What is it about?

The achievement gap focuses on differences between groups in their average performance. Here we examine the excellence gaps- or differences between groups at higher levels of performance. We found these excellence gaps were stable in reading but grew in mathematics during elementary school. These excellence gaps exist in all types of schools. And school characteristics did little to explain their existence. Only initial achievement in schools explained gaps in mathematics— schools with higher than average achievement had larger gaps while schools with lower than average achievement had smaller excellence gaps.

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Why is it important?

Disparities in achievement between groups at all levels is a problem. This was the first study on excellence gaps that followed the same students over time to begin to uncover how excellence gaps change over time. Using data from over 500 elementary schools in the US, we start to unpack trends excellence gaps. By understanding some of the precursors to excellence gaps and how prevalent the gaps are, we can begin to create ways to mitigate those gaps.

Perspectives

Issues related to excellence gaps are becoming part of the national education conversation, with a number of districts implementing universal screening and local norms. One of our recent papers that addresses this approach to shrinking excellence gaps is: Peters, S. J., Rambo-Hernandez, K., Makel, M. C., Matthews, M., & Plucker, J. A. (2019). The effect of local norms on racial and ethnic representation in gifted education. AERA Open, 5(2), 1-18. DOI: 10.1177/2332858419848446. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2332858419848446 A recent example of a school district engaging in debates over equity (or lack thereof) in selective high schools and gifted education in New York City. The following op-eds were written by two of this paper’s co-authors: Plucker, J. A. (2019, May 5). Equity and excellence, together. How to serve kids from all backgrounds while promoting high academic achievement. New York Daily News. http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-equity-and-excellence-together-20190514-efyu356gfjdgdghlsp2dkaf34q-story.html Peters, S. J., (Aug. 30, 2019). The way schools identify gifted students is inequitable, UW-Whitewater study finds. https://www.uww.edu/news/archive/2019-08-gifted-students-research

Karen Rambo-Hernandez
Texas A&M University System

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This page is a summary of: Quantifying and Exploring Elementary School Excellence Gaps Across Schools and Time, Journal of Advanced Academics, August 2019, SAGE Publications, DOI: 10.1177/1932202x19864116.
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