Determining When Whole-Grade Skipping Is Right for Gifted Kids
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The Iowa Acceleration Scale explores a gifted and talented child’s academic, social, and emotional development to determine if skipping grades is currently beneficial.
Your gifted child participates in the school’s weekly pullout gifted program, highest grade level math and reading groups, summer gifted camps, and as many enrichment opportunities as you and his or her teacher can find. Or maybe your gifted early elementary student is languishing while waiting to get old enough for the district’s gifted program. What if the available challenges still aren’t enough?
Lack of Challenge
Does your gifted child seem unmotivated, expending less effort on assignments? Is your gifted student developing lazy study habits? Do you worry that your child isn’t relating well to intellectually incompatible peers? Worst of all, is your gifted kid becoming a perfectionist, developing a fixed mindset about success and failure- always expecting that effortless “A”?
If it seems that your gifted child clearly does not fit with grade-level peers, gravitates toward older students, and isn’t getting much of anything from academics despite broad academic strengths, it may be time to consider whole-grade acceleration. But how do you advocate for your child when most school systems seem opposed to the idea?
Iowa Acceleration Scale Manual
The Iowa Acceleration Index is a research-based manual objectively rating whole-grade acceleration readiness for K-8th grade gifted children. Looking at achievement test scores, motor skills, social and emotional development combined with environmental factors such as school system resources and sibling effects, it helps determine whether a child is currently a strong, good, or marginal candidate for grade skipping.
Factors Supporting Grade Acceleration
What factors support acceleration? Achievement above the 93% on grade-level tests, and above the 50% on an out-of-level test suggests acceleration. Successful scores on out-of-level tests, designed for higher-grade students, are stronger predictors than grade-level performance. Extracurriculars with age peers also help mediate any negative social and emotional advancement effects.
Factors Against Grade Acceleration
What factors support gifted options other than acceleration? A child opposed to acceleration automatically disqualifies. If the gifted child has a sibling in the same grade or the receiving grade, it is considered too emotionally detrimental to the child left behind or the older sibling outpaced.
Grade Skipping Misconceptions
Interestingly, traditional taboos such as later birthdays, short stature, or poor motor skills don’t figure heavily in calculations. Research doesn’t support these factors as strong determiners of acceleration success. Common myths of emotional and social damage aren’t supported. Gifted research indicates that for the right kids, whole-grade acceleration is actually beneficial. Leaving highly gifted children in unsuitable educational settings actually does more harm.
Gifted children often relate better to their intellectual peers rather than age peers. When they fit in and aren’t constantly singled out as significantly more advanced, their emotional well-being is actually enhanced. The problem has always been identifying the right kids for whole grade acceleration, avoiding anecdotal cases of negative consequences. Now the Iowa Acceleration Scale provides parents, teachers, and administrators with tools to objectively identify students who will thrive with acceleration.
Gifted Education Advocacy
If you believe acceleration is the best option for your gifted and talented child, gather appropriate test scores and ask school administrators to use the Iowa Acceleration Scale to determine viability. If your school is unfamiliar with this tool, consider purchasing a manual and assessment kit online. You will need to be a strong, tactful advocate to achieve acceleration. Hoagie’s, a gifted education website, offers additional information and research-based references to help you. The Davidson Institute for Talent Development is also an exceptional resource.
Remember, the scale quantifies current suitability. If your gifted child is not a strong candidate, whole-grade acceleration isn’t the best option now but could be in the future. Focus on subject area acceleration, enrichment, differentiation, and pullout programs. Only accelerate when it is truly right for your child.