Skip to main content

Types of Acceleration

Gifted Parenting and Strategies

This excerpt from A Nation Empowered lists 20 different types of acceleration.

Publication: Excerpt from A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students
Publisher: University of Iowa College of Education Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development
Year: 2015

Twenty different types of acceleration were identified in A Nation Empowered. These forms are defined below. Additional information about relevant resources is included.

Early admission to kindergarten

In this form of acceleration, students enter kindergarten before they reach the minimum school entry age (which varies widely across states and districts). For more information, see the Early Entrance to Kindergarten page, as well as the chapter on Whole-Grade Acceleration and Early Entrance to Kindergarten in the 2015 report, A Nation Empowered.

Early admission to first grade

Students participating in this accelerative option attend first grade in their first year of school, either by skipping kindergarten entirely or by moving from kindergarten to first grade within the student’s first school year.

Grade-skipping (or whole-grade acceleration)

Students are placed in a grade level ahead of chronological age peers. Decisions to grade-skip a student must be made by a team of professionals using a wide range of data. The Iowa Acceleration Scale was created to provide an objective analysis of the data to assist in the decision-making process. The 2015 report, A Nation Empowered, contains chapters on both grade-skipping and radical acceleration.

Continuous progress

Students engaging in this option are given new content as prior content is completed and mastered. The practice is considered accelerative when the student’s progress outpaces that of chronological peers in rate and level.

Self-paced instruction

In self-paced instruction, students proceed through learning and instructional activities at a self-selected pace. It is distinguishable from continuous progress in that the student has control over all pacing decisions.

Subject-matter acceleration/partial acceleration (Or content-based acceleration)

Students are placed in classes with older peers for a part of the day in one or more content areas. Students could physically move to a higher-level class for instruction, or they could use higher-level curricular materials within their original classroom. Subject-matter acceleration can also be used in tandem with a number of other accelerative options, including extracurricular programs, and whole-grade acceleration. Information about subject-matter acceleration decisions in STEM subjects can be found in IDEALSolutions. Also see Developing Math Talent and other books for details about accelerating in mathematics. The chapter about Talent Searches and another chapter on Acceleration and STEM Education in A Nation Empowered provide additional details about content acceleration. The chapter about Content Acceleration in A Nation Empowered includes a special focus on adapting the Core Curriculum while accelerating gifted students.

Combined classes

Multiple grades are taught in the same classroom (i.e., fourth and fifth grades are combined into one class).Though not an accelerative option in itself, in some instances this practice may provide opportunities for younger students to engage academically and socially with older peers. It may or may not result in advanced grade placements for those younger students.

Curriculum compacting

The curriculum is adapted to include fewer introductory activities and less repetition. Adaptations should be made based on pre-assessment of content knowledge. The time saved may be used for more advanced content instruction or to participate in enrichment activities. This practice does not necessarily result in advanced grade placement.

Telescoping curriculum

Students are provided instruction in less time than is typical (e.g., completing a one-year course in a semester or completing 3 years of middle school in two years). The time saved always results in advanced grade placement.


Students are paired with mentors who provide advanced or faster-paced instruction. Ideally, mentorship would be used in a student’s area(s) of interest, providing them opportunities to work with professionals in a field they could see themselves entering.

Extracurricular programs

Students elect to enroll in after school or summer programs or courses that confer advanced instruction and/or credit. Talent Search programs, for example, offer accelerated classes during the summer, many of which are content-based and employ fast-paced learning. See the chapter about Talent Searches in A Nation Empowered for more information. Other extracurricular programs at the Belin-Blank Center include WINGS, Blast, and Challenge Saturdays.

Distance learning or online learning courses

Students enroll in courses offered by an organization outside of their school, through community colleges, 4-year colleges or universities, or other organizations. These courses are commonly offered online, and students can work during school hours, after school, and/or at home. Parents often pay for these courses, and one frequent goal is for the student to earn advanced credit for the work completed. The Belin-Blank Center offers the Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy (IOAPA). There are many other online or distance learning opportunities included in the appendices in A Nation Empowered. Others are listed at:

Concurrent/Dual enrollment

In this form of acceleration, students take a course at one level and receive concurrent credit for a parallel course at a higher level. For example, a student may take algebra at the middle school, and earn credit at both the middle school and high school level. Another example of this practice is a “College in High School” program in which high school students take college-level courses taught by specially trained high school teachers. Those students commonly earn college credit upon successful completion of the course.

Advanced Placement

The Advanced Placement (AP) program, offered by the College Board, allows students to enroll in AP courses offered through their high school and/or take AP tests. High scores on AP exams may earn students advanced credit.

International Baccalaureate program

International Baccalaureate (IB) is a specialized educational program offered at authorized schools. Students who participate in this program, complete an IB high school diploma, and perform well on IB exams may receive advanced standing at selected universities.

Accelerated/honors high school or residential high school on a college campus

Students attend a selective high school program designed specifically for gifted students. Day schools and residential schools of this type offer advanced coursework, as well as opportunities for mentorships and internships, and students at these schools often complete high school graduation requirements in tandem with college coursework. The State Residential STEM schools chapter in A Nation Empowered provides examples of these types of schools.

Credit by examination

Students are awarded advanced credit for successfully completing some form of mastery test or activity. Students who earn this type of credit have often mastered material through independent study or internship experiences.

Early entrance into middle school, high school, or college

Students enter the next level of school at least one year earlier than expected. This may be achieved with the employment of other accelerative techniques. More information about early entrance to college programs can be found on the Acceleration Institute websiteA Nation Empowered includes a chapter on Early Entrance to College.

Acceleration in college

Students who are accelerated in college complete two or more majors in a total of four years, and/or earn advanced degree(s) along with or in lieu of a bachelor’s degree.

Early graduation from high school or college

Students graduate from high school or college in three-and-a-half years or less. Generally, this is accomplished by increasing the amount of coursework undertaken each year, but it may also be accomplished through dual/concurrent enrollment, distance learning, or extracurricular programs.

Additional Information

Additional information and resources about the various types of acceleration can be found on the Acceleration Institute website, the Hoagies Gifted website, and the Davidson Institute website.


Stephanie Givens

I have always agreed that students should be accelerated, if they're ready for the challenge. If not, we risk loss of engagement and behavioral problems in the classroom.

Laura Lopez

Thank you so much for providing this information. As a parent of a GT student it is very frustrating to know that the kid gets bored year after year at public schools and that administrators deny accelerating an fast learner student who has only A's without a valid reason even though they claim to provide personalized learning.


Have you asked for paper work to push for acceleration?

julie Ybarra

I do feel students should be accelerated.

Add a comment

Please note, the Davidson Institute is a non-profit serving families with highly gifted children. We will not post comments that are considered soliciting, mention illicit topics, or share highly personal information.

Related Articles

Gifted Resources

What Your Therapist Needs to Know About Giftedness

Dr. Gail Post, a Clinical Psychologist with over 35 years of experience, discusses the cognitive, social and emotional impact of…

Gifted Resources

Barriers in Gifted Education: Working Together to Support Gifted Learners and Families

The mission of the Davidson Institute is to recognize, nurture and support profoundly intelligent young people and to provide opportunities…

Gifted Parenting and Strategies

How to Support Your Gifted Child

How to Support Your Gifted Child Recognizing and fostering your child’s exceptional abilities requires a blend of understanding, patience, and…

Gifted Parenting and Strategies

Homeschooling Curriculum for the Gifted Child

In the article “Homeschooling Curriculum for the Gifted Child,” published by the Davidson Institute, author Sarah Boone offers an in-depth…