30 percent? It’s an easy answer

By From page A6 | March 07, 2013

Several recent articles and letters in this newspaper have criticized our town’s GATE program because it covers nearly 30 percent of our children. One letter writer argued, “a self-contained GATE program at 30 percent of the population is, by definition, statistically impossible.”

I’m not a statistician. But I know — and thousands of statisticians have established — that this is nowhere near statistically impossible. You don’t really need to know statistics to realize that every sample does not have to be a perfect clone of the general population. Why, for instance, are 40 percent of the world’s 100 most innovative corporations based in the United States, home to only 4 percent of world population? Statistically impossible?

Generally, GATE identification means that you are somewhere in the top 2 to 6 percentile of a “large” population — that is, statewide or nationwide group. Davis is a highly educated town, with one of the highest percentages of residents with advanced graduate degrees. It surprises me not the least that 30 percent of our children test into the top 2-6 percentile of their nationwide or statewide age group. What is so mysterious about that?

There are many relevant questions to ask about GATE. But this one is easily answered and should be put away so we can focus on the real ones.

Hemant Bhargava

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