JKCF Examines Massachusetts Excellence Gap in Worcester Telegram

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As I See It: Meeting the needs of all students

By Harold O. Levy
June 25, 2015

The Massachusetts Education Reform Act has reshaped the Bay State’s public education landscape, and now stands as an exemplary model for other states. Policymakers and citizens should be proud of the progress and committed to supporting it. However, while achievement gaps narrow, there is a pernicious gap that has gone unnoticed and it continues to widen.

In all states, including Massachusetts, there is a profound excellence gap—a measurable difference between lower-income and higher-income students who reach advanced levels of academic performance, despite having equal intellects. This gap appears in elementary school and continues through high school, fueled by the educational advantages high-income students receive such as having well-educated parents, being afforded extracurricular enrichment (travel, summer programs and after school courses), and attending schools with better, more experienced teachers and smaller class sizes.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation just released a groundbreaking report to systematically examine state-level policies related to academic excellence and to “grade” each state’s work. Unfortunately, no state earned an “A”; Massachusetts received just a “C+” for its policies and a “B-” for the actual performance on standardized tests of its erstwhile gifted students.

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