Tuesday, August 11, 2009

EdWeek piece on gifted kids and acceleration

Richard Whitmire, author of the upcoming Why Boys Fail, and immediate past president of the National Education Writers Association, and I have a commentary in this week's Education Week called "What Ever Happened to Grade Skipping?" You can read the top with the link though you have to register for the entire piece. It is also in the print edition. And Richard seems to have put it up on his website.

The themes are the same ones we've talked about here at Gifted Exchange. In tight budgetary times, gifted education is an easy target. Acceleration, on the other hand, is cheap and usually a good solution. And yet most teachers don't like the idea, and a solid minority of schools don't even allow it -- with an additional chunk doing it so rarely that teachers can't even say what the school policy might be.

This antipathy is a bit strange. Parents have told me that schools are quite open to the idea of "red-shirting" kindergartners (especially boys) -- that is, having them start at age 6 or so. But try to start a kid who's already reading at age 4, and this will be a fight. People often bring up the concept of socialization, but what an artificial construct that people can only be socialized by others of the same age! It's a good thing that people don't hold this idea for adults, or my marriage and many of my friendships would never have happened.

Even with children, everyone develops at different paces. I have heard caveats from parents of children on the smaller side for their age, and this obviously has to be a family decision, but one thing to keep in mind is that adolescence is awkward for just about everyone. Everyone. Beautiful people like Mavis Leno and Gisele Bundchen have complained in profiles about how awkward they felt in middle school. Acceleration at least chips away at the problem of a mismatch between readiness and the academic curriculum.


Anonymous said...

I think the real problem with early entrance is the fact that it costs the schools time& money. They have to test and observe the kids before a decision can be made. And with so many parents crying "wolf" every year, the schools don't have the time and resources to filter out those who actually need it.

Anonymous said...

...This antipathy is a bit strange...

Is it really? Consider this study:

"Two adults of the same age and height who were different heights at age 16 are treated differently in the labor market--the person who was taller as a teen earns more...

Using data from the U.S. National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and Britain's National Child Development Survey, Silverman and colleagues Nicola Persico and Andrew Postlewaite of the University of Pennsylvania found that each additional inch of height at age 16 is associated with a 2.7 percent increase in wages among white American men and a 2.6 percent increase among white men in Britain--regardless of occupational choice.

But when controlling for youth height, the estimated effect of adult height on wages is virtually zero, they say. Moreover, the teen "height premium" does not diminish much when variables such as family resources, good health, native intelligence and self-esteem are taken into account.

According to Silverman and colleagues, participation in extracurricular and other social activities as a teen-ager may play a significant role in the teen height premium. Playing high school sports is associated with nearly a 12 percent increase in adult wages and participation in every additional club other than athletics correlates to about a 5 percent increase in wages.

Those who were relatively short when young are less likely to participate in social activities like athletics, school clubs and dating that help teens hone their social skills--skills that eventually will help them secure good jobs as adults, they say..."

Parents who hold their children back, or at least don't accelerate them, would seem to be making a fairly rational decision that it will help their child.

Also, have any studies been done on acceleration with control groups, that make sure to adjust for the possibility that the students who choose to accelerate are simply more ambitious, and therefore would tend to perform better anyway? And is it known what the ideal iq for acceleration is? At what point is one's iq too low for acceleration to be beneficial and possibly harmful? (maybe 120 or even as low as 100?)

The Princess Mom said...

The Iowa Acceleration Scale Manual (2nd edition) says that an IQ of 130 or above is ideal for acceleration, unless the child's birthday is within a month of the cut-off date, where an IQ of 115-130 would be sufficient.

Kevin said...

Anonymous: How does acceleration change one's "height at age 16"?

I did not attain my full height until in my 20s---should I have been held back 4 years in school, instead of accelerated?

Candace said...

I was accelerated in the late 70's and it wasn't a good thing for me. There was no guidance - and while I enjoyed my classes, I started college at 17 as a sophomore because of clepping out of classes. I floundered through my early college years.
I am now a Gifted & Talented teacher. I believe having gone through the program and seeing first hand what was done well (and not so well), I can be not only a good teacher, but a good advocate for my gifted students.

Anonymous said...

I was happy to read the EdWeek piece. I have been a teacher/administrator for many years. When my grandson started kindergarten in 2004, there were immediate problems. He was reading independently on a second grade level, so expecting him to sit through phonics was silly. Finally, after testing, he moved to first grade after Christmas. He is now in 6th grade, still the smallest and youngest child in the class. Not a problem. His test scores are at the top of the class as is his day-to-day work. The other students have always accepted him. He plays three sports in his town and socializes well. I think that had he been left to languish in kindergarten, we might have a different tale to tell. I believe that this is an option that more parents and schools should consider when the circumstances are right.

Anonymous said...

I skipped second grade in 1950 with no adverse effects. It was pretty common in those days and a way of differentiating when classes were huge - 50 kids and one teacher. However, as a teacher with over 25 years experience, I'd rather see small classes, gifted and talented programs, and differentiation rather than what we called a "double promotion." I think I would have been more mature socially and academically in both high school and college and possibly would have made better choices as a young adult.

Matt said...

You might be encouraged by this effort by the National Science Board. Its not focused strictly on gifted per se, but its part of the effort.


Anonymous said...

I believe the resistance to acceleration is simply an extension of many educators' perception that school is more about socialization than about academic learning. This is consistent with surveys that find elementary and MS teachers concerned if a student is overly focused on academics with limited interests in sports or social interaction, but feel no such anxiety over students that are overly focused on sports with limited interest in academics.

In other words, they probably feel that acceleration "deprives" children of opportunity to socialize, which many feel is the primary role of school. Rather sad.

SwitchedOnMom said...

Exhibit A:


And this from a district that prides itself on its gifted "services"