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December 19th, 2017

How to Prepare for LAUSD GATE Testing

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Yesterday, we continued our LAUSD series with Sonia Reiter, our TestingMom parent expert. Sonia has been sharing her experience with applying for, testing and qualifying for the LAUSD Gate Program, as well as delineating the difference between SAS and GATE designations. Today Sonia will help your child prepare for LAUSD GATE testing.

Benefits of GATE Designation

So your kid got into a GATE magnet elementary school by teacher verification. Why worry about them passing the OLSAT, right? Wrong.  Our kids are being tracked whether LAUSD admits it or not. A child’s test scores determine placement with teachers within a school.  Furthermore, the peer group your child advances with matters. Exposure to a demanding curriculum and a peer group of academically successful kids is most easily achieved by obtaining GATE designation. It is your child’s key to unlocking the best education LAUSD has to offer, no matter the school they attend.

Criticisms of GATE

The main criticism of any GATE or SAS program is that all children should receive access to the same level of instruction regardless of ability.  They say it isn’t fair to expose only a select few to rigor and high expectations. The truth is LAUSD tries to “narrow the gap” by meeting each child at their level and bringing them up a notch with differentiated instruction. Historically, and especially with No Child Left Behind, gifted children have been left to fend for themselves because they were advanced. I have a memory from kindergarten of being told to practice writing my name over and over again because I was done with my work early. I soon stopped telling my teacher I was finished with my work because I was bored with writing my name. I resorted to interrupting my friends and got into trouble.  From early on, I wasn’t challenged and settled into what was expected of me.  GATE education is for the ones that are truly left behind and not reaching their full potential.

Preparing for GATE Testing

There is a certain percentage of the population that considers prepping for a GATE test to be cheating or gaming the system. I think that is preposterous.  I challenge you to name one single test you ever took that mattered where you deliberately didn’t study. Why would any responsible, invested parent leave a GATE test to chance? Some say prepping doesn’t show the child’s true, raw ability. What about the girl that had the ability to pass but didn’t because she messed up on her bubble answer sheet?  What about the boy that didn’t grow up with an iPad playing Kindergarten Analogies? Is not prepping fair to the child that is a pleaser and simply didn’t know what was expected of her?

Prepping does not take an average kid and turn them into gifted. Having been through it and seeing my son get the same answers wrong on the post assessment as the pre-assessment, I can attest that prepping does not change a child’s reasoning ability. Prepping simply helps them make sense of and then organize their reasoning. That’s not cheating, that’s studying.

GATE Test Prep

GATE test prep begins when a baby is about three-months-old and figures out “same and different.” By one-year-old, a baby can sort and stack, using those “same and different” skills he’s learned all year. This is the foundation of analogy-type test questions. A child will be ready for a GATE test if he’s had an enriching first five years. By the time you show your child an actual analogy-type question, the learning is done.  You’re simply showing him how to put together and apply everything he’s learned thus far.  Showing him an analogy-type question shows him a new way to makes sense of his reasoning that can be measured. Just as there are different types of reasoning, there are different types of test questions that are used to measure them.

Take a what-comes-next type of question. Children learn this reasoning skill when they learn to count and add. Included in that skill are if-then statements, such as, if 2+1=3, then what is 2+2? A GATE test question puts all of these together into a 3X3 matrix and tests combinational logic. Of course it’s important to show your very young child (and inexperienced test-taker!) what a 3X3 matrix looks like! You’d be surprised at how well they can do, but they can do even better by showing their true reasoning ability by being familiar and confident. I like to think of this being the same as taking the behind-the-wheel drive test for a driver’s license using the same car you used to learn to drive.  Now that’s not cheating, is it?  We used TestingMom.com’s practice questions to help my child prepare and it gave my kids the confidence and skills they needed for both testing and school success.

One more thing…schools don’t like it when kids prep for these tests. Other parents, who didn’t prepare, might get mad because you’ve given your child a leg up. I recommend that, in your child’s presence, you call your practice activities something fun like “Brain Games” or “Puzzles.” Preparing will help your child, but keep what you are doing to yourself.


In tomorrow’s post, we’ll talk about the GATE magnet point system and a strategy you can follow to give your child the best chance to get into the school you want most.

LAUSD GATE Program Blog Series:

How Can My Child Apply for the LAUSD GATE Program?

How Can My Child Qualify for the LAUSD GATE Program?

What’s the Difference Between SAS and GATE Designations?

For more information on the LAUSD GATE Programs see:

Sonia Reiter is a parent-expert on LAUSD GATE and SAS programs.  She guides parents who, like her, seek the best education programs LAUSD has to offer.  For more information, contact Sonia at sonia.reiter@yahoo.com.

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