A Critical Call to Action: Policy

Effective policies can make a significant impact on closing Excellence Gaps and increasing access so that students from all populations can thrive. States and districts that have implemented specific policies to address access have seen marked progress toward their goals in advancing equitable access to students who are racially, culturally, ethnically, and linguistically different (RCELD) or have multiple exceptionalities (2e) (Patrick et al., 2020).

The Data

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation regularly completes a state-by-state review of policies that support advanced learners. In their latest report (Plucker et al., 2018), they assigned states a grade based on 15 indicators that address both excellence in supporting advanced learning outcomes and closing Excellence Gaps. In addition, The Education Trust (Patrick et al., 2020) studied RCELD students’ access and success in advanced coursework.

  • Regarding excellence, states’ grades ranged from B+ to D (Plucker et al., 2018).
  • Regarding closing Excellence Gaps, states’ grades ranged from C+ to F (Plucker et al., 2018). “Every state in the nation has Excellence Gaps – in grade 4, grade 8, and high school; in math and in reading” (Plucker et al., 2018, p. 8).
  • Only 7 states required universal screening for at least one grade level, despite universal screening being a key step toward closing Excellence Gaps (Plucker et al., 2018).
  • Black and Latinx students are not fairly represented in advanced courses due to systemic barriers (Patrick et al., 2020).


Numerous recommendations could be made to impact closing Excellence Gaps and increasing access. A few of those recommendations are included here:

  • Enact policy at the highest level possible in order to affect more students.
  • Disaggregate achievement data and participation in advanced coursework by subpopulation, so that all stakeholders, including decision-makers, are informed (Patrick et al., 2020). This should include students with multiple exceptionalities.
  • Be cognizant of state regulations and policies as well as district policies that may impact children with gifts and talents. Also, be knowledgeable about policies that cross-district departments such as Special Education Department and English Learners.
  • Establish a state accountability system that focuses on growth (Plucker et al., 2018).
  • Before passing policy, ask these two questions:
    • “How will this affect our brightest students?
    • How will this help other students begin to achieve at high levels?” (Plucker et al., 2010, p. 30)

Resources to Learn More

  • Jack Kent Cooke Foundation includes specific state data as well as other information and resources (https://www.jkcf.org/)
  • The Education Trust (https://edtrust.org/)
  • National Association for Gifted Children, Gifted by State (https://www.nagc.org/information-publications/gifted-state)
Click here for a downloadable document


Patrick, K., Socol, A., & Morgan, I. (2020, January). Inequities in advanced coursework: What’s driving them and what leaders can do. The Education Trust. https://edtrust.org/ resource/inequities-in-advanced-coursework/

Plucker, J. A., Burroughs, N., & Song, R. (2010, February 4). Mind the other gap: The growing Excellence Gap in k-12 education. Center for Evaluation and Education Policy. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED531840.pdf

Plucker, J. A., Glynn, J., Healey, G., & Dettmer A. (2018, March). Equal talents, unequal opportunities: A report card on state support for academically talented low-income students (2nd ed.). Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. https://www.jkcf.org/research/equal-talents-unequal-opportunities-second-edition-a-report-card-on-state-support-for-academically-talented-low-income-students/

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