School ‘GATE’ Opens Wider for Minorities

Times Staff Writer

Trustees of the San Diego Unified School District reaffirmed their commitment to dramatically increasing minority enrollment in the district’s Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program by a 3-2 vote Tuesday night after several hours of tense debate.

Trustees Dorothy Smith, Susan Davis and John Witt approved the proposal by Supt. Tom Payzant, which modified an existing program to increase minority enrollment in GATE.

Trustees Larry Lester and Kay Davis voted against Payzant’s proposal, instead supporting the traditional method of identifying GATE students. That method has been criticized as discriminatory against minorities.

The board’s action is consistent with a goal established three years ago of trying to change GATE enrollment so that it roughly reflects the ethnic makeup of the district as a whole. The GATE program is about 80% Anglo and 20% minority, while the district is 47.5% Anglo and 52.5% minority.


Lester, the board president, claimed that the experimental program has resulted in reverse discrimination against Anglo students.

Several board members and parents also expressed concern that the admission of “unqualified minority students would damage the GATE program academically.”

Lester called for elimination of the program used to identify minority students, calling it “incredibly inept . . . and incredibly discriminatory on the basis of race.”

He cited data from three schools showing that several minority students who had received Ds and Fs on their report cards had been nominated for GATE, while many Anglo students who earned mostly A’s were not even considered.


Lester charged that Anglo students were “systematically and calculatingly” being denied entrance into the program.

Smith defended the effort to increase minority enrollment, saying that the traditional methods of identifying students for the GATE program, such as the Stanford-Binet IQ test, discriminate against minority students.

She said, “The process was very subjective in the past for some people.”

Payzant acknowledged that some errors had occurred in the experimental program. His proposal eliminated some of the more controversial elements of that program, such as an analysis of a student’s “leadership ability” as a criterion for entrance.