In ‘A Nation Empowered’, there are 20 different types of academic acceleration identified. Most have been available for decades, but may prove beneficial today more than ever. Implementing acceleration now is good policy. Academic acceleration encompasses early in and out approaches to education; grade or subject skipping; mastery-based learning; independent study (self-paced education); and dual enrollment. Additional types of academic acceleration include multi-age classes; curriculum compacting; telescoping curriculum; and credit by exam.
In a field that places so much importance on research-based evidence, it is difficult to understand the skepticism that surrounds academic acceleration. Isolated instances of poorly planned acceleration too often make the headlines … in sharp contrast to the enormous amount evidence to the contrary. In fact, not accelerating a student whose situation indicates a need and willingness to do so has more negative repercussions than any perceived issues with acceleration. These students face disengagement due to boredom and higher drop-out rates.
When schools begin to re-open, budgets are going to be stretched to the brink. We’ve already begun to see gifted education programs being slashed from school budgets. These students’ needs aren’t going anywhere. The effects of being out of school for so many months have been devastating for a majority of students. The perceived need for extensive remediation will exacerbate the GT students’ need for greater depth and complexity. At all grade levels, K-College, it makes sense to allow students to progress through the system at their own speed with any means at their disposal … early entrance & graduation, distance learning, self-pacing, etc.
Best practices in academic acceleration starts with planning, planning, planning … what’s available, student buy-in, a strong commitment to the end-game, & the need to address the consequences of not making it available. Questions to ask before beginning acceleration – does the school have an adequate K12 infrastructure in place to support acceleration, how will acceleration benefit the student, & is there an exit-strategy if it isn’t working. Best practices include choosing appropriate assessments, a written acceleration plan with decisive objectives/goals, addressing academic gaps, and periodic follow-up.
Parents are often the first to assess their child’s potential. To facilitate the process of requesting consideration for acceleration, it is imperative that parents document early abilities, task and work completion, and outside test results. The first point of contact with the school should be the classroom teacher. Parents can request test data or appropriate testing, what resources are available, and to have the formation of a formal assessment team. Parents should document all communication with the school, take notes at all meetings, and be prepared to advocate with research-based evidence for all necessary services for their child.
Gifted education has long been cited for glaring inequities in how students are placed in gifted programs. In light of issues highlighted by the sudden onset of the coronavirus, it would seem a good time to reevaluate the process. Likewise, there has never been a problem with accelerating exceptional talent when it comes to sports. Perhaps it’s time to take a page out of the athletic playbook? Recent state programs that automatically enroll qualified students in advanced coursework have met with high levels of success and are far more reflective of the racial and socioeconomic makeup of their schools.
A transcript of this chat may be found at Wakelet.
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About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT 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
Early to the Starting Line: Acceleration Begins at Kindergarten (Podcast 31:27)
Academic Acceleration (YouTube 5:35)
NAGC: Parent TIP Sheet – Acceleration (pdf 2017)
Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad