One of the students in your school is being considered for acceleration, and you are facilitating this discussion. You have talked about this with the family and other teachers, strategized with administrators, gathered the data, and scheduled a meeting. What are the final steps you need to complete as you prepare for this meeting?
The regular classroom teacher who is invited to attend the meeting may not have had any significant training in gifted education or academic acceleration, but they would have been exposed to surface level concepts such as academic rigor, Bloom’s Taxonomy, or the wide variability among their students in terms of their academic abilities; these ideas direct our thinking to considering options such as acceleration for individual students. Resources such as Volume 1 of A Nation Empowered and the educator page of the Acceleration Institute website will provide an introduction to acceleration and answer basic questions about the short-term and long-term impact of acceleration. Parents or guardians and school administrators would also benefit from similar introductory materials (e.g., see the parent’s page).
The team of individuals who come together to talk about acceleration for a particular student generally includes the parent or guardian, an administrator, the current classroom teacher, receiving (future) teacher, gifted teacher or coordinator, and others who have information and knowledge relevant to the discussion. Whether you’re using the Integrated Acceleration System or another tool to help guide you through the process of making decisions about acceleration, you’ll want to consider these items before the team meets:
- Answer team members’ questions through individual meetings or via email/phone. Make sure they have informative resources such as the ones listed above.
- It is likely the current classroom teacher has already been talking with gifted education staff about the student concerning strategies and options for meeting the student’s needs. Your support might be needed in these discussions.
- Determine the purpose of the meeting. Is it to introduce acceleration as an option or to make a decision about acceleration?
- It is important to present to the parents the options that have already been made available to their student. These might include special projects the student has completed, distance learning options, and/or flexible grouping for high-ability readers. Highlighting strategies that have already been in place starts the meeting off on a positive note.
- Pre-plan possible options. For example, consider what additional supports might be offered to the student and regular classroom teacher if the decision is not to accelerate the student. Consider when and how the student will be advanced to the next grade, if the decision is made to accelerate. Consider how subject acceleration might be implemented if that is the option chosen for the student.
- Key “If We Grade Skip” questions might be: What scaffolding might be needed? What coordination (e.g., desk in the room, name added to classroom charts, consumables acquired) needs to be addressed? What closure might be needed in the current grade? Which grade level state testing will be administered? Who will be the receiving classroom “buddy”?
- Key “If We Do NOT Grade Skip” questions might be: What are the student’s key strengths and areas requiring growth? Is the student a candidate for subject acceleration? What classroom differentiation as well as outside of school enrichment opportunities might be appropriate? How might the parents/guardians be assured that the student will be challenged in school?
- Make a list of topics to be discussed at the meeting, such as:
- Discuss the data that were collected, including standardized testing results and informal information about what the student does in the classroom and at home.
- Discuss the student’s approach to something novel and challenging.
- Give stakeholders the opportunity to share what they know about the student.
- Prepare questions that will get the family involved in the discussion, such as “Tell us about your child?” “What do you see at home?” Ask what they might have observed from the past year or previous years.
- What does the student do outside of school? These might include online opportunities, community activities, museum visits, public speaking opportunities, and/or mentorships.
Sample Team Meeting Agenda
11:00 AM – Introductions and brief general overview of the tool used, the Integrated Acceleration System, and its purpose
11:10 AM – Overview of Integrated Acceleration System Sections A-D.
11:15 AM – Discuss items of interest from previously completed sections.
11:25 AM – Discuss achievement, ability, and aptitude testing information. Consider strengths and opportunities for growth.
11:35 AM – Discuss Questions for the Meeting from the Integrated Acceleration System.
11:45 AM – Review the email list of who will receive the student report. Generate the report. Read the recommendations and discuss them. Make a decision.
12:00 PM – Plan next steps (including any additional data that needs to be collected)
12:15 PM – Determine who will monitor the transition, if the decision is to accelerate the student.
Special thanks to Randy Lange for a productive discussion that informed this blog.