Should Gifted Students Be Grade-Advanced? (page 2)
Intellectually gifted and academically talented students are able to learn material rapidly and understand concepts deeply. Keeping them challenged and learning to their capacity can require changes in their regular school programs. Education programs for children identified as gifted and talented take many forms pull-out programs offering educational enrichment, honors classes, after school and summer programs featuring special course work, and mentor programs in which children are matched with professionals in the community for special learning experiences.
Sometimes, gifted youngsters may be so advanced in knowledge and so clearly operating at an intellectual level beyond that of their same-age peers that educational acceleration is a realistic and desirable alternative to normal grade-level work. Educational acceleration is often perceived simply as placing a child one or more grades ahead with older children. For instance, a child who has completed the fourth grade may be double-promoted to the sixth, skipping fifth grade entirely. Sometimes, if children are especially talented in one subject area (most often mathematics, science, or English), they may be allowed to take advanced courses with older students in that subject while remaining in their own grade for other subjects. Another alternative is to have gifted children tutored and advanced in given subjects, either individually or in small groups of children with similar talents. For instance, a group of high school students might meet for advanced mathematics classes twice a week with a professor from a local university.
These arrangements are all appropriate for children who are intellectually and academically capable of learning at a faster pace and in greater depth than their same-age peers, and who are motivated to do so. Insisting that gifted and talented students remain with their age-mates at all costs may exact too high a cost from them. It may result in boredom and daydreaming, poor study habits, behavior problems, or school avoidance. But the decision to allow a child to accelerate educationally is one that must be made for each child, taking into account his or her intellectual and emotional needs and the services the school can provide.
Is Educational Acceleration Harmful to the Child Academically?
The majority of studies have shown that children who have been educationally accelerated do not suffer academically. Their grades are higher than those of their peers who chose not to accelerate, and they compare favorably with those of older students in their classes. Accelerated students also report heightened interest in and enthusiasm for school.
But Won't There Be Gaps in the Child's Knowledge?
If children skip one or more grades, they may occasionally encounter unfamiliar material from the skipped grade. Therefore, arrangements should be made to allow the children to cover any such material without penalty as it is encountered. Because there is repetition in normal curricula, gaps occur less often than one might think and are seldom a significant problem for the gifted and talented student, who learns quickly and well.
Is Educational Acceleration Harmful to the Child Emotionally or Socially?
This aspect of educational acceleration seems to worry parents and educators most. In general, children who are well-adjusted and socially at ease before accelerating report having two groups of friends they belong to a circle of older students, but they also retain friendships with children who are the same age.
Children who are socially withdrawn or who have difficulty making friends may experience similar problems when placed with older children. On the other hand, there are cases in which a gifted child is more comfortable with older children than with age-mates. This may be true more often for girls than boys. The receiving classroom teacher in an accelerated setting can help the younger student find a niche among the older students.
What Do Educators Think of the Educational Acceleration Option?
Research about acceleration consistently documents positive effects, both academic and social, for children who have accelerated, but educators have been slow to embrace the option. Fears about social and emotional development problems for these children are common. However, people who specialize in working with gifted and talented children and teachers and parents who have had personal experience with educational acceleration tend to be more positive.
Reprinted with the permission of the Education Resources Information Center.
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