As the parent of a highly able child, your role is crucial in your child’s education. Experience and research repeatedly illustrate the need for and value of parent advocates—as you know your child best. Be prepared to take a positive, proactive, and focused role with teachers and administrators in your child’s school to find the best programming for your child. Academic acceleration should be considered as a differentiation intervention or strategy set in a solid research foundation that allows for fit, challenge, and the development of student potential throughout the K–12 process.
As the parent of a gifted child, you know your child’s unique needs best. You know how your child actively responded to your actions and words as a very young infant; communicated, learned, and demonstrated advanced talents at a younger than typical age; and read letters and words from a car seat as you traveled around town. You know your child is sensitive, caring, and fair-minded. You may even have heard family and/or friends comment on how your child seems to grasp so much so quickly. Truly you know your child best, and you are your child’s best advocate, and one strategy to consider is academic acceleration.
Academic acceleration is an individual, educational intervention that allows a learner to progress through the educational system at a faster rate or younger age than typical learners based on appropriate level of challenge. Many forms of academic acceleration address academic needs, provide academic challenge, and allow students to complete traditional schooling tailored to each child’s academic and social and emotional readiness. Grade-based acceleration strategies shorten the number of years a learner remains in the K–12 system before entering a college, university, or other postsecondary training (Rogers, 2004). Subject-based acceleration exposes the learner to advanced content, skills, and understanding before the expected grade level in specific content area or areas (Rogers, 2004).
Academic acceleration can be by grade or by subject. The following strategies can be woven together over time to serve the needs of a student and family (NAGC, n.d.; Southern & Jones, 2004).
Research to Guide Your Decision and Advocacy
Decades of research demonstrate the need for, and benefits of, gifted education strategies and programs. These include the use of acceleration, enrichment, curriculum enhancement, and differentiated curriculum and instruction, which all have been shown to increase the achievement of high-ability learners. Despite the large corpus of research supporting acceleration practices, there still remains reluctance to institute these practices. Borland stated:
Rogers (1999) offered evidence that supports acceleration, specifically in science and mathematics:
Colangelo, et al. (2004) further synthesized decades of research on the topic of academic acceleration. Their findings are summarized as follows:
With a keen focus on the socioaffective impact of acceleration supports, Neihart (2007) recommended the following best practices in support of highly able learners:
Advocating for Your Child
Your role as an educational advocate is to foster the academic and social-emotional development of your child using available resources for academic acceleration. The great news is that while the road may not be smooth, there are a range of tools, guides, individuals, educators, and programs to help you along the way. Your task is to find the right information, people, and programs to parent your high-potential child.
Although you cannot control the educational system or the minds of teachers or administrators, you can be guided by more than 30 years of solid research, best practice, and amazingly passionate individuals in the field of gifted and talented education. Begin the process today by thoughtfully considering these 10 guiding points:
It is never too early nor too late to support your child’s educational growth. Although early intervention is preferred, begin right now today to do what is best for your child. Make a commitment today to listen to your heart, your gut, your child, and other wise parents, and become an active, informed decision maker in the educational process for your child’s growth and well-being. Start today.
Susan Scheibel, Ed.D., is the parent of three, a passionate gifted education advocate, and the past president of the Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented (CAGT). She completed her graduate studies at the University of Northern Colorado. She is a member of the Colorado Coalition for Gifted; the Colorado Educational Success Task Force; the State Advisory Committee for Gifted Student Education; and the Colorado Academy of Educators for the Gifted, Talented, and Creative.
Colangelo, N., Assouline, S. G., & Gross, M. U. M. (2004). A nation deceived: How schools hold back America’s brightest students (Vols. 1–2). Iowa City: The University of Iowa, Belin-Blank June 2012 7 Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development.
National Association for Gifted Children. (n.d.). Frequently used terms in gifted education. Retrieved from http://www.nagc. org/GlossaryofTerms.aspx
Neihart, M. (2007). The socioaffective impact of acceleration and ability grouping: Recommendations for best practice. Gifted Child Quarterly, 51, 330–341.
Rogers, K. B. (1999). Research synthesis on gifted provisions: Update of a best-evidence synthesis of research on accelerative options for gifted students. In N. Colangelo, S. G. Assouline & D. L. Ambroson (Eds.), Talent development: The Proceedings from the 1991 Henry B. and Jocelyn Wallace National Research Symposium on Talent Development (pp. 406-409). New York, NY: Trillium Press.
Rogers, K. B. (2004). The academic effects of academic acceleration. In N. Colangelo, S. G. Assouline, & M. U. M. Gross (Eds.), A nation deceived: How schools hold back America’s brightest students (Vol. 2, pp. 47–58). Iowa City: The University of Iowa, Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development.
Southern, T., & Jones, E. D. (2004). Types of acceleration: Dimensions and issues. In N. Colangelo, S. G. Assouline, & M. U. M. Gross (Eds.), A nation deceived: How schools hold back America’s brightest students (Vol. 2, pp. 5–12). Iowa City: The University of Iowa, Belin- Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development.
Copyright 2012 NAGC. Reprinted with permission of the National Association for Gifted Children http://www.nagc.org. No further reprints are permitted without the consent of NAGC.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
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