Guidelines for Teachers and Parents

Occasionally, a parent or a teacher will want a child to be considered for acceleration to a higher grade because of his or her superior intellectual and/or academic ability.  Generally, there is no special criteria which applies to acceleration; rather, each case should be considered on its own merits.

Acceleration is usually inadvisable except in very special cases.  Following is a list of the major factors which should be considered before the final decision is made.

  1. Chronological Age: Children who would nearly have been in a higher grade, had their birthday been earlier, are more likely to be successful. Thus, a birth date in October, November, or December would be considered a plus factor for acceleration.

  2. IQ: Although an I.Q. score itself should not be a basis for acceleration, those being considered should be at least one standard deviation above the mean.

  3. Academic Ability: Academic grade placement scores should place the child at or above the grade level for which he is being considered.  Most important here are reading, language, and spelling.  Specific skills must be given a thorough analysis also.  For example, a child may have developed a superior sight recognition level in reading, without developing concomitant phonetic word attack skills.  In such cases the child may be placed in a grade which will allow him to “miss” the development of important skills in this area.  Arithmetic at the elementary level is not too often far above grade level, because specific skills involved may not yet have been covered in class.  Reading comprehension is usually one of the best predictors of elementary school academic success.

  4. Peer Relationships: If the child has grown up in the same neighborhood and has a close relationship with his chronological age peers, being singled out of the group for acceleration could pose social or emotional difficulties for the child.

  5. Siblings: Does the child have a sibling in the grade to which consideration is being given?  It would probably be damaging to the family structure if, for example, a third grader were accelerated to the fourth grade, where a sibling was enrolled, even if they were in separate rooms.

  6. Sex: Because of the rate of maturation, a girl might generally be considered a better risk for acceleration than a boy.  This of course does not rule out boys, but presents one further dimension to the problem.

  7. Physical and Emotional Maturity: Will the child visually appear out of place in the new setting because of his physical size?  More important, will the child feel out of place.  Intramural sports, for example, and future classroom “romances” can be affected.  If the child is not relatively secure emotionally, the more could prove harmful.  Further, the school must consider whether the child is secure enough to handle the new social situation.

  8. Parental Attitude: The schools have long known that unless the parents approve a move of this importance, the home climate and discussions can hurt the chances for success.  More often than not, the parents are flattered that their child is considered for acceleration and wholeheartedly endorse the move, volunteering to help with the child’s assignments until the child is caught up.  Too often it is the parents, themselves, who initiate the proposal, stating that their child is “bored” with the easy work.

When all the factors are weighed, the person responsible for the proposed move considers the number of positive answers to the issues listed above, as opposed to the negative.  The acceleration should be carefully explained to the child and his feelings should be assessed.  In some cases a “trial period” may be advisable before a final decision is made.  It should be carefully explained to the child that he is not “on trial”, so to speak, but it should be made clear to the child that this period (of a month, or so) is a time for the school and the child, himself, to see if it was best to do this.  There must be no feelings of failure if the child needs to be returned to the previous grade after this period.