Back-Handed Compliment

In a recent article in The Columbus Dispatch, there is a quote from 12-year old Kallie Boren who is earning  high school credits while in middle-school.

“I’d like to get ahead when I’m in high school,” she said.  “I like the challenge.”

These are words of inspiration by a student energized by accelerated opportunities.  But later in the article some of the adults from local school districts focus on the possible burnout of students taking advanced  courses.  The implied (and expressed) message to any parent reading the Dispatch article is to be cautious and wary of a child taking on the challenge of academic acceleration even if ready and capable.

The attitude attributed to educator Mark Raiff indicates “exposing students to higher-level math earlier should foster a passion for the subject, but students instead are tired of it by the time they complete enough credits to graduate.”

Raiff’s observation has not been my experience.   In interviews with students who are motivated to take advanced work, they report the opposite.  I have found  them to be energized, excited, and engaged.   When such students are not given these opportunities they become bored, disengaged, and indeed  are tired of school by the time they graduate.

I understand and respect that acceleration does not work for every student–but what does?  The research on acceleration for students who are ready and motivated is remarkably consistent and positive .  We have little evidence in education about any intervention that is as robust and consistent.  Yet articles like the one linked from the Dispatch, while admitting acceleration is useful, imply that it is a hit and miss proposition and as likely to be negative as to be positive.  This is not true based on research and not true based on practice.  When it comes to acceleration, “yes, but” is a back-handed compliment.   Give capable and motivated students the chance to flourish and they will.  Just ask Kallie Boren.

Nicholas Colangelo, Director, Belin-Blank Center

2 responses to “Back-Handed Compliment

  1. Nick,
    Well done! Keep accelerating educating!


  2. Nick,
    Thanks for your thoughtful response. There are always the fearful ones disguised as caring for our kids. Give them a challenge, let them fail, encourage, encourage, encourage, not to stay safe, but to be bold!

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