Skip to main content
Skip to main content

WKU News

Get on Board for Academic Excellence

Julia Roberts was guest writer for Stu Silberman's blog Public Engagement and Ed Reform originally posted on April 3, 2014.  You can find the original post at

Julia Link Roberts is the Mahurin Professor of Gifted Studies at Western Kentucky University. Dr. Roberts is the Executive Director of The Center for Gifted Studies and theCarol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky. You may contact her at

Americans have long celebrated excellence in athletics and enjoyed excellence in the arts. However, they have been far more reluctant to celebrate and enjoy excellence in academics. In fact, barriers are often intentionally or unintentionally placed in the way of children and young people reaching excellence in mathematics, science, language arts and social studies.

Over the past decade, as schools have singularly focused on reducing achievement gaps, they have overlooked the potential for high achievement among students who were ready to learn at advanced levels. Students in the "gap" groups - children from families who are eligible for free and reduced lunch as well as children who are African-American and Hispanic - have so seldom achieved at advanced levels that barely 1-2 % of these students score at the advanced level on NAEP tests, while 8 - 12% of white students and those not eligible for free or reduced lunch are reaching those achievement levels of excellence. (NAEP tests are administered to a sample of students in all states.) Unfortunately, the gaps between subgroups on state assessments are similar to the gaps on NAEP. Mind the (Other) Gap (2010) and Talent on the Sidelines (2013) , produced by Jonathan Plucker and a team from the University of Connecticut, provide rich descriptions of the Excellence Gap. The data are discouraging and appalling for the future of our country at a time that our country has greater percentages of children from these gap groups than ever before. Now, in some states, more than half of their population is from these groups who are no longer the minority.

So how do we get academic excellence ratcheted up as a priority in all of our schools? How do we remove barriers, intended and unintended, to elementary, middle and high school students learning at advanced levels?

  1. We talk with school board members, superintendents, principals and other educators about the importance of students learning new things every day they are in school, and that includes children and young people who are already proficient or way beyond proficient in whatever is being studied; for some, they know the concepts and skills even before the year begins.
  2. We celebrate high academic achievement in addition to exceptional achievement in athletics and the arts.
  3. We examine decisions and policies being considered and ask:

 * How will this [decision] impact our highest achieving students?

 * How will the proposed [decision] help more students achieve at the highest levels?(Plucker et al, 2010, p. 30)

* How do we identify students with high ability in every population and support them to become high achievers?

Students with gifts and talents - both manifest and latent - deserve opportunities to learn at appropriately challenging levels every day they are in school; just as every other student expects and deserves to do. Students from the "gap" groups have the potential to achieve at the highest level if educators develop their skills and enhance their understanding in mathematics, science, language arts and social studies from the time they start school.

Our country cannot afford to leave talent on the table. Our country cannot succeed if only a small percentage of students achieve at top levels. It is time to get the conversation going about achieving excellence, in all academic areas, in all schools across the United States. Let's start the conversation about academic excellence and celebrate all steps along the way as students work for and achieve excellence. Focusing on excellence bodes well for the future of our country!

All News  Now Viewing Category: All
Kinesiology, Recreation & Sport
WKU Regional Campuses
Housing & Residence Life
Math News
Glasgow News
WKU Educational Leadership Doctoral Program News
School of Journalism & Broadcasting
Media Relations
Academic Affairs
Augenstein Alumni Center
Instruments of American Excellence
Emergency Preparedness
Department of Music
Department of Theatre & Dance
Library News
Office of Sustainability
Office of International Programs
Office of Research
Ogden News
WKU Parent and Family Weekend
Parent's Association
Student Activities and Organizations
Scholarships Student Financial Assistance
Student Government Association News
Van Meter Auditorium
Teaching News
Study Abroad
Student Research Council
Student Employment
WKU Joint Admissions
International Student Office
Human Resources News
Cultural Enhancement Series
The Confucius Institute
Campus Activities Board
The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky
Development and Alumni Relations
Downing Student Union
Health Services
Hardin Planetarium
News from The Center for Gifted Studies
Student Financial Assistance
Downing Museum
Etown & Fort Knox
Employee Wellness
Latest Headlines
Hardin Planetarium to present eclipse show May 2-July 2

"Into the Shadow of the Disappearing Sun," the first of two shows about eclipses, will be presented May 2-July 2 at WKU’s Hardin Planetarium.

WKU Student, Madeline Marita, Receives a Prestigious Place on a Fulbright Summer Institute to the Globe Theatre (London, England)

Madeline Marita, a student from Western Kentucky University, has received a place on a Fulbright Summer Institute to study at the Globe Theatre (London, England) on one of the most prestigious and selective summer scholarship programmes operating world-w


The decision to further your education is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in your life. Often the hardest part of the journey is to get started.

Featured Articles
Regents approve tuition, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

WKU’s Board of Regents approved tuition and mandatory student fees for 2018 fiscal year and approved consolidating Engineering, Architectural and Manufacturing Sciences and Computer Science into the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

WKU to rename building in honor of Rep. Jody Richards

WKU’s Board of Regents approved renaming Mass Media and Technology Hall to honor long-time WKU supporter and state representative Jody Richards of Bowling Green.

WKU Bike4Alz group to ride across country again this summer

WKU students will bike across the country this summer to raise money for Alzheimer’s research.

Note: documents in Portable Document Format (PDF) require Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or higher to view,
download Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Note: documents in Excel format (XLS) require Microsoft Viewer,
download excel.

Note: documents in Word format (DOC) require Microsoft Viewer,
download word.

Note: documents in Powerpoint format (PPT) require Microsoft Viewer,
download powerpoint.

Note: documents in Quicktime Movie format [MOV] require Apple Quicktime,
download quicktime.

 Last Modified 4/18/17