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The Beat of a Different Drummer

September 30, 2009
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I am always troubled to find instances of arbitrary dismissal of accelerative options by public schools in America. The practice is even more egregious when paired with wholesale elimination of gifted services in the name of budget restrictions. By placing the high ability student in a classroom with no accelerative options and no enrichment services to help meet their individual education needs, public schools run the risk of driving them into a daily routine void of authentic learning. Marking “seat” time in each grade level these student lose years of learning. It is precisely during a time of economic hardship that we should encourage schools to reexamine and then implement cost effective interventions to help meet the needs of high ability students. And no intervention is more cost effective than acceleration.

“Grade skipping” (whole grade acceleration) is only one of 18 different accelerative options identified in “A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students,” by Nicholas Colangelo, Susan G. Assouline, Miraca U. M. Gross. Yet, as we are reminded by a recent blog post on “The More Child,” there are some schools where whole grade acceleration is routinely dismissed. And in “Go Laura, Sorry Kay,” Switched On Mom points out that math intervention isn’t the only area that needs accommodation in our schools. More disturbing still is the reality that Montgomery County Public School’s gifted education experts seem unaware of the depth of research in support of “grade skipping.”

Why do some schools deny their high ability students the opportunity to learn at an appropriate pace “matching the level and complexity of the curriculum with the readiness and motivation of the student?” – according to “A Nation Deceived,” primarily because they have:

Limited familiarity with the research on acceleration
Philosophy that children must be kept with their age group
Belief that acceleration hurries children out of childhood
Fear that acceleration hurts children socially
Political concerns about equity
Worry that other students will be offended if one child is accelerated.

Not everyone moves at the same pace. It’s about time that our education system recognizes this and moves to implement research-based accommodations instead of sticking to tired old formulas based on subjective reasoning.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 30, 2009 2:11 pm

    Well put. We have a partial acceleration for math, but I’d be happy to have accommodations within the grade level for my boys. That doesn’t seem to be happening, though.

    In other news, on his Fall MAP scores, it seems my boy (who had no formal math enrichment over the summer) finally made the expected four-point gain that was predicted he’d make last Spring. Which makes me wonder how much that advanced math class helps, anyway.

  2. September 30, 2009 4:46 pm

    As I write in “Raising a Left-Brain Child in a Right-Brain World,” some of the kids in the most desperate need of grade acceleration, at least in math and science, also look, to those who insist on the “whole child”, like the worst possible candidates for it. Consider the developmentally-skewed math buff, or the child with Asperger’s, whose precocious analytical strengths far exceed his/her social and emotional development and organizational skills. Bored and disengaged in his or her current classroom, he/she desperately needs harder material. But his or her “whole child” deficits, especially when combined with the behavioral problems that often accompany boredom, keeps this much needed remedy forever out of reach.

    • September 30, 2009 5:20 pm

      Katharine, thank you for that great example. I wonder if there might be a left-brained/right-brained model for future consideration – e.g. instead of ability grouping entire grade levels we do away with age-defined grade levels (ala Montessori) and group kids based on right brain/left brain skills – hmm, food for thought!

  3. October 6, 2009 12:35 am

    This could be my public school. The problem is that we’re stuck. Our only other option is a Catholic school. Since we’re not Catholic, we won’t even consider it. It’s quite frustrating because we see all the resources being thrown at the lower ability students — all to make sure the test scores look good. Our girls make the district’s test scores look really good with little effort and are nearly forgotten. It’s sad that they go to school each day for a lengthy play date. I practically homeschool them to keep them challenged.

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