What is the Excellence Gap?

Excellence gap refers to the disparity in the percent of lower-income versus higher-income students who reach advanced levels of academic performance. The "gap" appears in elementary school and continues as students move through middle school, high school, college and beyond.


Did You Know?

High-performing, low-income kids who "match" to a selective college graduate at the same rate as their high-income peers.

Overall, high-performing, low-income students are less likely to complete college than even their low-achieving, high-income peers.


Ages and Stages

Early Grades

While data confirms that children born poor arrive at school less prepared, it also tells us that some 80,000 students per grade (K-5) qualify for free or reduced lunch and perform in the top quartile academically.

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Middle School

Data reveals a 13 point gap in reading scores between low-income, high-performing students and their higher-income peers as they progress through elementary school grades, meaning that lower-income students are less likely to remain a high achiever.

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High School

While the number of low-income high school students taking at least one AP exam has increased in the decade between 2003-2013, gaps in both participation and performance remain among students from different economic backgrounds.

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College Pathways

Stanford and Harvard researchers confirm that most high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds fail to apply to any selective colleges. Only 8 percent of high-achieving, low-income students are "achievement typical" in their application patterns, meaning they applied to institutions that closely matched their abilities.

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Proficiency vs. Advanced Learning

While a great deal of attention and resources have been focused on the achievement gap among students, which measures basic proficiency in subjects like math and readings, almost none have been devoted to the Excellence Gap at the highest levels.

Policymakers increasingly see the relationship between connecting very smart, low-income students to brighter futures as a force for the vibrancy of our economy, our nation's future prosperity, the strength of our global competitiveness, and improving the social mobility of America's lower-income families. Unleashing the potential of millions of bright young Americans will shape our nation for generations to come.