Low Income Gifted Students Left Behind

Deserved attention has been paid to students performing below grade level and the interventions needed to raise their achievement. However, according to a new report from the Jack Cooke Kent Foundation, there is also a lack of programs for gifted students to help them reach their potential. Equal Talents, Unequal Opportunities: A Report Card on State Support for Academically Talented Low-Income Students examines the performance of America’s high-ability students, with an emphasis on those who come from low income backgrounds, and the range of state-level interventions intended to foster academic talent. Not a single state received an A; Minnesota is the highest scoring state—the only one to receive a B- on both inputs and outcomes.

“We were not especially hard graders, and sadly we still found that in most states, attention to advanced learning opportunities for low-income students is nearly absent,” said Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Executive Director Harold O. Levy. “What is available for high-ability students primarily benefits those in wealthier school districts. The lost potential is staggering.”

Five Conclusions from the Data

  1. In most states, attention to advanced learning is incomplete and haphazard.
  2. In the absence of comprehensive policy support for advanced learning, economic conditions appear to drive outcomes.
  3. Although some states have impressive outcomes for their high-performing students, no state can claim impressive performance outcomes for students from low income backgrounds.
  4. Data describing advanced performance are not readily available.
  5. All states could do more to support advanced learning.


  1. Make high-performing students highly visible.
  2. Remove barriers that prevent high-ability students from moving through coursework at a pace that matches their achievement level.
  3. Ensure that all high-ability students have access to advanced educational services.
  4. Hold LEAs accountable for the performance of high ability students from all economic backgrounds.

“At stake is the vibrancy of our economy, our nation’s future prosperity, the strength of our global competitiveness and basic fairness. If states were to implement these commonsense policies to close the Excellence Gap, we would unleash the potential of millions of bright young Americans whose natural talents and intelligence will shape our nation for generations to come,” added Levy.

Read Equal Talents, Unequal Opportunities: A Report Card on State Support for Academically Talented Low-Income Students from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

Education Policy