Why - and What Is - Academic Excellence?

While the answer to this compound question can be minutely and individually nuanced, the more important and relevant question - for the majority of parents and educators - might be 'How Can The Ideal of Academic Excellence Be Best Achieved' ... for their children or students.  What factors influence achieving the ideal?  These questions may well represent the kernel of what we seek a validated answer for.

During my tenure as an educator, and after examining numerous approaches and strategies that purport to foster academic development, the notion of achieving academic excellence appears to be influenced by factors that might be considered 'Externalized' and 'Internalized'.  In striving for Academic Excellence, an environment that represents an amalgam of optimum attributes from both 'Externalized', as well as 'Internalized' factors must be first understood in order to be realized.

Externalized:  This includes elements such as good (versus poor) instruction that encompasses a teaching style that is accessible for the majority of students, as well as the presentation of relevant material to be covered (commonly referred to as Curricula).  There is valid reasoning for the time and effort professional educators invest in developing educational resources that are age-appropriate, and from which (ideally) all students (or the vast majority, at a minimum) - with a variety of learning preferences and styles - can learn from ... with clear and concise instructions and examples. Externalized factors normally fall outside the scope of student influence.

Internalized: This group of influencing factors is the one most accessible by the majority of students - and educators alike - in the quest towards achieving the ideal of Academic Excellence.

Attention/Concentration: The  ability - of a student - to remain on task or ignore distractions.

Phonetic awareness: In the context of learning a language, this refers to the ability to blend sounds, segment (or dissect) sounds, and analyze sounds. Problems with reading new words or spelling errors in writing result from poor phonetic (or phonemic) awareness.

Comprehension: This refers to the action - or capability - of understanding something, and relies on the items directly above and below (in the context of learning a language).

Memory: The ability to recall short or long term information. Short-term memory recall includes the ability to copy information from a chalk/white board, while recalling basic math facts, or taking a final history exam are considered long-term memory retention and recall.

Visualization: Visualization includes the ability to create mental images (or pictures).  Spatial awareness is not limited to concrete (or three-dimensional) imagery, but also includes a student's ability to 'see' a math word problem before trying to solve it.  This is a key element in the Bar Model method of problem-solving manifested in the Singapore Math approach to mathematics.

Processing Speed: This refers to a student's ability to handle and process information quickly, and is related to overall 

Overall 'Intelligence': While genetic predispositions and susceptibilities play a crucial part in our so-termed Intelligent Quotient (IQ), a variety of environmental factors, including education, premature birth, nutrition, pollution, drug and alcohol abuse, mental illnesses, and diseases also contribute in a hybrid Internalized/Externalized manner ... sometimes with consequential results.