Acceleration can be defined as any educational intervention that permits students to progress through school at faster rates or at an earlier age than expected. Acceleration includes single-subject acceleration, whole-grade acceleration, and early-entrance to school. Acceleration means matching the level, complexity, and pace of the curriculum with the readiness and motivation of the student.
It is important to define what acceleration is not. Acceleration does not mean pushing a child. It does not mean forcing a child to learn advanced material or socialize with older children before he or she is ready.
Acceleration is really about letting students soar. Acceleration is a strategy that respects individual differences and acknowledges the fact that some of these differences merit educational flexibility. It provides cumulative educational advantage.
Single-subject acceleration is the practice of assigning a student to a higher grade level than is typical given the student’s age for the purpose of providing access to appropriately challenging learning opportunities in one or more subject areas. This type of acceleration provides the student with advanced content, skills, and understandings before the expected age or grade level.
Whole-grade acceleration is the practice of assigning a student to a higher grade level than is typical given the student’s age on a full-time basis for the purpose of providing access to appropriately challenging learning opportunities. This type of acceleration shortens the number of years a student remains in the K-12 school system.
Early Entrance to School
Early entrance to school is the practice of admitting a student to kindergarten who has not yet reached the typical age at which students are admitted to kindergarten or admitting a student to first grade without having previously completed kindergarten for the purpose of providing access to appropriately challenging learning opportunities. This type of acceleration provides the student with advanced content, skills, and understandings before the expected age or grade level.
Early High School Graduation
Early high school graduation is the practice of facilitating completion of the high school program in fewer than four years for the purpose of providing earlier than typical access to post-secondary educational opportunities.
Students referred for acceleration consideration follow a set process conducted by an Acceleration Evaluation Committee. The process is as follows:
- Students considered for acceleration are evaluated using a variety of data sources. Marion City Schools uses the Iowa Acceleration Scale (IAS) to collect and weigh student data and help make effective decisions regarding accelerations. The ten-part scale starts with general school and family information, moves to IQ, sibling information, and the student’s personal feelings about acceleration. Then school history and various ability, aptitude, and achievement tests are included. Finally, a cumulative score from all of these factors is calculated. The main purpose of the IAS is to guide educators through a discussion of the academic and social characteristics of the student. A secondary purpose is to help educators avoid the danger of making a decision based upon selected biased recall of past events.
- An Acceleration Evaluation Committee is convened. The committee is composed primarily of the student’s principal, current teacher, teacher from accelerated grade level, parent or legal guardian, gifted coordinator and gifted teacher (GIS). The committee’s responsibility is to review the outcome of the student’s evaluation. Additionally, the committee shall consider the student’s own thoughts on possible accelerated placement in its deliberations. The committee shall deliberate and issue a written decision based on consensus. If the committee cannot reach a consensus recommendation, a decision regarding whether or not to accelerate the student will be determined by a majority vote of the committee membership.
- A Written Acceleration Plan (WAP) is developed for the student. If the decision is made to accelerate a student, a plan must be developed that specifies:
- Placement of the student in an accelerated setting;
- Strategies to support a successful transition to the accelerated setting;
- Requirements and procedures for earning high school credit prior to entering high school (if applicable);
- An appropriate transition period for accelerated placement for early entrants to kindergarten, grade-level accelerated students and students accelerated in individual content areas; and,
- A staff member who will insure successful implementation of the plan.
- Placement is withdrawn, altered, or made permanent. During the transition period, one of two outcomes may occur:
1. parent may request in writing withdrawal of student from accelerated placement
2. parent may request in writing an alternative accelerated placement (30 day decision limit)
If neither of these outcomes occurs, accelerated placement becomes permanent at the end of the transition period.
Acceleration Evaluation Committee Roles
Building Principal – required, voting member of committee, shares components of building schedule that may impact acceleration, selects specific staff members for each role of acceleration committee
Current Teacher – required, voting member of committee, provides information about the student’s performance in the current grade level, gives examples of achievement, as well as social or emotional factors that might impact an accelerated placement
Accelerated Teacher – required, voting member of committee, informs the evaluation committee about expectations for students at that grade level, identifies possible knowledge gaps
Parent – required, voting member of the committee, provides information about any social or emotional concerns related to an accelerated placement, provides information about any academically oriented achievements that the child may have made outside of school
Gifted Intervention Specialist/Coordinator – required, voting member of the committee, serves as acceleration coordinator and/or facilitator of the evaluation committee, provides information about effective acceleration practices and tools to aid in the process, provides information about the student’s performance in current gifted services (if applicable), provides academic support during the transition period
Psychologist – optional, non-voting member of the committee, administers tests, interprets test results to show how the student compares to other students of the same age, grade or ability
Guidance Counselor – optional, non-voting member of the committee, mediates conflicting viewpoints or addresses social or emotional issues that impact student achievement
Special Education Coordinator – required if student has dual exceptionalities, voting member of the committee, defines how the student’s special education needs may impact the acceleration
Accelerated Building Principal – required if student’s acceleration will result in a change of buildings, voting member of the committee, shares components of building schedule that may impact acceleration, selects specific staff members for each role of acceleration committee
Other Teachers/Coaches – optional, non-voting members of the committee, provides information about the student’s performance in the current grade level, gives examples of achievement, informs the evaluation committee about expectations for students at the accelerated grade level, identifies possible knowledge gaps