Acceleration in Education

Introduction

Research on educational acceleration is substantial and compelling. Empirical evidence demonstrates that accelerated high-ability students make significant academic gains and may also experience a better match to their personal social and emotional maturity (e.g., Assouline, Colangelo, & Vantassel-Baska, 2015; Steenbergen-Hu & Moon, 2011). Moreover, acceleration can be a cost-effective strategy that supports the needs of a diverse range of high-ability learners, including low income, minority, and students with learning difficulties. Therefore, ABC strongly supports the practice of acceleration as an equitable option to support the academic, social, and emotional needs of high-ability learners.

Purposes of Acceleration

Acceleration allows students to move through traditional educational organizations more rapidly than typical, based on readiness and motivation (National Association for Gifted Children, 2004). The purposes of acceleration are (1) to provide optimal learning opportunities to students with high intellectual ability, (2) to provide a pace of instruction that promotes a strong work ethic, (3) to provide engaging opportunities that avoid boredom and frustration, (4) to enable high-ability students to move more quickly through traditional school at a pace that supports self-determined motivation. 
Students can accelerate in many ways, including but not limited to, early entrance to school or university, grade-skipping, single-subject acceleration, and content acceleration through Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate. All types of acceleration are proven, research-based best practices, and they may be used singly or in combination according to individual needs.

Accelerative Options

Accelerative options can and should be available throughout a student’s educational career. Within regular school settings, early entrance to school, fast-tracking, credit by examination, and concurrent enrollment are all examples of recommended accelerative practices. Beyond traditional schooling, alternative options may include summer courses, subject mentoring, and online high school credits. 

High-ability Canadian students have expressed a preference for accelerated learning (Kanevsky, 2011b), and high achieving Canadian secondary students view accelerative options as a way to pursue their love of learning, seek challenge, and find self-fulfillment (Dare & Nowicki, 2015). Notwithstanding the proven advantages of acceleration and students’ preferences for accelerative options, opportunities to accelerate have been limited in Ontario (Kanevsky, 2011a). This situation persists despite the 1994 Royal Commission on Learning (#34) recommendation that acceleration “become widely available as an important option for students” (Begin et al., 1994). 

ABC Position and Recommendations

ABC recognizes that acceleration must be thoughtfully undertaken and recommends the development of acceleration policies at provincial and District School Board levels to support appropriate practices. These policies should ensure that high-ability students have equal opportunities to advance at a pace that matches and respects their intellectual and social abilities. Educators, parents, and ideally the student, should all be part of the decision-making process. The decision-making team should consider the type and extent of acceleration on an individual basis, with attention to the student’s academic and socio-emotional profile, as well as the student’s own preferences.

ABC endorses acceleration as a proven, cost-effective practice to support high-ability students in achieving excellence and reaching their full potential. These outcomes align with Ontario’s renewed goals for education outlined in Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario. Therefore, we encourage more opportunities for high-ability students to accelerate.
 
References

Assouline, S. G., Colangelo, N., & Vantassel-Baska, J. (2015). Evidence trumps the excuses holding back America ’ s brightest students (Vol. 1). Iowa City, IA:The Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development.

Begin, M., Caplan, G., Bharti, M., Glaze, A., DiCecco, R., & Murphy, D. (1994). For the love of learning (Vol. I).

Dare, L., & Nowicki, E. A. (2015). Conceptualizing concurrent enrollment: why high-achieving students go for it. Gifted Child Quarterly. doi:10.1177/0016986215597749

Kanevsky, L. (2011a). A survey of educational acceleration practices in Canada. Canadian Journal of Education, 34(3), 153–180.

Kanevsky, L. (2011b). Deferential differentiation: what types of differentiation do students want? Gifted Child Quarterly, 55(4), 279–299. doi:10.1177/0016986211422098

Kulik, J. A., & Kulik, C. C. (1984). Effects of accelerated instruction on students. Review of Educational Research, 54(3), 409–425.

National Association for Gifted Children. (2004). Acceleration [position paper]. Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://www.nagc.org

Ontario Ministry of Education(2014),Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario.

Steenbergen-Hu, S., & Moon, S. M. (2011). The effects of acceleration on high-ability learners: a meta-analysis. Gifted Child Quarterly, 55(1), 39–53. doi:10.1177/0016986210383155