Mike Matsuda was (overwhelmingly) reelected in to the North Orange County Community College District Board in November. He is a member of the California Curriculum Commission that recommends textbooks for K-8 students and curriculum frameworks for all K-12 students. Matsuda was also the Democratic candidate for the 68th Assembly District in 98. And because heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pretty knowledgeable when it comes to the topic of education and racial disparities in our system, we asked him to give us his thoughts on the Orange County Register editorial Ã¢â‚¬Å“Too few gifted? Says who?Ã¢â‚¬Â
What I find most pathetic about the OC RegisterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Op-Ed attack on the ACLU for threatening a lawsuit over discriminatory GATE identification practices is that the editorial board uses the NBA as an analogy. The editors state Ã¢â‚¬Å“Does anyone believe the NBA racially discriminates against poor white men? Then why the rush to conclude Tustin racially discriminates against poor black and Hispanic kids?Ã¢â‚¬Â This is absolutely absurd.
Unfortunately, of course, most Register readers would probably agree that the NBA doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t discriminate against whites and that the best players play, just as the smartest and most deserving kids are identified GATE. Oh and by the way, most of the GATE kids are disproportionately white. And they are there because of MERIT-or so the myth goes.
If this were only true. I happened to check Tustin Unified GATE ProgramÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s identification process (which is similar to most) and lo and behold there are THREE ways to get in. First, your child can get in the old fashioned way, through scoring a minimum of 132 on an IQ test. Second, he or she can qualify through high achievement on standardized tests, and third, he can get in by Ã¢â‚¬Å“High Ability.Ã¢â‚¬Â
And how does Tustin determine Ã¢â‚¬Å“High AbilityÃ¢â‚¬Â? A parent can make a REFERRAL for little Johnny or Betty, which is then screened by administrators and a school psychologist. Gee, whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the principal to do when the president of the PTA who has just raised a gazillion dollars for new jungle gyms asks for a referral for his kid? It’s going to be hard to say no. But what about little Juan or Imelda? In a district like TustinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s that is comprised of 23% Spanish speaking students, I seriously doubt their parents know about option 3. LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s face it, most immigrant parents are all about paying the rent, much less positioning their children for Stanford.
The real truth that most white collar, college educated parents know is that GATE identification is paramount if little Johnny is to have half a chance in the college admissions carnival. We know how the game is played, the immigrant parents donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t. And that really is what the lawsuit is about. If Tustin offered an EL GATE program as some districts do, perhaps that would help in leveling the field. I wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to completely take away parent referrals, but when the disparity is so great, there obviously is a problem that needs fixing.
And this brings us back to the RegisterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s analogy of comparing TustinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“merit basedÃ¢â‚¬Â program to the NBA. If this were a valid analogy, NBA players could get in through option 3. Their parents could simply make referrals and more white guys, and yes, maybe even some 5Ã¢â‚¬â„¢8Ã¢â‚¬Â Asians like me could get in. Now that would really make me gifted.