The decision to accelerate an entire grade level can be most distressing for both parents and educators, even controversial. But at some point in time all schools encounter a child who is in need of a curriculum that meets a higher level of academic ability commensurate with his/her abilities and current performance level. The Iowa Acceleration Scale (IAS) is a tool that helps guide those making these difficult decisions regarding what is/are the most appropriate acceleration option(s) for the child.
The IAS manual provides research and case studies showing that acceleration can be an option for some gifted learners. This manual is also a great communication tool, allowing schools and parents to engage in discussion focused on the best interest of the gifted learner. The manual further includes a list of the top ten issues regarding acceleration, snapshots of potential scenarios, and recommendations based on those examples. Questions from a variety of angles are included in the manual to help guide the discussion between parents and schools. Such questions focus on academic ability, family dynamics, athletic and co-curricular concerns, physical and socio-emotional development, and the role of the parents in the process.
The IAS is not a test. Rather it is an inventory of several sections of questions designed to help the team determine the best acceleration options for the learner. Items on the IAS are given numeric value and are grouped into categories. The results of the IAS are valid and reliable data that should be used to make critical decisions regarding advancement of a gifted learner. The IAS also supplies other alternatives for intervention if acceleration is not the option that seems best for the learner.
Case Study: “Sarah” was identified as a Talented and Gifted learner in upper elementary school. A pull out program was used for a year to serve her needs. Sarah is now finishing 6th grade and has not been receiving any services for two years. Sarah’s parents are concerned about her decreasing motivation and boredom with middle school. Sarah brings home no schoolwork and has been getting into mischief more often over the past school year. Sarah’s mother wants the school to consider acceleration options after reviewing Sarah’s cumulative file, listening to Sarah in discussions about school, and after evaluating data from an advanced placement test Sarah took (at the 8th grade level) at the end of the 6th grade. This assessment was suggested by the school’s coordinator of student services. Sarah’s results clearly placed her in the upper 80 and 90 percentile rankings for her performance against other 8th graders. Sarah’s mother used this data to approach the school district. Sarah’s mother asked for whole grade acceleration (Sarah would skip 7th grade completely) and two high school courses in the subject areas in which Sarah was the strongest academically (English and Science). The school was concerned about the high school courses and suggested the use of the IAS to help guide any further decision making.
The IAS proved to be a helpful tool and Sarah was allowed advancement in an entire grade level and in the two high school courses in which her performance was strongest. Sarah is excited about the new school year and seems to be motivated to perform. Sarah will be monitored closely to support her success. All parties seem satisfied that Sarah will be challenged in school.