Does Acceleration Harm Gifted Kids?

MYTH – Acceleration is socially harmful to students.

Acceleration is one of the more hotly debated areas of gifted education. And yet, the research is clear – acceleration does not inherently hurt or damage the social development of gifted children (Kulik, 2004).  In fact, many gifted children benefit from the exposure to more challenging work.

Whether or not acceleration is an option for a gifted student is something that school-based teams need to look at on a case-by-case basis. Just as the research indicates that acceleration is not harmful as a rule, it also indicates that some students have not benefited from acceleration (Neihart, 2007).  The important thing for schools to realize is that each case needs to be determined using data and available research.

Bottom line – schools and parents must do their homework and make decisions on case-by-case basis that are evidence-driven decisions, taking into consideration the specific emotional development of the child and the school and home network of support that child has.

What are your thoughts on this?

3 thoughts on “Does Acceleration Harm Gifted Kids?

  1. Both of my daughters entered pre-school early and thus were young for their grades. Then, later in their schooling, the younger one was at least three grade levels ahead of the next student in her reading class, and the school couldn’t make single subject acceleration work (it was continually forgotten to send her to her accelerated class), so finally, it was decided to advance her another grade. This meant that she would be in her older sister’s class, so older sister was advanced a grade, too. At first, the skip seemed to work much better for the younger daughter, because she moved into a class with friends. It worked less well for the older one, as she had missed some critical instruction and had no friends in the new class.

    Interestingly, though, the older one adapted and did fine – went off to college at the age of 16. The younger one, though, eventually claimed that she just felt too young. So at a convenient time – the jump between a K-8 school and a 7/8-12 school, we un-skipped her. This was a good move.

    Another interesting thing was that the older one took two years off after college, one to do Americorps and one to do biology research in the jungle of Suriname, so that, when she went back to grad school, she was the same age as many classmates.

    I don’t know if the Iowa Acceleration Scale would have helped with any of this – we didn’t have it available to us at the time. But, I would say that acceleration can be a great tool, if used flexibly. But an even better tool is a stand-alone gifted school. Too bad there are so few of them.

  2. Muller Monica

    .I have a gifted son who skipped third grade. Now he is successfully completing high school, and he is the best average.I think the acceleration is good only for those kids who are far superior in all areas without effort.

  3. My daughter was advised to skip 2nd grade because she was such an advanced reader. However, she was already on the young end of our age group (bday in June) PLUS had/has anxiety problems. But there didn’t seem to be any other options at her school. Either spend her entire year slogging through beginning reading with her fellow students, or move on.

    I had no regrets through elementary school. But now we’re in middle school, and she’s just 10, and it’s rough socially, but she’s doing well academically. All in all, I don’t have any regrets, and neither does she. We wouldn’t have done it any other way, though we wish it could be better.

    For her personality it’s better for her to be challenged than to be given the opportunity to be lazy. It’s a tough year, but she’ll get through it. And I think in the end we’ll all say that it was better for her to skip 2nd than to skip a later grade, after she already had major relationships.

    I’d say that if a child is advanced in every way, including emotionally, go for acceleration. Otherwise, look for any way possible that your child can stay with his or her age group. It’s a tough call; talk to friends, teachers, family, anyone you can, before making your decision.

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