ERIC Identifier: ED370295
Publication Date: 1994-06-00
Author: Lynch, Sharon J.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Disabilities and Gifted Education Reston VA.
Should Gifted Students Be Grade-Advanced? ERIC Digest E526.
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,
afterschool 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
IS EDUCATIONAL ACCELERATION HARMFUL TO THE CHILD
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?
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
HOW DO PARENTS KNOW IF THEIR CHILD SHOULD ACCELERATE?
children's standardized test scores, particularly achievement test scores, are
many grades above level or off the charts entirely, they are good candidates for
acceleration. If a child who was previously an avid student begins to complain
of boredom or starts misbehaving in school, it may be an indication that he or
she needs additional challenges (but remember that any child may be bored or
have behavior problems). Ideally, the decision to accelerate should be
mutual--the child, parents, and school officials all agreeing that it would
serve the child well. The school psychologist or Individualized Educational Plan
(IEP) committee should be consulted early in the process.
WHEN SHOULD ONE BE CAUTIOUS ABOUT ACCELERATION?
child under consideration for acceleration is physically or emotionally
immature, is pushed into the process by adults, or receives constant negative
feedback at school from peers or educators, problems could occur. If the school
accelerates students routinely so that an accelerated youngster does not stand
out as peculiar and has a small support group of similar youngsters, then
chances for an easy adjustment increase.
A child who has been accelerated may find that he or she is no longer the
best in the class. Both parents and the child should be ready for this. Parents
should be supportive, but never put undue pressure on the gifted and talented
child to perform--certainly not when he or she is adjusting to a new
environment. The decision to academically accelerate a child may be reversed at
any time if it appears not to be working out for the child academically,
socially, or emotionally. Adults should help children in this situation
understand that the change is not a failure.
WHAT ABOUT ACCELERATION IN A SINGLE SUBJECT?
tends to meet with less resistance from educators than grade-skipping because
children still take most classes with their age-mates, alleviating concerns
about social problems. Here, continuity is crucial. Accelerating students one
year, only to have them repeat the material the next, is no solution. Teachers
or curriculum specialists can be helpful in determining what aspects of a
subject are covered in each grade. Accelerated students may need to make special
arrangements to travel to a junior high or high school, or even take a college
course before high school graduation. It is important to obtain the cooperation
of the school district throughout the child's educational career. Transportation
problems may prove more difficult to solve than academic or social ones.
WHAT ARE THE STEPS IN MAKING THE DECISION TO ACCELERATE?
Assuming that parents and student agree to explore this
option, parents might begin by discussing it with the school's coordinator for
the gifted and talented, guidance counselor, or principal--whichever person
knows the child best. The classroom teachers' opinions also should be sought.
Next, the child's academic potential and social and emotional adjustment should
be evaluated by a school psychologist. The final decision will probably be made
by the school's IEP committee or the principal. It helps to have the
enthusiastic support and understanding of the teachers who will be working with
the accelerated child, as well as commitments for continuity and coordination
from school authorities. Parents considering this option may find it helpful to
contact the coordinator for gifted and talented education at their state
department of education.
Most of the following references--those identified
with an ED or EJ number--have been abstracted and are in the ERIC database. The
journal articles should be available at most research libraries. For a list of
ERIC collections in your area, contact ACCESS ERIC at 1-800-LET-ERIC (538-3742).
Brody, L.E. and C.P. Benbow (Summer 1987). "Accelerative Strategies: How
Effective Are They for the Gifted?" Gifted Child Quarterly, 31 (3), 105-109. EJ
Cornell, D.G., C.M. Callahan, L.E. Bassin, and S.G. Ramsey (1991). Chapter 3:
"Affective Development in Accelerated Students." In W.T. Southern and E.D. Jones
(Eds.), Academic Acceleration of Gifted Children. New York: Teachers College
Davis, G.A. and S.B. Rimm (1989). Education of the Gifted and Talented.
Chapter 5: "Acceleration." Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Feldhusen, J.F., T.B. Proctor, and K.N. Black (September 1986). "Guidelines
for Grade Advancement of Precocious Children." Roeper Review, 9 (1), 25-27. EJ
Kulik, J.A. and C.C. Kulik (October 1984). "Synthesis of Research on Effects
of Accelerated Instruction." Educational Leadership, 42(2), 84-89. EJ 308 281.
Lynch, S. (Winter 1990). "Credit and Placement Issues for the Academically
Talented Following Summer Studies in Science and Mathematics." Gifted Child
Quarterly, 34 (1), 27-30. EJ 408 556.
Southern, W.T., E.D. Jones, and E.D. Fiscus (Winter 1989). "Practitioner
Objections to the Academic Acceleration of Gifted Children." Gifted Child
Quarterly, 33 (1), 29-35. EJ 392 219.
Tolan, S. (1990). Helping your highly gifted child. ERIC Digest #E477. ED 321