How are Georgia’s brightest students doing? ‘Only OK.’

Sally Krisel is the director of Innovative and Advanced Programs in the Hall County School System and president-elect of the National Association for Gifted Children. Jonathan Plucker is Raymond Neag Endowed Professor of Education at the University of Connecticut.

By Sally Krisel and Jonathan Plucker

Education is widely accepted as a key driver of economic growth and quality of life, and Georgia is not an exception. Indeed, Georgia’s policymakers and educators deserve credit for a series of innovations in public education, ranging from early childhood programs to HOPE Scholarships, and continuing to this day with Gov. Deal’s Education Reform Commission.

Graduate

But Georgia often overlooks one indicator of education that may be critical for our future prosperity: The number of students who perform at the highest levels. How are our brightest groups of students doing?

The answer is “only OK,” according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the widely respected national testing program. On the most recent NAEP assessments, 5% of Georgia Grade 4 students (vs. 7% nationally) and 7% of Grade 8 students (8% nationally) scored advanced on the mathematics tests. In reading, 7% of Grade 4 students (8% nationally) and 3% of Grade 8 students scored advanced (3% nationally).

What would happen if we increased these percentages to 10%? In Grade 8, an increase to 10% advanced in mathematics would represent an additional 4,000 eighth graders exhibiting academic excellence each year.

We can certainly get more Georgia students scoring at the highest levels, but an even bigger concern is the size of our excellence gaps. These gaps are similar to achievement gaps, in that they provide an estimate of how different groups of students are performing academically. But excellence gaps focus on the highest achievement levels.

For example, although 7% of Grade 8 students performed at the advanced level in math, this performance was due mostly to that of economically advantaged students: 15% of students not eligible for lunch assistance scored advanced vs. only 2% who were eligible.

Couple those results with those by race (White students 11%, Hispanic 3%, Black 2%), and the size of Georgia’s excellence gap problems becomes obvious – especially since over half of Georgia students are Black and Hispanic, and 60% have family incomes qualifying them for lunch assistance in schools.

Shrinking these gaps would, again, result in a huge influx of talent. Taking the socioeconomic gap mentioned above, even partially closing the Grade 8 Math excellence gap from 13% to 9% would result in more than 3,000 additional low-income students performing at high levels in math each year as they head into high school. That’s 3,000 students, 3,000 families, and hundreds of communities that would be transformed as these students capitalized on their talents.

How can we raise more students to excellence and close excellence gaps in Georgia? We already have several strong initiatives underway here in Georgia:

Cobb County School District has developed an array of Talent Development (TD) delivery models to challenge high ability learners who, although they are not identified as gifted, show potential for exceptional performance. These TD Programs and inclusive service models for young children from under-served populations have been correlated to an increase in gifted identification and overall achievement in Cobb County’s Title I schools, where teachers are passionate about the role of TD.

Hall County School District uses inclusive eligibility criteria and extensive support systems to ensure success of diverse students in its three International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programmes, including its IB Bilingual Diploma Programme. While including many IB students from disadvantaged backgrounds, Hall County student success rates in earning the IB Diploma exceed state averages.

The Peach County School District has added more advanced content classes for elementary students and a pilot kindergarten enrichment class called “Bright Beginnings,” which consists of one hour of enrichment each day – 30 minutes in reading and 30 minutes in math.

Valdosta City Schools Early College Academy is a grades 6-12 program that includes low-income, first generation high school/college students who are struggling learners with potential. The students become members of the Valdosta State community with access to many university resources, and where they are given the care and support needed to meet high expectations, succeed in school, and be prepared for college coursework.

These exemplary programs give Georgia a great foundation, one on which we can build efforts to raise more students to excellence and shrink excellence gaps. But a truly comprehensive, statewide effort is needed, and we encourage the Education Reform Commission to include academic excellence in its recommendations. Doing so would help inject a massive influx of intellectual and creative talent into our economy and communities.

