, so you may also want to contact local schools and inquire about opportunities for gifted students.

    ### How to Prepare

    Since these exams feature unique test questions that your child may not have encountered in school, the best way to prepare is by using practice questions.

    Practice questions can help your child become familiar with the format and structure of test questions, as well as develop confidence in her ability to accurately complete them.

    As your child answers practice questions, have her explain her thought process. This will give you the opportunity to reinforce strong, logical reasoning and correct misconceptions as needed.

    What's Next? We hope we’ve answered all of your questions about the GATE program. Remember to contact local schools or your school district for specific information on program options and the test your child will be required to take to qualify.

    So what's up next?

    Learn more in-depth info about the CogAT, or other IQ and Aptitude Tests for Kids, like the OLSAT and the NNAT.