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Bridging the Excellence Gap with Guest, Dr. Jonathan Plucker

gtchat 03152016 Excellence Gap


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.

gtchat-logo-new bannner

Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented  is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Tuesdays at 8E/7C/6M/5P in the U.S. and Wednesdays at  2 PM (13.00) NZDT/Noon (11.00) AEDT/Midnight UK (Subject to change due to Daylight Savings Time). to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found atStorify. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.

Head Shot 2014-07-14  About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered        by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime  advocate for gifted children and also blogs at  Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at:


NAGC Position Statement: Addressing Excellence Gaps in K-12 Education (pdf)

Progress Lags in High School, Especially for Advanced Achievers

‘Excellence Gap’ Robs Talented Students of Their Potential

Equal Talents, Unequal Opportunities: Report Card of State Support for Academically Talented Low-Income Students (pdf)

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and CLASS Coalition Host 2nd “Closing the Excellence Gap” Summit

Top 10 Moments of 2016 “Closing the Excellence Gap” Summit

Finding Teachers Who Can Stimulate High Achievers (pdf)

Center for Evaluation & Education Policy – Excellence Gap 2012

Connecticut Association for the Gifted – Excellence Gap

UK:  Why Isn’t Pupil Premium Closing Excellence Gaps?

Why Minorities Can’t Be Left Out of Gifted and Talented Programs

How Family Background Influences Student Achievement

Advocating for High-Achievers

Excellence Gaps: Role of Translational Research Implementing Large Scale Educational Change (Video)

Dr. @JonathanPlucker ‘s Website

“Talent on the Sidelines: The Widening Gap in Excellence”

“Talent on the Sidelines: Excellence Gaps & America’s Persistent Talent Underclass”  (pdf)

Interview with Jonathan Plucker on Talent on the Sidelines (podcast)

Tackling Inequality in Gifted-and-Talented Programs

Questions and Answers about the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) (pdf)

Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.

Closing the Excellence Gap

Talent on the Sidelines

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.

Joy-davis                                                                  Dr. Joy Lawson Davis

Scott Barry KaufmanDr. Scott Barry Kaufman

Rebecca McMillanRebecca McMillan

Jonathan PluckerDr. Jonathan Plucker

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

Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman Bio

The Brain Cafe on Facebook

Dr. Joy Lawson Davis’ Blog WeAreGifted2

Interview with Dr. JonathanPlucker on Talent on the Sidelines (podcast)

Improve Education While Increasing Child Poverty – An Impossible NC Strategy

Hispanics Struggle to Graduate: An Issue of School Choice?

Report: ‘Excellence Gap’ Growing Among American Students

Excellence Gap Among American Students

Long Read: Narrowing the Excellence Gap

Report Cites Growing ‘Excellence Gap’

Report: Race, Wealth Remain Factors in State Achievement Gap

Race Equity & Excellence in Education Network  

White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (website)

Dr. Donna Ford Bio

“Excellence Gap” from GiftedPhoenix

Scientific American Blog Beautiful Minds by Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman

Scott Barry Kaufman’s Website

“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 

Few Black & Latino Students Were Admitted to NYC’s Specialized Schools This Year

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

Welcome Dr. Donna Y. Ford to SENG’s Professional Advisory Committee

I, Too, Am Harvard

Cybraryman’s Culture Page

Cybraryman’s You Matter Page

From Evaluation to Inspiration: Scott Barry Kaufman at TEDx Manhattan Beach (video)

From Evaluation to Inspiration” at Scientific American Beautiful Minds Blog from Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman

Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program

Measuring Child Poverty: New League Tables of Child Poverty in the World’s Rich Countries from Unicef

Map the Meal Gap, Food Insecurity in Your County (U.S.)

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

The Future Project

Revealing New Truths About Our Nation’s Schools” (pdf) from the Office for Civil Rights

Status Quo at Elite New York Schools: Few Blacks and Hispanics

Con Cariño: Teacher Caring, Math Self-Efficacy, and Math Achievement Among Hispanic English Learners

Learning to Attend to Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners Through Teacher Inquiry in Teacher Education

Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate 2013 – 2014 Program

Intensive Small-Group Tutoring and Counseling Helps Struggling Students

Rebecca McMillan Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Online Spring 2014 Instructor

Rebecca McMillan Sui Generis at The Creativity Post

Rebecca McMillan Senior Editor at The Creativity Post

Ode to Positive Constructive Daydreaming” by Rebecca McMillan et al

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