SAN DIEGO — Tom Payzant, who has gained top marks for educational reform during 10 years as district school superintendent but has been unable to raise the lagging achievement levels of black and Latino students, was appointed by President Clinton on Tuesday to a top position with the Department of Education.
Pending confirmation by the Senate, Payzant, 52, will become assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, overseeing a budget of nearly $9 billion.
In San Diego, which has the nation's eighth-largest school district with 120,000 students, Payzant championed a voluntary approach to school integration through magnet schools, authorized narcotics officers to work undercover on campus and cracked down on truancy.
He was one of three 1992 winners of the nationwide Harold W. McGraw Prize in Education and was lauded for his success in improving curriculum and strengthening college preparatory classes.
Payzant said Tuesday that he is proudest of his efforts to decentralize decision-making: "When I got here we had an administrative style that was called 'command and control.' I tried to change that to involve students, educators, parents and others in making the decisions and being held accountable."
He fought political battles with the Catholic Diocese of San Diego over his plan for a high school health clinic that would distribute birth control information, and with the Boy Scouts of America over the group's anti-gay policy. He maintained good relations with the teachers union.
Although Payzant put a high priority on the effort and used various educational approaches, the district has not been able to narrow the sizable achievement gap between black and Latino students and their Anglo and Asian-American counterparts. In fact, in 1992, reading scores for blacks declined and scores for Latinos were unchanged.