Top 10 Moments of Our 2016 Closing the Excellence Gap Summit

Last week, we hosted our second Closing the Excellence Gap Summit with CLASS Coalition in Washington, D.C. The event brought together 100 principals from top-performing STEM and magnet public high schools to discuss ways to better serve low-income, high-achieving students and strengthen the school-to-workforce pipeline.

We’ve compiled some of our favorite images and social media posts to illustrate the two-day summit that brought attendees to advocate in Congressional offices, share ideas in small breakout groups, and meet with leaders in educational access. Notable speakers included Eric Waldo, Executive Director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative; the Honorable Chris Lu, the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor; and Governor Jack Markell of Delaware.


 Executive Director Harold O. Levy welcomed principals to the summit before an exciting walk up to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers.


After visiting the offices of senators and representatives, CLASS Coalition members, Cooke Foundation staff, and high school principals had additional opportunities to mingle with Congressional leaders at a reception held in the Rayburn House Office Building.




Cooke Scholar Anna Litvinenko treats the #CloseTheGap attendees to a magnificent cello performance.

A photo posted by Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (@thejkcf) on



Before the evening ended, we were treated to an inspiring speech from Eric Waldo, who emphasized the important role of school counselors in guiding students to education and career opportunities.




Early in the morning on day two, our principals gathered in small group breakout sessions to discuss prominent issues in their schools and education policy.




Gov. Markell, Executive Director Harold O. Levy, and Hon. Chris Lu together after both speakers shared updates and ideas for bridging equitable educational opportunity with strong pathways to college and career.



The summit concluded with a panel of Cooke Scholars and alumni — Yakov, Cristopher, and Modupe shared about how despite being high-achievers, coming from a low-income family meant facing sometimes unspoken obstacles to educational success. All three made suggestions and answered questions from principals intent on supporting students with financial need in their schools and districts.


What is the Excellence Gap? Learn more about the disparity in the percent of lower-income versus higher-income students who reach advanced levels of academic performance at