Tips for Parents: Acceleration for Students in 8th Grade and Younger
Ann Lupkowski Shoplik, Ph.D., Director of the Carnegie Mellon Institute for Talented Elementary and Secondary Students at Carnegie Mellon University, conducted a seminar for parents of academically talented students who were interested in acceleration. Below are some of the points discussed during the seminar.
Acceleration for Students in 8th Grade and Younger
Where do we start with our school if we are considering a grade-skip?
The following factors are important to consider in discussing grade acceleration:
- School and academic factors (including student’s abilities and achievements, school attendance, student's motivation, attitude toward learning, etc.)
- Developmental factors (physical size, motor coordination),
- Interpersonal skills (relationships with peers and teachers, outside-of-school activities)
- Attitude and support (student's attitude toward acceleration, parents' attitude, school system attitude and support, planning for the future).
If your child is already enrolled in school, talk to the child's current teacher and ask for help with the process. The gifted coordinator or gifted teacher may be another good advocate, since he or she should know the research regarding acceleration and may have some positive experiences to share with other decision-makers. The principal, who often makes the final decision about acceleration, should be included in the discussions as well. Be well-prepared when attending meetings with school personnel. Document your requests in writing, provide relevant test results and offer detailed explanations.
If you haven’t already done so, have your child’s abilities assessed. This objective information is essential in any discussion about acceleration. It is important to have an assessment that includes ability, aptitude, and achievement testing. Curriculum-based assessment (tied to the specific curriculum offered in your school) is also extremely useful.
What are some of the signs a student is ready for acceleration?
You might start researching the possibility of acceleration for your child if you experience some of the following:
- Your child complains a lot about being bored in school.
- Your child has no homework, or all homework is completed on the bus.
- Your child has no need to study, but still gets good grades on tests.
- Your child demonstrates high standardized achievement and aptitude test scores.
- Although the teacher might provide some enrichment, you have a real sense that the lessons are not challenging enough.
- Your child prefers to spend time with older friends.
One of the challenging things about considering acceleration is if a student isn't getting top grades in the "age-appropriate" class and/or doesn't exhibit perfect behavior. Is the lack of high grades or the poor behavior due to the lack of challenge in the current grade? Will accelerating the student help the situation or make it worse? In addition, some students are so well-behaved that it’s not obvious they need more challenge. They get along well with others, do what the teacher asks, get their homework done, and earn good grades. Sometimes we neglect to consider acceleration as a possibility, even though they might benefit from the challenge.
Reprinted with the permission of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development. © 2008 Davidson Institute for Talent Development
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