States aren’t doing enough to support gifted students, especially those from low-income families — that’s the message that the Virginia-based Jack Kent Cooke Foundation sent Tuesday with the release of report cards on state policies for academically talented children.

No state received an A. There were plenty of D’s and a few F’s.


“Equal Talents, Unequal Opportunities: A Report Card on State Support for Academically Talented Low-Income Students” by Jack Kent Cooke Foundation

But more important than the letter grades are some of the underlying data. (State policy report cards are a favorite tool among education-related organizations, and the mission and agenda of whatever group is doing the grading invariably affects the letter grades that are given.)

For example, nearly half of states do not audit, monitor or report on gifted and talented programs, according to foundation’s report:

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
Source: Jack Kent Cooke Foundation

The federal government requires all states to hold their schools accountable for ensuring that students reach proficiency in math and reading. But not all states hold schools accountable for helping more students reach advanced performance levels:

Source: "Equal Talents, Unequal Opportunities: A Report Card on State Support for Academically Talented Low-Income Students" by Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
Source: Jack Kent Cooke Foundation

Not all states require that gifted students be identified or offered special services:

"Equal Talents, Unequal Opportunities: A Report Card on State Support for Academically Talented Low-Income Students" by Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
Source: Jack Kent Cooke Foundation

Most states do not offer an honors diploma that recognizes advanced coursework:

"Equal Talents, Unequal Opportunities: A Report Card on State Support for Academically Talented Low-Income Students" by Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
Source: Jack Kent Cooke Foundation

The foundation argues that lack of attention devoted to advanced learners in these and other policies is likely helping to drive what it terms the “excellence gap“: the gap between the number of low-income versus affluent children who perform at high academic levels.

Less than one percent of low-income eighth-graders scored “advanced” on the 2011 NAEP reading exam; more-affluent students were five times more likely to score advanced. Math was better, but not much: 2.5 percent of low-income eighth-graders scored advanced, compared with nearly 13 percent of more-affluent students.

“I think that we’ve done a great job at looking at proficiency and we’re seeing real progress there,” said Jennifer Giancola, research director at the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. “It’s just been an unintentional consequence of that focus that we have not been paying attention to students who are already at proficient and have the capacity to go beyond that.”

Named after the late owner of the Washington Redskins, the foundation is perhaps best known for giving out millions of dollars a year in scholarships. But now it is trying to turn the excellence gap into a higher-profile issue that attracts the attention of policymakers.

Read the whole report here:

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation state policy report cards

The foundation has established a new Web site, excellencegap.org, to house the new report and other research related to the performance of high-ability, low-income students. The site is expected to go live Tuesday.