A new report card titled Equal Talents, Unequal Opportunities has been released on what each state is doing to identify and serve its academically talented students. Published by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the report card gives each state a grade on its “inputs” (how much state policies support and facilitate learning for academically talented students) and its “outcomes” (whether students are reaching advanced levels of performance). Overall, they found large variation in performance across the states.
The typical state was found to require only three of the nine “input” criteria analyzed, with the top four performing states implementing six of the criteria. The highest performing state was Minnesota; it earned a B- on both inputs and outcomes.
For the “outcomes”, the report also assessed gaps in performance (what they call “excellence gaps”) of students from low-income families and students not from low-income families. For example, Massachusetts had 18% of its students score at the “advanced” level on a national test. But when scores are broken down based on whether students are from low-income families, they reported an excellence gap of 20% (with only 6% of students from low-income backgrounds reaching “advanced” compared to 26% of other students).
Every state had an excellence gap in both math and reading in all grades that were assessed. In fourth grade math, between 1% and 4% of low-income students scored “advanced” whereas between 6% and 26% of non-low-income students scored “advanced.” Smaller excellence gaps were usually associated with states having a relatively low number of non-low-income students performing well masking the fact that students from low-income families were performing even worse.
Big Take Home Messages
The report provided five take home messages based on their results.
- In most states, attention to advanced learning is incomplete and haphazard.
- In the absence of comprehensive policy support for advanced learning, economic conditions appear to drive outcomes.
- Although some states have impressive outcomes for their high-performing students, no state can claim impressive performance outcomes for students from low-income backgrounds.
- Data describing advanced performance are not readily available.
- All states could do more to support advanced learning.
Recommendations to States
Additionally, the authors made four recommendations to states.
- Make your high-performing students highly visible.
- Remove barriers that prevent high-ability students from moving through course work at a pace that matches their achievement level.
- Ensure that all high-ability students have access to advanced educational services.
- Hold school districts accountable for the performance of high-ability students from all economic backgrounds.
See how your state is doing and read the full report.