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In beginning the evaluations of San Diego Unified’s Seminar program for highly gifted students described in my story today, district staff decided to see how the school system stacks up against others in the state. The results were interesting.

In San Diego, a full 18 percent of students were classified as “gifted and talented” in 2005-06, compared to 8.8 percent in Los Angeles and 8.7 percent in Long Beach. (Seminar students make up a subset of the gifted students).

Now, supporters of the district’s special programs for these exceptional students, including school board member Katherine Nakamura, argue that this demonstrates that San Diego has a highly educated workforce, including professors at its numerous universities and employees of its pharmaceutical companies, who tend to produce more brilliant kids.

So the district decided to take a look at other areas that are known for their academics and entrepreneurship: In Palo Alto, home to Stanford University, 8.8 percent of students were gifted and talented, and in Cupertino, the heart of the Silicon Valley, 8.6 percent of the students were similarly classified.

And how do San Diego’s gifted students compare to those elsewhere? In 2005-06, 34 percent of the district’s third graders taking G.A.T.E. courses scored at the advanced level on the state language arts test. In both Long Beach and Los Angeles, 50 percent of the gifted students met the benchmark.

Because San Diego Unified as whole outscores Los Angeles and Long Beach on the state tests, the numbers suggest that San Diego has a more liberal definition of what makes a gifted and talented student.

VLADIMIR KOGAN

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