This week, we welcomed Dr. Jonathan Plucker to #gtchat to discuss the Excellence Gap and what could be done to impede its growth. Although the focus of the chat was on the U.S., it was noted that recent data shows that this phenomenon is unfortunately occurring in other countries as well.
The Excellence Gap refers to differences in advanced achievement between groups of students; usually focusing on gaps in underperforming groups based on race, ethnicity and socio-economic status. Individuals in all demographic groups have the potential to achieve at advanced levels, but identification is key. Competency must be addressed at every level of achievement; not just the minimum level.
According to Dr. Plucker, “Many different factors have caused the existence and persistence of large excellence gaps including poverty, discrimination, poor access to quality education, psycho-social barriers, among others.” Excellence gaps can occur due to inadequate funding and resources in schools serving low income and disadvantaged minority communities; inadequate training for teachers working with underperforming subgroups of students; and because of attitudes about high achievement potential of low-income and minority students.
Dr. Plucker pointed out, “It is important to close the Achievement Gap for two reasons: to improve the lives of gifted poor and minority students and to provide our economy and culture with the talent it needs.” According to the NAGC, “Reducing and eliminating excellence gaps is an issue of equity, social justice, economic advancement, and national security. Increasing the number of students realizing their full potential puts the nation back on the path to global leadership. A 5 percent reduction in the 4th gr math excellence gap would increase performance at advanced levels by 80,000 students.”
How do we address and overcome the challenges presented by excellence gaps? Dr. Plucker told us, “Scott Peters and I just finished book on this. Our “Big 6” strategies include: 1) realistic opportunities, 2) universal testing and local norms, 3) ability grouping, 4) better educator preparation and support, 5) improved K-12 accountability systems with adaptive testing, and 6) psycho-social interventions with college students.”
“Relentlessly respect the gifted student’s right to learn something new every day!” ~ Jeanne Bernish
We then turned out attention to what effect the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) might have on closing the Excellence Gap. “We’re not sure yet, as the regulations have yet to be developed; but it COULD mean more adaptive testing and better data reporting. ESSA throws it back to the states, but we need to keep the pressure on at the state level. It cracks the door, but we have to open it,” said Dr. Plucker.
Where do we go from here? What steps should be taken to ensure the momentum continues to close the Excellence Gap? “Keep Excellence Gap data in front of policymakers. Get needs of advanced students into teacher and administrator prep. Get excellence into your state accountability system,” Dr. Plucker told us. Advocates must be vigilant that local LEAs adhere to new rules in ESSA and continue to raise awareness of inequities in educational opportunities for all students. Jeanne Bernish, Founder of Heather Hill Media, made the excellent point that we should “relentlessly respect the gifted student’s right to learn something new every day!”
“Data are depressing, but we should be energized. We firmly grasp the problem and policymakers are coming around. Full speed ahead!” ~ Dr. Jonathan Plucker
A transcript a may be found at Storify.
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As Global #gtchat celebrated its 2nd year of support from the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented, we welcomed a formidable panel of guests to discuss “Closing the Excellence Gap”. For over a decade, U.S. education policy-makers have sought to close the achievement gap; virtually ignoring its brightest students believing they would make it on their own. Worse yet, low-income and minority students who should have been receiving support were not even invited into the room.
Let’s meet our guests for this chat! Dr. Joy Davis is Associate Professor at Virginia Union University, author of Bright, Talented & Black: A Guide for Families of African American Gifted Learners and a return guest to #gtchat. Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman is co-founder of The Creativity Post, Blogger at Scientific American and author of Ungifted. Rebecca McMillan is Senior Editor of The Creativity Post and founder of The Brain Café on Facebook. Rebecca is also an online instructor for Gifted Homeschoolers Forum. Dr. Jonathan Plucker is Professor at the University of Connecticut and Lead Author on “Talent on the Sidelines: Excellence Gaps and America’s Persistent Talent Underclass.” Dr. Donna Y. Ford was unable to be with us due to travel delays, but has agreed to be our guest for another chat in the near future. We look forward to chatting with her.
Our first question delved into the difference between the Achievement Gap and the Excellence Gap.
Dr. Davis: “It’s [EG] a gap that prevents equitable access to advanced education programs; creating a schism between haves and have-nots. The have-nots are as capable, but lack access and opportunities; thus achievement cannot be fairly measured.”
