Excellence Gap versus Excellence Shortage

Lack of equity is a problem different from lack of excellence. The National Association of Gifted Children in its position statement on excellence gaps declares, "Closing excellence gaps is both a social-­equity issue and a workforce development issue that carries national competitiveness and security implications." There is nothing inherently wrong in this statement. However, it detracts us from the central issue of equity. The workforce development issue is in fact less clear since it is really difficult to gauge whether the United States is lacking in talent or not. Excellence shortage is a matter of opinion. Lack of equity, on the other hand, is based on evidence.

The graph below provided by an article published in Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning shows vividly the excellence gap.

Above copied from
Call to Action: Data, Diversity, and STEM Education

These are the percentages of students by race and year that have received a GPA of 3.0 or better at the University of Virginia. While at least eighty percent of Asian and White Americans receive high grades, blacks and Hispanics do not.

The gap is not just in college. Looking at students who attend advanced courses in the high school where I live paints a very similar picture.

Above copied from
Great Schools

In 2017, an advisory group in our county found a similar situation. The Fairfax Times reports, "The Minority Student Achievement Oversight Committee (MSAOC) found a “troubling pattern” when examining ... minority student participation in advanced academic programs at FCPS."

These are excellence gaps backed by actual data. It is a real problem that must be addressed. And its solution requires a commitment to equity. Excellence shortage is a distraction for this requires an entirely different perspective or solution. Besides, a shortage is based on a projection. Whether the country needs more talent to stay competitive is a matter of opinion.

Researchers at the Economic Policy Institute. for instance, have a different take on the state of high-skill labor market in the United States. First, in terms of high-performing students, the following data show that the United States has a large share:

Above copied from the Economic Policy Institute

And Jordan Weissmann provides a strong knockout punch against the idea that America has a shortage of talent in the sciences in an article on The Atlantic. Weissmann uses charts to back this position and here is one of those charts.

Above copied from The Atlantic

Less than half of doctoral graduates find employment. Thus, through the lens of employment, there is no shortage, there is a surplus.

Thus, it should be clear that addressing excellence gaps is so much more than just extending advanced learning opportunities. A mere extension does not and will not solve the problem. Addressing inequity means directing advancement opportunities so that these likewise become available to those who are underrepresented. And this availability is only achievable if we adopt faithfully a mindset of "education for all" which also means "advanced academics for all".


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