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Book cover Excellence Gaps In Education.Excellence gaps, those divides in achievement between academically advanced students of different racial groups, ethnicities, and income levels, aren’t just a problem for educators and advocates to fret over and solve, argues Jonathan A. Plucker, co-author of the new book “Excellence Gaps in Education” (Harvard Education Press, 2016). If we fail to close these significant achievement gaps among our brightest students, we’re hurting the nation’s workforce and economic development—and that affects everyone.

“We’re getting most of our high-performing students from the same demographic groups that we always have, but those groups are shrinking,” says Plucker. “We have a culture and an economy with a huge thirst for talent, but if we don’t do something about the excellence gap we won’t meet these needs over the long term. We need as many talented people as we can get.”

Plucker, the Julian C. Stanley Professor of Talent Development at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth and School of Education, was part of the original group of education researchers who first brought excellence gaps in K-12 education to light in 2010. In his book, co-authored by Scott J. Peters, the prominent talent development expert draws on the latest research and a wide range of national and international data to provide a thorough examination of these divides and offers a number of interventions for closing them.

“There’s a persistent talent underclass in the U.S. made up of black, Native American, Hispanic, and low-income students,” he says. “These are entire demographic groups of students whose academic talents have not been developed for at least a generation and likely more.”

Taking his original research one step further, Plucker offers a variety of interventions to close the excellence gap and achieve equality and equal opportunity for all academically talented students. “Providing realistic opportunities for students is important,” he said. “Another major intervention is making sure educators know that talented minority and poor students exist before they enter the classroom—that’s not happening anywhere in the country. And at the state level, the K-12 accountability system is being redone. In light of that, finding a way for schools to be rewarded for closing excellence gaps is critical.” None of these interventions can exist only a single point in time, he added. “You have to think years ahead and frontload.”

For example, creating more programs to get minority students into Advanced Placement courses seems like a good idea, but if the students aren’t prepared for more rigorous coursework, they won’t be successful. “Frontloading really forces people to take a K-12 perspective,” he said. “If you are going to put a talented, poor student in AP U.S. history her junior year, you have to have more than junior history teachers at the table talking about the plan. You need the student’s sophomore and freshman teachers at the table. You need middle school teachers at the table. If we are going to create these opportunities for students you have to make sure they are prepared for them.”

Closing the excellence gap won’t be easy, but it can be done.

“We are not going to solve this tomorrow,” Plucker said. “But we can solve it in 4-5 years if we get started now.”

Jonathan Plucker, a prominent educational policy and talent development scholar, is available to serve as a subject matter expert in stories dealing with the excellence gap, creativity and intelligence, gifted and talented education, and education policy.

Since 1979 the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth has helped identify, nurture, and advocate for academically advanced students of all backgrounds. A nonprofit, CTY offers exceptional learning opportunities to pre-college students from around the world, including summer, online, and family programs.

Media contact: Maria Blackburn,, 410-735-6263

Picture of Robert Arena.Robert Arena, an online education executive with experience in course development and program marketing, has been named Senior Director of Online Programs at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. At CTY, Arena will oversee all aspects of the center’s renowned online education for academically advanced pre-college students.

“Rob has a rare combination of technical expertise in online education, especially in courseware development for K-12, along with deep experience developing effective communications and campaigns,” said Elaine Hansen, executive director of CTY. “He is joining us at an important inflection point in the maturation of CTY Online Programs. We are confident that he will lead us in a quickly evolving educational environment to promote access and a secure future for CTY Online Programs aligned with CTY’s and Johns Hopkins’ mission.”...Click here to read more.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth is recognizing 10 schools and academic programs in the United States, Hong Kong, and China for their extraordinary commitment to educating academically advanced young people.

Out of all of the schools and academic programs in the world whose students participated in the CTY Talent Search, these 10 institutions have the highest number of students being honored at CTY awards ceremonies this year. These bright students will be recognized at CTY award ceremonies around the world this spring for achieving an exceptionally high score on a rigorous, above-grade-level test....Click here to read more.


 Those Lego bricks and wooden blocks littering your floor aren’t just pain-inducing clutter. These favorite toys are helping your kid achieve in school and beyond.

“When kids are building with blocks and Legos they’re using spatial reasoning skills. These skills not only have a relationship to academics, but to the fields you might gravitate to, and where you’re going to excel,” says Amy Shelton, a cognitive psychologist and director of research at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY)....Click here to read more.

A sensor to help emergency vehicles measure the speed and depth of flood waters. A microorganism that can decompose BPA. A hydrogel injection that can help patients heal after a heart attack.
The students behind these innovative concepts were among those selected to receive the CTY Cogito Research Award, a prize given annually to middle and high school students from around the world who demonstrate initiative, creativity, and promise in their STEM research-project proposals. The 10 winning individuals and/or teams will each receive a $599 grant and guidance from a mentor to develop their ideas. Winners will submit a final report on the results of their research later this year....Click here to read more.