Acceleration Options for Gifted Students

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

How can we continue to challenge exceedingly bright students to keep them interested in learning? Is acceleration the answer? This lesson will discuss acceleration options for gifted students.

What Does It Mean to Be a Gifted Student?

Brendan is a second grade student who scored in the 99th percentile on a recent standardized test. This means that his score places him ahead of 99% of his age and grade related peers. This is no surprise to Brendan's teachers, though, as he is always ahead of classmates in terms of academic achievement. However, Brendan also acts out in class and seems bored with the work. He says it is too easy and his teachers struggle to keep him challenged. What should be done with Brendan?

Brendan can be classified as a gifted student. Gifted students are those who rank in the top 10% when compared to their peers. Gifted students possess unique intellectual aptitude and academic achievement or talent that exceeds what is expected for their age or stage of development. These characteristics can make educating gifted students extremely difficult, and special care and consideration must occur to ensure that their needs are being met in the classroom.

Now that we know what it means to be a gifted student, let's take a closer look at some of the acceleration options for gifted students.

Acceleration Options For Gifted Students

As mentioned above, Brendan's teachers are struggling to keep him challenged in the classroom. This is a particular danger with gifted students because behavior problems can emerge if their educational needs are not met. What are the options for students like Brendan? The answer is often acceleration.

Acceleration, in the world of gifted education, refers to any means of matching the child's ability and level of motivation with advanced content. Different options for acceleration include grade skipping, subject acceleration, and curriculum compacting.

Grade Skipping

Grade skipping is the practice of promoting gifted students to higher grade levels due to their abilities. For example, Brendan might be moved from second grade to fourth grade as a result of his ability and achievement, thereby skipping third grade altogether. The idea is that the student should be exposed to grade level work that matches his or her ability.

Grade skipping is not without controversy though. Many people believe that grade skipping can lead to social problems as students may be intellectually capable of the work, but lack the physical and social development needed to match their peers at advanced grades. This option, therefore, must take into account a student's emotional and social maturity as well as academic abilities.

Subject Acceleration

If it is decided he should not skip a grad completely, there are still options for Brendan. What if Brendan stayed in third grade the following year with his peers, but attended a fourth grade class for the subjects in which he demonstrated high achievement? For example, perhaps he attends the fourth grade math class but stays in his third grade class for the rest of the day. This is an example of subject acceleration.

Subject acceleration occurs when gifted students are given the opportunity to work at advanced levels in a particular subject or subjects, but they are not pushed to be moved completely into the next grade level. It is a good option for meeting the intellectual needs of gifted student without removing them entirely from their age-related peer group, and it can maintain their social ties.

Curriculum Compacting

What if Brendan stayed in his normal grade classroom all the time, but was given classwork specifically designed to challenge him? For example, Brendan might receive spelling words that are more advanced than those of his classmates, which is curriculum compacting.

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