"What is available for high-ability students primarily benefits those in wealthier school districts. The lost potential is staggering."

Harold O. Levy, Executive Director, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation 

State Report: Policies Failing Bright, Low-Income Students

A new report from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation finds that state education policies are failing bright, low-income students. Learn why no one state receives an A on any of the nine distinct state-level policies or nine specific measures of student outcomes.

A Report Card on State Support for Academically Talented Low-Income Students

State policies nationwide fail effectively to support students who have the potential to reach high levels of academic performance, particularly students from low-income backgrounds, finds a new report from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

Equal Talents, Unequal Opportunities: A Report Card on State Support for Academically Talented Low-Income Students grades states on 18 simple indicators representing nine distinct state-level policies and nine specific measures of student outcomes. Not one state receives an A.

“We were not especially hard graders, and sadly we still found that in most states, attention to advanced learning opportunities for low-income students is nearly absent,” said Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Executive Director Harold O. Levy. “What is available for high-ability students primarily benefits those in wealthier school districts. The lost potential is staggering.”

Minnesota scored best, earning a B- for both policies and student outcomes. The report shows that high poverty states (even those with good policies in place) tend to have lower student outcomes. Alabama (where 49 percent of children live in low-income households) scores a B- for policy improvements, but those policies will need time to counter generations of entrenched poverty.

In 2013, America’s public schools now teach a population that is more than 50 percent low income, according to the data collected from the states by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). In fact, 40 out of America’s 50 states have large percentages (40 percent or more) of low-income students, with higher concentrations in the South and West. Mississippi led the nation with the highest rate: 71 percent, meaning almost three out of every four public school children in Mississippi were low-income.

Previous research has found economically disadvantaged students are less likely than high-income students to reach advanced levels of academic performance, despite having equal abilities and starting in the same place. This Excellence Gap first appears in elementary school and continues throughout a student’s academic career.

To shed light on the Excellence Gap and raise awareness of the need for better strategies to support students across the country, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s groundbreaking study examined state-level interventions intended to foster academic achievement among low-income students, with the goal of identifying policies that could be implemented more widely.

“At stake is the vibrancy of our economy, our nation’s future prosperity, the strength of our global competitiveness and basic fairness. If states were to implement these commonsense policies to close the Excellence Gap, we would unleash the potential of millions of bright young Americans whose natural talents and intelligence will shape our nation for generations to come.”

Studies show that when children born into the bottom fifth of the income distribution get a college degree, their chances of making it to the top nearly quadruple, and their chances of making it out of the bottom increase by more than 50 percent.
 

Check the performance of a particular state or the District of Columbia.