The Gap, the Trap, and the High Flyers Flaps: A Summary and Analysis of Three Important Studies Focusing on Excellence Gaps in American Education

America’s educational system has undergone major changes in the last decade. A focus on “proficiency,” high stakes testing, and standards-based curriculum has become the name of the game. As a result, more students are meeting minimum competency every year. Researchers from three different organizations recently examined the effects of these curricular changes on the performance of America’s highest achieving students. This article synthesizes and summarizes the Center for Evaluation and Educational Policy’s 2010 report entitled Mind the Other Gap: The Growing Excellence Gap in K-12 Education, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s 2006 report entitled Achievement Trap: How America is Failing Millions of High-Achieving Students from Lower-Income Families, and the Fordham Institute’s 2011 report entitled Do High Flyers Maintain Their Altitude? Performance Trends of Top Students. A description of the methods, findings, and recommendations of each report is included, together with a discussion regarding what it all means to parents, teachers, and educators.

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