Dr. Kaufman: “The ‘excellence gap’ represents the growing gap between high performing disadvantaged youth and more affluent peers.”
Rebecca McMillan: “Whereas the achievement gap focuses on the percentage of culturally diverse and disadvantaged students that reach proficiency, the excellence gap focuses on the percentage of culturally diverse & low-income students who reach higher levels of achievement as measured by participation in GT programs, AP & Honors classes, and advanced scores on state and national assessments.”
Dr. Plucker: “Excellence Gaps are achievement gaps at the high end of the achievement range. Excellence Gaps are big & persistent. The term represents intersection between equity & excellence. The U.S. is one of the few countries that treat equity & excellence as mutually exclusive.”
What groups comprise ‘America’s Persistent Talent Underclass’?
Dr. Davis: “[Groups include] students of color, particularly African American & Latino students & the poor, those from single parent headed households.”
Dr. Kaufman: “Any student who is systematically blocked from resources that would allow him or her to flourish is vulnerable. The culture of the school can also have a tremendous impact on vulnerability to excellence gaps.
Rebecca McMillan: “I would include homeless, abused, and neglected students. Students with unstable or difficult home environments.”
Dr. Plucker: “Underprivileged minority students and poor students, primarily. Some evidence that racial Excellence Gaps are closing at VERY slow rates; but poverty Excellence Gaps appear to be growing”
How can inequities specifically related to racial differences in gifted & advanced learner programs be addressed?
Dr. Davis: “By recognizing the very real discriminatory factors that prevent equitable experiences in schools. Ensuring that teachers are trained and sensitive to the needs of diverse students and how culture and race impacts learning. [While] doing PD in Title I school, teacher said to me: ‘aint’ no gifted kids in this school!”
Dr. Kaufman: “I advocate a holistic evaluation of possibility for all students that assesses ability, engagement, and personal goals.We must take all dreams seriously, no matter how big or small, and help students get there step by step.”
Rebecca McMillan: “Identification issues are paramount. We need multiple, wide-gauge methods. Creativity must be considered. In my view, what drives both the excellence and achievement gaps is an engagement gap.”
Dr. Plucker: “Use local norms. Inexcusable to have no services in majority minority or high poverty schs. Local norms help change perceptions.I still hear racist comments in schools, for ex., “We can’t let too many of ‘those kids’ into the program.” Need to confront! [This] goes for poor kids, too: We don’t talk nearly enough about anti-poor bias in U.S.”
A complete transcript of this chat may be found here.
“Talent on the Sidelines: The Widening Gap in Excellence” at the Creativity Post by Scott Barry Kaufman
“Talent on the Sidelines: Excellence Gaps & America’s Persistent Talent Underclass” by Dr. JonathanPlucker (pdf)
Excellence Gap 2012 (website)
Dr. Jonathan Plucker Bio @UCONN
The Brain Cafe on Facebook
Interview with Dr. JonathanPlucker on Talent on the Sidelines (podcast)
“Excellence Gap” from GiftedPhoenix
Scientific American Blog Beautiful Minds by Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman
“Academic Survivability in High-Potential, Middle School Students” GCQ 1996 Plucker/McIntire
5 Questions for Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman about ‘The Creativity Post’ by Dr. JonathanLWai
Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined (book – Amazon) by @sbkaufman Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman
The Complexity of Greatness: Beyond Talent or Practice (book – Amazon) by Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman
“Integrating Multicultural and Gifted Education: A Curricular Framework” (pdf) from Dr. Donna Y. Ford et al
Bright, Talented, & Black: A Guide for Families of African American Gifted Learners (Amazon – book) by Dr. Joy Lawson Davis
Cybraryman’s Culture Page
Cybraryman’s You Matter Page
“From Evaluation to Inspiration” at Scientific American Beautiful Minds Blog from Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman
“The Need for Belonging in Math and Science” by Scott Barry Kaufman
“Letter Grades Deserve an ‘F’” from Jessica Lahey
“De Bono’s 6 Action Shoes: One Size Shoe Cover System” from Jo Freitag
“Revealing New Truths About Our Nation’s Schools” (pdf) from the Office for Civil Rights
Rebecca McMillan Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Online Spring 2014 Instructor
Rebecca McMillan Sui Generis at The Creativity Post
“Ode to Positive Constructive Daydreaming” by Rebecca McMillan et al