Saturday, May 24, 2008

Failure to Accelerate: It can be avoided, sometimes

When one spends several years advocating acceleration for their gifted child, they are likely to run into a multitude of excuses. Battling these excuses can become very tiresome and, in many cases, causes the parent to give up on the public schools. When administrators refuse to be flexible in accomodating these exceptional kids, the parents often feel that homeschooling is the only viable option.

However, it's good to be prepared for the opposition one might encounter. If one knows the likely excuses administrators will make, then perhaps a way around them can be devised before a meeting takes place. If administrators have alternative solutions, some may be willing to accomodate acceleration for a gifted child.

First, if your child is in K-8, you probably want to fill out the Iowa Acceleration Scale. This will provide some objective criteria to the decision to skip a grade. Unfortunately, when you buy the information, you must buy a packet of multiple evaluation sheets. The idea is that you could perhaps benefit other students and give them to the school so that they may make the opportunity available for other students.

There are still objections that need to be overcome, even with a objective instrument such as this. Some objections fall into the criteria of the shortcomings of the school; they are perhaps worried they cannot provide appropriate curriculum beyond a certain level if, for instance, you want to accelerate in just one subject area. Good ways of handling this may be "crossing that bridge when you get there" and pointing out that there may be available curriculum through other means such as online classes through talent searches. A child should not be held back based on worries about future accomodations. When children are gifted, you may have to get creative. It's as simple as that.

Another objection is that children need to be in the same place as other children after transitions. This is actually a subset of the argument that children of the same age always need to be together. This is probably true for about half the kids in a given class. The only response to this is to provide documentation of studies and reports that gifted children fit in better with intellectual peers than chronological peers.

A third objection is one that I discussed previously: it seems paradoxical to accelerate a student who seems unmotivated or unable to handle the work they already have. Few teachers and administrators can conceive of the fact that gifted children are quite literally bored to tears when they are insufficiently stimulated.

The best way I've found to handle these arguments is to have someone else do it for me. An advocate, such as a psychologist or teacher, can be immensely helpful. They need to be someone who has both knowledge of giftedness and the credibility (usually in the form of a degree or specialization) to impress the people you're working with.

However, even with all this preparation, I've run into administrators who simply lacked the flexibility to work with alternative arrangements. When one deals with this situation, there may be nothing you can do except to pull your child out of the school. In this situation, perhaps you can be lucky enough to find a more flexible school or you can use the most flexible option of all: homeschooling.

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