My Principal Is Hesitant About Acceleration: Where Do I Start?

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We recommend a team approach to making decisions about academic acceleration. Important members of the team include administrators, educators, and parents or guardians. Because some educators or administrators have not had training or experience with acceleration, they may be hesitant to pursue a discussion about acceleration with a family or other educators. Below are some helpful hints for talking with a reluctant principal or other administrators about acceleration.

Students’ Educational Needs Vary

Students start school at various levels of readiness, and a one-size-fits all approach fails many learners. Research findings suggest that academically talented students begin the school year already knowing more than half of the curriculum that they are expected to learn that year. Too often, our brightest students are left bored, underchallenged, and disengaged in the classroom. We need a variety of methods to differentiate their instruction–including acceleration.

Research Supports Acceleration

Over 70 years of research have revealed a proven method of differentiating instruction for students – academic acceleration. Because research has repeatedly shown the academic, social, and emotional benefits of acceleration, it is heralded as the most effective academic intervention for bright students. In fact, a 2020 longitudinal study (following a group of individuals for 35 years) demonstrated positive effects on the long-term well-being of students who had been accelerated in school, including those who skipped a grade.

A Nation Empowered, a well-known report about academic acceleration, indicates that acceleration matches the level, complexity, and pace to the curriculum, readiness, and motivation of the student. Matching readiness to opportunity is common in sports and music. We can offer the same programming option for academic learning in school.

Resources about Acceleration

Detailed information about the various forms of acceleration (at least 20 forms!) is available on the Acceleration Institute website. Visitors can see a map including information about acceleration policies throughout the United States, review guidelines for developing acceleration policies, and have their questions about acceleration answered.

How Do We Make Decisions?

Whether or not to skip a grade or move ahead in a specific subject is considered a high stakes decision. It needs to be made carefully by a team following a personalized process, including a wealth of data that includes both subjective and objective measures.

Acceleration experts at the Belin-Blank Center used these important considerations to guide the development of the online platform, the Integrated Acceleration System. It serves as an excellent tool to guide a team’s decision. The Integrated Acceleration System carefully leads the team through an efficient and effective process to help them prepare for a successful acceleration, if it is determined that it is in the bests interests of the student. As a comprehensive tool, it provides:

  • A research-based foundation,
  • A user-friendly, web-based platform,
  • A series of guides to build expertise and to support the child study team,
  • An email compatibility feature, which fosters efficient communication,
  • A comprehensive written student report with research-based recommendations,
  • A wealth of resources for educators and families,
  • Sample documents that can be used in communication, and
  • A flexible approach centered around the student.

For grade skipping decisions, a child study team collects a variety of data spanning various times and settings. The data are reviewed and discussed in their entirety, and the focus throughout the process remains on the individual child. The intent of the Integrated Acceleration System is to offer educators and families a powerful approach rooted in a well-defined process that objectively considers the student’s academic, social, and emotional needs.

Additional Information

www.nationempowered.org

Overview of Acceleration video on the Acceleration Institute website

Information about subject acceleration, an option for students who do not need whole grade acceleration

Interested in Professional Development?

The Belin-Blank Center will provide a webinar on the Integrated Acceleration System for teachers and administrators on Tuesday, September 13th from 4:00-5:30 p.m. Central time. Learn more and sign up here.

With thanks to Randy Lange for providing the content for this blog.

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