Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
Civic Enterprises, LLC



Immediate Release: September 10, 2007


Media Contact:  Vance Lancaster

Director, Marketing and Communications

Office: (703) 723-8000 x215

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Current education policy focused on "proficiency" misses opportunity to
raise achievement levels among the brightest, lower-income students


WASHINGTON, DC - A disturbing talent drain in our nation's schools,
squandering the potential of millions of lower-income, high-achieving
students each year was exposed today before the U.S. House of
Representative's Education Committee. New research cited at the hearing
shows that students who demonstrate strong academic potential despite
obstacles that come with low incomes, are currently ignored under No
Child Left Behind (NCLB). 


Alternative NCLB legislation being debated in the Education Committee
hearing today includes provisions that could, for the first time, hold
schools accountable for the academic growth of students performing at
advanced levels. The report cited in the testimony -Achievement Trap:
How America is Failing 3.4 Million High-Achieving Students from
Lower-Income Families - is a first-of-its-kind look at a population
below the median income level that starts school performing at high
levels, but loses ground at virtually every level of schooling and
suffers a steep plummet in college. 


"No Child Left Behind's successes in demanding greater accountability
for reversing poor achievement among low-income students are laudable
and should be continued," testified Joshua S. Wyner, Executive Vice
President of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, which wrote the report with
Civic Enterprises. "But we are missing an important opportunity to
promote high achievement for all students, no matter what their income
and background. The needs of high potential and high-achieving students
should not be pitted against the educational needs of underachievers."


Overlooked under the No Child Left Behind law, these 3.4 million
extraordinary students are larger than the populations of 21 individual
states and largely representative of the race, ethnicity, gender and
geography of America as a whole. The report's authors say the faulty
assumption that these students don't need help to achieve at high levels
is causing an enormous, but preventable talent drain in our nation's
schools. As a result, the top 25 percent of students are
disproportionately higher-income. 


K-12 findings:

*	Even before they enter first grade, lower-income high achievers
are off to a bad start - only 28 percent of students in the top quarter
of their first grade class are from lower-income families, while 72
percent come from higher-income families. 
*	From first to fifth grade nearly half of the lower-income
students in the top 25 percent of their class in reading fell out of
this rank.
*	In high school, one quarter of the lower-income students who
ranked in the top 25 percent of their class in eighth grade math fell
out of this top ranking by twelfth grade.
*	In both cases, upper-income students maintain their places in
the top quartile of achievement at significantly higher rates than
lower-income students.


Tanner Mathison, a student featured in the report who is now a freshman
at Dartmouth College studying medicine, said: "There are a ton of smart,
low-income students in this country who do not have someone to speak for
them - no one to get them access to the programs and enrichment they
need. In modern society we tend to associate monetary gains with
success, and sadly with this paradigm, we often fail to recognize that
academic talent can rest within lower-income students." 


College and graduate school findings:

The significance of a college education is underscored by our nation's
growing knowledge economy, which demands more than a high school degree.
More than nine out of ten high-achieving high school students attend
college, regardless of income level-a great success at a time when only
80 percent of all twelfth graders enter postsecondary education. 


Although high-achieving lower-income students are attending college at
impressive rates, they are less likely to graduate from college than
their higher-income peers (59 percent versus 77 percent). In addition,
lower-income, high-achievers are:

*	Less likely to attend the most selective colleges (19 percent
versus 29 percent)
*	More likely to attend the least selective colleges (21 percent
versus 14 percent)
*	Less likely to graduate when they attend the least selective
colleges (56 percent versus 83 percent)
*	Much less likely to receive a graduate degree than
high-achieving students from the top income half. 


"These extraordinary students are found in every corner of America and
represent the American dream.  They defy the stereotype that poverty
precludes high achievement.  Notwithstanding their talent, our schools
are failing them every step of the way," said John Bridgeland, CEO of
Civic Enterprises and a co-author of the report. 


(The report can be downloaded at the following address:
<>  or
<> ) 

# # #


The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is a private, independent foundation
established in 2000 by the estate of Jack Kent Cooke to help young
people of exceptional promise reach their full potential through
education.  It focuses in particular on students with financial need.
The Foundation's programs include scholarships to undergraduate,
graduate, and high school students, and grants to organizations that
serve high-achieving students with financial need.


Civic Enterprises is a Washington, D.C.-based public policy development
firm dedicated to informing discussions on issues of importance to the



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