Report Suggests Accelerating Gifted Students


An updated version of a report from the University of Iowa Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education, which suggested that gifted children are still at risk of left behind in school, examines how the 5 million or so gifted students around the country are still at risk.

The study, "A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America's Brightest Students," took a closer look at the myth that skipping grades is detrimental to a child, as many continue to believe that having younger children attend the same classes as older students could cause more harm than it is worth. The new study uses over a decade of research to look at the positive aspects of acceleration, writes Owen Phillips for NPR.

According to the authors, information presented in the 2004 study, "A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America's Brightest Students," helped to change the conversation surrounding this topic across the nation. Teachers and other educators who reported opposing accelerated learning options said that they did so based on personal bias rather than specific evidence.

"It was the best summary we've had to date for policymakers and educators on the effectiveness of various acceleration strategies," said Jonathan Plucker, professor of education at the University of Connecticut.

Lead authors Nick Colangelo and Susan Assouline worked with Joyce VanTassel-Baska, professor emerita and founding director of The Center for Gifted Education at the College of William and Mary, for the updated study. All three discovered a disconnect between researchers who approve of the accelerated learning program and educators who worry about the social or emotional results, writes Jeff Charis-Carlson for The Iowa City Press-Citizen.

"One disheartening aspect of the past decade, however, has been the continued bias against acceleration — that so many people, including educators, continue to believe acceleration is bad for students, that it's bad to push kids, that it will hurt them socially," the authors write.

While the report does say that certain problems could arise from being placed in an accelerated learning environment, the authors suggest that each situation be handled on an individual basis.

The report is meant to offer tools to implement acceleration to parents, educators, administrators and policy-makers, including early grade entrance, grade-skipping, moving ahead in individual subjects, and Advanced Placement courses.

"A powerful argument can be made, based on research, about the importance of acceleration for gifted students," says VanTassel-Baska in chapter one of A Nation Empowered. "Yet false ideas about the supposed dangers of moving students through school faster still get air time in teachers' lounges and at neighborhood kitchen tables."

The authors said they hoped more technology would be used toward customizing education for accelerated students, and that researchers continue to work on ways to identify these students.

05 7, 2015
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