Guidelines for acceleration

These pragmatic guidelines have been designed for use by schools

ACCELERATION INVOLVES speeding the student's passage through school by:

  • curriculum acceleration within a year level;
  • curriculum compression or compaction;
  • subject acceleration;
  • grade or year skipping.

The following principles outline some considerations for schools when contemplating grade or year advancement:

1. Assessment. It is not necessary for every gifted student to be psychometrically tested, particularly if a narrow approach is taken such as the use of culturally inappropriate IQ testing. However, in the case of students who are being considered for accelerated progression, there should be some comprehensive evaluation of the child's intellectual functioning, academic skill levels and social-emotional adjustment.

2. Academic Level. Academically, the child should demonstrate skill levels above the average of the class he or she desires to enter.

3. Student's Ability to Adjust. Socially and emotionally the child should be free of any serious adjustment problems. Principals should be aware, however, that some gifted students' social or emotional difficulties may have been caused by inappropriately low year level placement. In such cases the problem may be alleviated by accelerated progression.

4. Physical Health & Size. The student should be in reasonable physical health. The student's size, however, should be considered only to the extent that competitive sports may be viewed as important in later years.

5. Student's Eagerness to Advance. It is important that the child should not feel unduly pressured by parents. The student himself or herself should be eager to move ahead.

6. Receiving Teacher. The receiving teacher must have positive attitudes towards the year level advancement and must be willing to help the child adjust to the new situation.

7. Social & Emotional Maturity. Judgments about the child's social and emotional maturity should include input from the child's parents and the Guidance Officer or psychologist. Gifted students are sometimes rejected by their classmates. It is important that teachers do not confuse the absence of close peer relationships with social immaturity.

8. Timing of Advancement. Ideally, year level advancement should occur at natural transition points such as the beginning of the school year. However, mid-year advancement may sometimes be desirable where the child's prior teacher may more easily confer about how best to help the child make a smooth transition.

9. Trial Period. All cases of accelerated progression should be arranged on a trial basis of at least six weeks. The child should be aware that if the trial period is not a success, he or she will return to the original year placement. It is important that in such a circumstance the child should not be made to feel that he or she has 'failed'.

10. Cautions. Care should be exercised not to build up excessive expectations from year level advancement. A small minority of gifted children are so advanced in their intellectual or academic development that one year of accelerated progression may still leave them unsatisfied at school. For such children further advancement may be advisable at a later period in the child's schooling. Also flexible programming will be required to accommodate students with asynchronous or uneven development. These children have varying rates of cognitive, emotional and physical development and may need different levels of provision in these areas.

11. Deciding Whether to Advance. Decisions regarding accelerated progression should be based on facts rather than myths. The research literature on acceleration reveals that accelerated progression of gifted students benefits the gifted child both academically and socially. Conversely, failure to advance a highly gifted child may result in poor study habits, apathy, lack of motivation and maladjustment.

[Adapted from: Feldhusen, JF, Proctor, TB & Black, KN (1986): Guidelines for Grade Advancement of Precocious Children. Roeper Review, 9(1), 25-27.]

Overall, the advantages and disadvantages of grade advancement must be assessed for each individual case.

Note that:

(a) It is useful for moderately intellectually or academically gifted students , in particular those who are accelerated learners. Acceleration contributes to academic achievement.

(b) There is no research to indicate negative effects on social or emotional development where acceleration is well-supported by the school culture.

(c) It is irrelevant which year level is not experienced, although early identification is desirable.

(d) Failure to advance a precocious child may result in poor study habits, apathy, lack of motivation and maladjustment.

(e) Overall, research indicates that acceleration results in more positive consequences than negative ones for the students concerned.

Also see a general overview of acceleration as a provision on this site.