JKCF Examines Nevada's Excellence Gap in the Las Vegas Review-Journal


While the Nevada Legislature has been grabbing headlines in recent weeks with a series of education reform bills, you might have missed the “report card” released by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation revealing how Nevada schools are woefully neglecting gifted students from low-income backgrounds.

It analyzed state-level policies and actual student performance to evaluate how well each state cultivates the skills of the most academically talented but economically vulnerable students. While no state received an “A,” Nevada didn’t even measure up by any measure, earning just a “C” for its policies and an abysmal “D+” for its student performances. It did, however, at least fare better than Arizona and California.

Whatever your views are of the contentious issues being debated in Carson City, everyone should agree that the poor grades Nevada received for its support (or lack thereof) for advanced learners from low-income backgrounds are unacceptable.

That lackluster showing isn’t just about ignoring social justice; it holds profound implications for Nevada’s future. The state’s economy will increasingly be driven by entrepreneurship, so we need brilliantly creative minds to emerge in larger numbers, and not just those whose families are wealthy or middle class. Most education policy discussions are focused on meeting minimum standards, which is certainly important for providing a skilled workforce, but it won’t be enough without the kind of innovation that only those with the highest natural abilities can offer — if those abilities have the chance to blossom.

Staying competitive in the 21st-century global marketplace means drawing from a broad range of talent in order to tap more individuals from the very top. With fully 48 percent of Nevada’s children under 18 living in low-income households, it is unfathomable why the state does not better monitor local schools’ provision of services for the children with the greatest abilities, in order to better nurture their talents and fulfill their potential.


To read the rest of the article, visit the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Harold Levy, former New York City schools chancellor, is executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, which awards the largest individual scholarships to high-performing students with financial need.