Many people mistakenly think of acceleration as only skipping a grade; but it’s so much more. Acceleration can take place at all levels of education from early primary to college. Parents can check to see if their child’s school allows for early admission to kindergarten/1st grade/high school or college. Other types of acceleration include mastery-based learning, independent study, and single-subject acceleration. Classroom modifications can include curriculum compacting, curriculum telescoping, and multi-age classrooms. Honors classes, AP, IB and dual-enrollment are also considered types of acceleration.
There are some considerations to take into account when deciding on acceleration. Parents should evaluate school policy to determine if there’s sufficient support for acceleration K-12. All stakeholders should determine the ‘end-game’ before accelerating a student and what benefits will accrue for the student. Consideration must be given to whether or not the child wants to be accelerated; without ‘buy-in’, it will fail. Risks of not accelerating an academically advanced student are increased dropout rates, underachievement, and disengagement.
So, why are so many school administrators and teachers resistant to acceleration? Ignorance of the benefits of acceleration for academically gifted students is the primary reason. A simple solution is to educate them! Most of them receive little to no professional development concerning the many potential types of acceleration available. Few have experience with acceleration or have access to current research concerning its benefits. Finally, personal prejudice against advanced students can cloud judgement when considering acceleration.
Here are some tips to make an accelerated transition go more smoothly. Parents should provide strong evidence that their child is ready for acceleration – testing, grades, student desire. Prepare everyone on what to expect – the student, parents, classmates and teachers; informed transitions are more successful! Early admission and acceleration in the primary years can mitigate age differences and increase time spent with intellectual peers.
What options exist if acceleration does not work out? This is a rare occurrence and one which is better avoided by good preparation rather than correcting later. Consideration should be given to fixing what isn’t working rather than exiting the program. If the student decides to suspend acceleration, it’s easier done at the secondary level where multi-grade classes are generally more available.
Parents are usually the initial advocates for acceleration. Many school administrators feign opposition to acceleration out of ‘concern’ for student. Be sure to point out the financial benefits to the school district. Advocating for any school policy begins at the state level; know your state’s laws concerning acceleration. Parents should find or start a Parent Advocacy Group; strength in numbers!
It is important to keep in mind why you are considering acceleration and reasons it will benefit a particular student. No plan will work if the child is not a willing participant. Acceleration is a cost effective means to providing an excellent educational opportunity for an academically gifted students. A transcript of this chat may be found at Storify.
Academic Acceleration (YouTube 5:35)
Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad
This week’s chat was based on a blog post by Dr. Jim Delisle at the Free Spirit Publishing Blog, “Snappy Answers to Stupid Excuses“. Although Dr. Delisle could not be with us at the chat, he sent this reminder for parents and advocates. “When it comes to their g/t kids, just exhale now and again.”
Dr. Jim Delisle
In his post, Dr. Delisle listed The Top 5 Offending Statements:
- “You know, every child is gifted in some way …”
- “We don’t need a separate gifted program, because all of our teachers differentiate.”
- “It’s not fair to the less capable children to remove gifted children from their classrooms. Who will be their role models?”
- “It’s not possible to be both gifted and have a disability. It’s either one or the other.”
- “Your child can’t possibly be gifted – have you looked at her grades?”
Interestingly, the chat was populated mostly by educators as well as several homeschoolers. Most all had encountered some of the offending statements in their lives while advocating for gifted students. The discussion turned to personal experiences that they had in their own childhoods and remembrances of how their parents responded to situations involving these types of comments.
What advice did folks have for parents preparing to meet with teachers and school officials to discuss their child?
- “Learn the language of gifted education. Any conversation will go better if you’re speaking the same language.” ~ Moderator
- “With school leaders, it is not always what you say but how you phrase it that will either get them to dig in or listen.” ~ Diane Heacox, Ed.D., author (with Richard Cash) of Differentiation for Gifted Learner: Going Beyond the Basics
- “Even teachers are willing to be taught if it’s done with tact. Bring resources you’ve found helpful to your kid’s teacher’s attention.” ~ Jeffrey Farley, middle school teacher in Beaumont, Texas
- “Gather all your information, have references ready to quote, don’t allow conversation to get sidetracked and make appointment for next meeting.” ~ Jo Freitag, Coordinator of Gifted Resources and author of Sprite’s Site Blog, Australia
- “Share anecdotes about child’s interests, behaviour, etc. Not all [teachers] know it affects sleep, self esteem.” ~ Barbara Larochelle, GT teacher for 15 years, Edmonton, Canada
What do you say when a school administrator tells you there is no need for a gifted and talented program because all students needs are being met in the regular classroom through differentiation of the curriculum? Dr. Delisle suggests that you ask for specific examples of how differentiation is being done in your child’s classroom. Be prepared to show examples of your child’s work at levels well beyond current grade-level placement. Amy Harrington, Esq. and Board Director at SENG, told us “Many gifted kids don’t need teaching, but rather mentoring. Curriculum is also a waste of time. Modifying it is like a band aid.” Dr. Diane Heacox reminded us that, “Differentiated instruction for ALL is not the same as differentiated instruction for GT.” Drew Frank, principal of Davis Academy in Atlanta, made the astute observation that, “Asynchronous development, divergent thinking, hypermotor overexcitability…etc – In class DIn (differentiated instruction) is not enough to meet all needs of [GT]!”
“You don’t have the moral right to hold one child back to make another child feel better.” ~ Stephanie Tolan
Question #5 dealt with – What would you say to: “It’s not fair to the other students to remove gifted children from classes as they are role models.”? This elicited many divergent responses!
- “Removing gifted and talented students can be the best thing for a class. When bored we’re…disruptive, rebellious, and BAD role models.” ~ Susanne Thomas, Director of Online Education at Gifted Homeschoolers Forum
- “You don’t have the moral right to hold one child back to make another child feel better.” ~ Stephanie Tolan (quoted by the moderator)
- “Teachers who say that are usually defining “gifted” as “sweet little high achiever who does what I say.” ~ Justin Schwamm, Latin instructor at Tres Columnae
- “There is research around students modeling after those who they perceive to be more similar to them; not the superstar.” ~ Dr. Diane Heacox
- In his blog post, Dr. Delisle suggested, “Ask for research-based evidence supporting statement that gifted students serve as role models in general education classes.”
The question as to whether or not a student can be gifted with an accompanying disability, twice exceptional, was discussed at length. It seemed to be a prevalent attitude among administrators who did not have experience with gifted education. However, the existence of twice-exceptional students is well documented. In fact, Dr. Delisle advises parents to say to administrators, “Suggest the possibility of other 2e [twice-exceptional] students and ask what steps the school has taken to identify them.” A full transcript of the chat may be found here.
Thank you to Dr. Jim Delisle and Free Spirit Publishing for permission to reference their topic on this week’s #gtchat.
Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7/6 C & 4 PT in the U.S., midnight in the UK and Saturdays 1 PM NZ/11 AM AEDT to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Pageprovides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community.
About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered byTAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Differentiation at Evernote
Cybraryman’s Differentiation Page
Susan Brookhart ASCD Author
Dr. Diane Heacox (website)