Brightest Stall, Low Achievers Gain

A recent Wall Street Journal article focuses on the lack of support and resources for high achieving students. Stephany Banchero writes “A national focus on the lowest-achieving students has helped boost their academic performance, but it has left the country’s brightest young minds behind, prompting calls to rethink how schools teach top kids.” It seems that the 2002 No Child Left Behind law, which put intense focus on the lowest achievers is at the same time having an adverse effect on high achievers. Obviously, the two groups shouldn’t be pitted against each other and ‘investment’ in one should not come at the expense of the other.

A report by the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) calls for policy changes that don’t require additional spending, such as holding schools accountable for the scores of the top-fliers, training teachers to work with top-performing children, and making it easier for top-performing children to skip grades.

Here are some data points from the NAGC report:

  1. Only 10% of U.S. students scored in the top-tier on the math and science portions of the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment, an international exam, behind many other developed countries, including South Korea, Finland and Canada.
  2. Only 31 states require schools to identify gifted and talented children.
  3. Twenty-six states mandate targeted services for top achievers and 23 set aside funding for such students.
  4. Only eight states have policies that let smart kids skip grades, while the remaining leave it up to local school districts to decide.
  5. Ten states prohibit students from entering Kindergarten early, and 24 leave such decisions to local districts.
  6. 23 states have no policies on academic acceleration strategies.
  7. Eight states prohibit middle school students from enrolling in high school courses at the same time, and 24 states leave those decisions to districts.
  8. A Wall Street Journal analysis of national elementary and high school reading, writing, math and social studies exams shows dramatic progress for the lowest achievers over the last two decades, especially after No Child Left Behind [that's great].
  9. The scores of the brightest students have, for the most part, inched up marginally or stalled during the same time period.


Image source: hinnamsaisuy /
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