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Dr. Beth Maloney
Teaching and Learning Consultant for
Gifted and Talented Education - GATE


Lindsay Corbin
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What Should I Know About Acceleration?


What Should I Know About


Acceleration is an educational intervention that moves students through an educational process at a faster than usual rate or younger than typical age. Acceleration means matching the level, complexity, and pace of the curriculum with the readiness level of the student.
Acceleration is the movement of a student, by pace or place, which matches learning opportunities with the student’s needs and strengths.

Types of acceleration:
1.  Early admission to kindergarten 
10.  Mentoring
2.  Early admission to first grade 11.  Extracurricular activities
3.  Grade skipping 12.  Correspondence courses
4.  Continuous progress 13.   Early graduation
5.  Self-paced instruction 14.   Concurrent/dual enrollment
6.  Subject matter acceleration 15.   Advanced Placement
7.  Combined classes 16.   Credit by examination
8.  Curriculum compacting

17.   Acceleration in college

9  Telescoping curriculum 18.   Early entrance into middle school, high school or college

What about the students' social lives?

If a child is socially as well as academically mature, he or she should have little difficulty finding a social peer group among older students.  Participation in clubs, sports, or other groups that fit the child's interests can enhance opportunities for a wide variety of friendships.

If my child is accelerated can I then cease my concern about his or her schooling?

No indeed!  Like all students, bright students have a variety of needs that change over time.  A change of grade level will save time, but guarantees little else without appropriate differentiated curriculum.  Vigilant parents advocating for challenging and appropriate curriculum are the best resource for making sure that students' needs are met throughout their school experience.

What is acceleration?

Acceleration entails studying material earlier, or at a faster pace, than most students.  There are a variety of ways that schools apply acceleration. They include:

  • Early Admittance to School- students are admitted to kindergarten at a younger age than usual;
  • Subject Specific Acceleration- Students study one or more subjects at a grade level higher then their homeroom class;
  • Grade Skipping- Students move past a grade (for example from grade 4 to grade 6);
  • Collasping Grades- Accelerated students might, for example, complete three years of middle school in two years, or four years of high school in three years;
  • Dual Enrollment- Students enroll in college courses while still in high school, and receive credit towards high school graduation.

Why should students be accelerated?

There are two major reasons for accelerating a student;

  • Students are accelerated in order to provide them with a learning environment in which others are working at a similar academic level; and
  • Students are accelerated in order to streamline and shorten their course of study by one or more years.  This enables accelerated students to move on from high school to further academic endeavors, internships, employment, or other life experiences sooner that they would otherwise.

Why Is Acceleration necessary?

The importance of acceleration is driven by the legitimate educational needs of high ability students. Readiness, not age, should be the primary determinate of grade placement. Research reveals that gifted students are more academically and emotionally advanced than their typical age-mates. The evidence indicates that when children’s academic and social needs are not met, the result is boredom and disengagement from school.

What are some factors to think about when considering acceleration?

The decision to accelerate should take into account the student's academic, physical, and social maturity.  In general, the following guidelines should apply:

  • The student should be performing several grades above age level.  When skipping is being considered, performance should be advanced in several subject areas.
  • The student should be socially and emotionally mature and able to adjust to new settings and more mature peers.
  • In considering grade skipping, the student's physical size should be considered only to the extent that competitive sports may be viewed as important.
  • The student should be eager to move forward in school.  He or she may be bored and unchallenged with the current curriculum and school setting.

What happens to students who are accelerated?

Research on acceleration show a positive impact on academic achievement.  Accelerated students do well or better than equally bright students who are not accelerated  Of course, this does not guarantee success in every instance, and more research is needed on the factors that moderate success between the different forms of acceleration and students' cognitive and social-emotional needs.

Why is acceleration not readily accepted as an appropriate intervention?

Acceleration runs counter to many personal beliefs. Educators believe that children belong with their age mates. Universities do not prepare teachers and administrators to make decisions about acceleration. In some instances, acceleration is viewed as an equity issue; individual students are less important than equal opportunity for all.  Parents and teachers worry about social adjustment and pushing a child too hard.

Who should be accelerated?

All acceleration requires high academic ability. Standardized test score and teacher observations provide evidence that a student has mastered the current curriculum and is ready for faster–paced, more complex coursework. But curriculum mastery is only the first of many characteristics which should be taken into consideration in deciding if a child is ready for acceleration. Parents and educators will want to think about a child’s motivation, social-emotional maturity and interests when considering if acceleration is appropriate.

How do we determine when to request acceleration?

Children who are performing consistently two or more years above grade level in math, reading and most other academic disciplines may be considered. The child should score above 130 on an IQ test and want to be accelerated. They should demonstrate mastery of the CRTs of the grade they will skip.

If a child is accelerated, won’t there be gaps in the child’s knowledge?

We accelerate students because they are well ahead of their age-peers in their academic development and knowledge.  Gifted students learn quickly so the gaps quickly disappear.

What are the social emotional effects of acceleration?

Research has shown that friendships are related more closely to mental age than chronological age. While it may take awhile, accelerated students readily make friends. The child may experience a dip in their self-esteem. They go from being the most intelligent student in the class to having peers who are as intelligent as they are. They develop a more realistic self-esteem. As friendships are developed, having a cohort of intellectual peers is stimulating and exciting!

How do we go about making the decision to accelerate?

The research on acceleration is expansive and consistent. Acceleration is a positive intervention for the highly academic student. The attitude of the child is extremely important. The child must want to skip and crave a challenge. Children should be accelerated only if they can be among the very best students in the class into which they are accelerated. When bright students are accelerated into a class where students know as much as they do, students form a more realistic self-perception.   

The Office of Gifted and Talented supports the acceleration intervention that best meets the need of the child.  The Gifted and Talented facilitator is a key person and uses a series of steps, outlined in our acceleration packet, to walk a team through the acceleration process. Also utilized is the Iowa Acceleration Scale, which is a proven acceleration tool. Input from various individuals, including the school psychologist, is an integral part to looking at the whole child.

Source: A Nation Deceived How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students
           To download a copy:

A Nation Deceived
The topic of education and how it pertains to high ability students is widely discussed throughout our country. This discussion often times leads to the question, "What can we do to meet the educational needs of the high ability learner?". Acceleration more than likely will be one response that may spur on very pointed discussions. To gain perspective into the concept of acceleration, please take the time to read, A Nation Deceived : How Schools Hold Back America's Brightest Students.

Click on the following link, then click on the book cover to discover more information about acceleration.