 

Reader Comments 0

27 comments
Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

The biggest disservice we impose upon our advanced students is that we force them to sit through the elementary grades with the lowest achieving students.  It is only in eighth grade and beyond that they can segregate themselves by taking Honors, A/P, and college prep classes.  Too little, too late, IMHO.

The ideal solution would be to teach to mastery by providing instruction at a level and pace commensurate with their achievement level.  The politically correct will never allow it though.  The moment someone figures out the "advanced" classes are filled with whites/asians and the "lower" classes are filled with hispanics/blacks, they will pitch a hissy fit and the program disbanded.

As far as the "Excellence Gap", look no farther than the Racial IQ hierarchy and there you will find the explanation.

Joad
Joad

Huge grain of salt required:  The NAEP is totally pointless and meaningless for the students and teachers.  In my experience, a random group is just told they're testing one day.  The test means absolutely nothing to students and has no impact on them in way.  They Christmas tree it in 10 minutes.

Legong
Legong

Look at average achievement scores of children from two-parent households, versus those without a father in the home, and you appreciate the disadvantage nearly 3 out of 4 black (and increasingly, Hispanic) children suffer.

Why aren't we facing up to this problem?

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Legong 

Not to mention white children (about 1 out of 2).  What do you suggest the schools do about this purely social problem??

Legong
Legong

The illegitimacy rate for non-Hispanic whites is 29 percent, not "about 1 out of 2."

And no, I don't expect a white liberal such as yourself to discuss what political correctness prevents you from discussing. Or even acknowledging.

My comment is for readers who think.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@OriginalProf @Legong Schools cannot address the "social problem" of fatherless homes - but they CAN address the effects.  Fatherless homes create discipline issues - so the schools have to respond with effective discipline (BTW, ISS is NOT effective discipline).  Fatherless families have higher rates of absenteeism, so schools have to make and ENFORCE truancy policies.  And fatherless families may mean that there is not the drive to value education in the home, resulting (in conjunction with the previous two mentioned) in slower mastery of subject matter.  The school can then decide to retain the student in a grade until mastery is complete, or at least segregate the slower student into "remedial" classes until he/she can rejoin a class and be up to speed.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@class80olddog @OriginalProf @Legong 

A lot of assumptions here about cause/effects of "fatherless homes."  Proof? Just because the parents were not married when the child was born does NOT mean that the father is absent afterwards. Welfare rules mean that a legal father must pay support, and the mother will get lower welfare payments. So with many couples, the parents don't get married but still are connected.


I'm sure you don't approve of that, but that's the reality. "Judge not, lest ye be judged."

class80olddog
class80olddog

@OriginalProf @class80olddog @Legong I am not sure I understand the welfare requirement for a "legal" father.  I have long expressed a support for a requirement that in order to obtain welfare benefits, a mother has to name the father of her child(ren) and this needs to be backed up by a paternity test.  Then, whether they are married or not, that father is financially responsible for paying child support until the child is eighteen.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@OriginalProf @class80olddog @Legong and, BTW, my definition of a "fatherless" home is one where no father of the children is in the home and taking a part in their child-rearing.  Regardless of whether the mother marries the father, if the father is present and involved in day-to-day discipline and child-rearing, then it is NOT a "fatherless" home.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@class80olddog @OriginalProf @Legong 

But you aren't then using the legal definition of "illegitimate": unmarried when the child is born. And one cannot determine how many households are "fatherless" using your definition. There are a lot of private liaisons out there.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Obviously, the solution to the problem is to lower the cutoff for "advanced".

class80olddog
class80olddog

In other news, they are reducing the cut score for the GED, thus lowering the standards for that.  So why even have standards at all?  Just give everyone a MVP trophy and a high school diploma and let businesses do their own testing to see if applicants really know anything.  The tests we give will not be for "innovation", it will be to see if the potential employee can read, write and do simple arithmetic.

Starik
Starik

@class80olddog The reason for reducing the passing score was because some GED holders were doing better in college than some high school graduates...  the value of a high school diploma keeps declining.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Starik @class80olddog Zero excrement, Mr. Holmes!  So, because high school graduates are so bad, we need to reduce the GED to get them down to their level?  That sounds like normal eduacracy thinking.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Starik @class80olddog "The reason for reducing the passing score was because some GED holders were doing better in college than some high school graduates...  "  That is because the GED uses a standardized test and the standards are actually enforced - unlike traditional schools.

CSpinks
CSpinks

@class80olddog Before this present change in its passing score, the GED's passing score was set such that only 60% of U.S. high school grads could pass it.* Assuming that the average Georgia HS grad is not as academically able as his/her peers through the US, we might infer that less than 60% of our state's high school grads would pass the GED.*** 


Twenty-five years ago, the GED passing score had been set such that 70% of US HS grads could pass it.**



*  This data was gleaned from a GED website.


**This data was provided me in the late '80s when I       

 was a GED examiner in the GA prison system.


*** Much to Paul Bowers' chagrin, only 50% of our 

     state's HS grads who take the GA Power 

     employment screening test pass it. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

The individual potential of each student in Georgia should be fulfilled, and it can be with a more sophisticated instructional delivery based upon (1) teachers teaming together in conference regarding their common students to address these individual students' highly varied instructional needs, (2)  multi-grade level groupings of some students, and (3) correct placement of students, continuously.  This design gives teachers more professional authority, not less authority, as the business model would do in education.


Check out the differences in the Democratic Legislative Plan for education in Georgia, as opposed to the "teacher as worker bee" model with little professional autonomy, of the Republican Legislative Plan.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@RambleOn84 

You have reacted with generalities.  I have asked readers to check out the specific differences in Georgia's legislative educational plan as proposed by the Democratic Caucus in Georgia, as opposed to the Republican Caucus' educational plan (which follows a stricter business model of testing, using test score results for the main purpose of assessing teachers and whole schools - rather than for the purpose of  using test results to modify instructional delivery for the benefit of individual student's growth).

There is a fundamental philosophical difference in how education should be delivered in Georgia between the Republican and Democratic parties in this state at this point in time.  That fact cannot be denied by sweeping generalities of thought.

RambleOn84
RambleOn84

@MaryElizabethSings @RambleOn84

I understand better now what you meant.  I still stand by my comment, though, that politics should not be in our schools.  


Policies should be made by teachers and parents (stakeholders), not some jokers in the Capitol building.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@RambleOn84 

We must be educated to know how the political system works so that we can have the power to take politics out of the educational process as much as is realistically possible. 

 

RambleOn84
RambleOn84

@MaryElizabethSings

Both political parties share plenty of blame in our educational system's downfall.  Without getting into a big political debate, just look into what is going on in states/cities where Democrats are in power.


Politics need to be removed from schools entirely.

RambleOn84
RambleOn84

Totally misplaced priorities.


This article purports to be about helping our "brightest students," but it devolves into how to bridge the racial gap.  This sounds nice to people on the surface, but what it really amounts to is how to game the system to decrease that gap.  


The focus instead should be on how to adequately challenge and push those kids who are already the brightest, not to artificially expand that group.  


One of the biggest reasons for minorities and low-SES students failing to achieve is  a lack of appreciation for education in many of those homes.


I do not believe that people are dumber or smarter based solely on their race or SES, which tends to be an unspoken given among those who wish to only "close the achievement gap."


IF we can focus on really providing tangible advantages and opportunities for our highest-achieving students, I predict that more of these groups will acknowledge the advantages and strive for more.


A rising tide raises all ships.  I wish the well-meaning but tragically ill-prepared "close the achievement gap" crowd would realize this.


We shouldn't be trying to avoid children being left behind.  We should be trying to allow the brightest to truly shine.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

My daughter was a student under Dr. Krisel at Cedar Shoals in fall 1994.


I'd like to see more attention given development of our most able students as well.  When we were at FSU, the gifted program in Leon County provided special interest options at FAMU for gifted kids. It was great for my son--really kept him challenged and interested--in addition to the services at the local school.  Many places in Georgia could do something like that with the local postsecondary ed or other entities like wildlife sanctuaries, fisheries, etc.