Report shows widespread lack of support for high-ability, low-income students
Low-income students with advanced academic abilities are far less likely than their wealthier peers to have access to resources that would help them succeed, according a new report co-authored by JHU researchers Jonathan Plucker, Amanda Dettmer, and Grace Healey, with Jennifer Glynn of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.
The report, “Equal Talents, Equal Opportunities, Second Edition: A Report Card on State Support for Academically Talented Low-Income Students,” shows that every U.S. state has room for improvement when it comes to supporting high-ability students—especially those from low- and moderate-income backgrounds.
The researchers reviewed state policies, participation in advanced learning programs, and outcomes regarding high-ability students and gave each state a letter grade based on its efforts to support excellence. For this second edition of the report, originally released in 2015, they also graded each state’s efforts to close excellence gaps—disparities in the percent of lower-income versus higher-income students who reach advanced levels of academic performance.
Fourteen states including Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia received a grade of B- or better for their work supporting excellence. No state received an A. Most notably, every state in the country received a grade of C or lower for their efforts to close excellence gaps. Maryland received a D in this category, while New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia received a D-. Alaska was the only state to receive an F.
“I’m glad we included excellence gaps in this study, and I wish these grades were higher, but they’re not,” said Plucker, the Julian C. Stanley Professor of Talent Development, who holds a joint appointment at the Center for Talented Youth and School of Education and is president-elect of the National Association for Gifted Children. He said he hopes the report, which includes guidance for states that want to implement policy change, will put the academic needs of low-income children on the minds of more state policymakers.
“Some of these policies we’re suggesting are more expensive than others. Some are free,” he said, citing early entrance to kindergarten and implementation of state acceleration policies as examples of low-cost ways to support high-ability students. “Some of this is low-cost, light-regulation stuff that would make a huge difference if states made the effort.”
State policies requiring teacher training; universal screening for giftedness; state funding to give advanced high school students access to college-level coursework; and funding to help them pay for college entrance exams and AP tests would cost more but would go a long way in helping these students thrive, he said.
“Our goal with the report is to hold up a magnifying glass to state policies and priorities,” Plucker said. “At least 50 to 60 percent of our students are on the bottom end of these excellence gaps, and our country has got to do a better job of educating these students. Research tells us there are specific things that will probably help. This is not magic or rocket science. We can start to chip away at this. This is a solvable problem.”
Photo above: Jonathan Plucker, Julian C. Stanley Professor of Talent Development, who holds a joint appointment at the Center for Talented Youth and School of Education and is president-elect of the National Association for Gifted Children.
Maria Blackburn, firstname.lastname@example.org, 410-735-6263