Elliance Teams with National Foundation to Challenge Assumptions About Who is Gifted in America

May 03, 2015

Elliance, a digital marketing agency with decades of experience curating and tuning content for higher education and social marketing, teamed with the Virginia-based Jack Kent Cooke Foundation to launch a new responsive website — www.excellengegap.org — aimed at raising awareness about the uncertain future of some 3.5 million poor, academically gifted young Americans.

While American’s have been familiar with the concept of an “achievement gap” at the lower level of proficiency, few know that a similar gap exists among the nation’s most gifted and talented. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation partnered with Elliance in an effort to raise broad awareness of these issues and to influence national and state education policy to better support high-achieving, low-income students.

“We think that high-achieving, low-income kids don't need our help,” said Harold O. Levy, Executive Director, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Research shows that America’s 3.4 million academically gifted, economically poor school children in grades K-12 lose ground year after year, grade after grade, especially when compared to their more wealthy peers.

All poor American school children — now the majority — swim upstream when it comes to school resources. High-ability, low-income students face unique challenges — from peer stigma to a lack of teachers trained to work with gifted students, to a shortage of college guidance counselors.

Levy partnered with Elliance to build a content engine, architected and programmed for both search engine optimization and user experience. Careful attention was given to site architecture and content strategy for the responsive excellencegap.org microsite — balancing the need to inform audiences of an issue most had never encountered with the goal of underscoring that the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation remains, at heart, a grant maker and convener.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation wanted nuanced issues made accessible for a broad audience, and for the power targeted investments to attract future funding partners.

The website made an immediate impact —helping to bring the excellence gap out of the shadows and spur parents, teachers, school principals and superintendents, funders and a range of elected officials to take action.

In the initial weeks since launch, the “excellence gap” issue has attracted attention from the New York Times, Washington Post, and many other national and regional media outlets.

A summit of some 100 principals of selective US public high schools led to the formation of a new coalition to better recruit, support and advocate for high-achieving, low-income students and close the widening Excellence Gap. John King Jr., then deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, emphasized the importance of access policies in addition to equitable admissions practices, pointing out that families of limited means may not even be aware how to navigate admission to a selective high school.

Elliance believes that it can draw lessons from its deep experience in higher education to benefit high-knowledge clients like the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. “Our success with the excellencegap.org site called upon everything we’ve learned about orchestrating brand, great content, strategic integrative marketing, search and social,” said Elliance Senior Strategist R. Todd Erkel. “We started from flat ground and built a really smart, strong, responsive content engine that immediately moved the needle.”

While social marketing launch strategies may differ from a conventional product launch, there is much to learn and borrow on both sides. As we advance the excellence gap issue beyond the media and policy makers, the next challenge involves tackling a whole range of closely held assumptions that educators, counselors, youth development leaders and college admissions staffs hold regarding who is gifted in America.

“The longer smart, poor kids stay in school, the less likely that they are to remain at the top of their class,” says Levy. “That’s a repudiation of the American Dream, and the foundation is determined to do everything we can to turn that around.”

About Jack Kent Cooke Foundation

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is a private, independent foundation dedicated to advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. The Foundation supports exceptional students from elementary school to graduate school through scholarships, grants, direct service, and knowledge creation and dissemination.

About Elliance

Elliance is a digital marketing agency focused on brand, content and the careful orchestration of digital and traditional marketing and communication to drive social change, increase demand and secure thought leadership. Education and non-profit clients that have turned to Elliance for assistance with their digital marketing efforts include, The Catholic University of America, University of Delaware, Assumption College, The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, Pepperdine University, Carnegie Mellon University, the Oncology Nursing Society, and many others. Learn more about the company and its services at www.elliance.com or call 888-926-6262.