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Acceleration in Schools:  A Call to Action

Study firmly debunks the "one size fits all" practice in K-12

For Immediate Release
September 20, 2004

Washington, DC:  Student readiness to learn is a better barometer than age when determining how quickly students should move through their studies.  Released today, "A Nation Deceived," funded by the Templeton Foundation of Radnor, Pennsylvania, confirms that in order to meet the needs of advanced learners, educators must abandon the notion that a student's grade and curricula be based solely on chronological age instead of readiness. 

Fifty years of longitudinal data suggests that acceleration is one of the most effective curriculum interventions for many high-ability learners.  The report, endorsed by the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), was compiled and analyzed by two veteran researchers at the Belin-Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development at the University of Iowa and one from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.  It presents irrefutable evidence that acceleration has a positive impact on many high-ability students both socially and academically.  Past assumptions by school administrators, principals, and policy makers about the perceived negative affects of acceleration are handily struck down in this study.  

"This report confirms that acceleration strategies are appropriate for advanced students in virtually every learning setting.  Concerns about an accelerated student's social or emotional well being are unfounded.  The time has come to release the bonds that hold gifted learners back." Said NAGC's President, F. Richard Olenchak, Ph.D., PC.

Indeed, the research shows that when gifted and talented students remain in lock step with their age peers rather than moving ahead at an appropriate pace, the results are

  • Boredom

  • Poor study habits

  • Underachievement

  • Behavior problems

To avoid these pitfalls, NAGC urges every school district and every state to adopt a comprehensive acceleration policy --- one that matches appropriate learning opportunities to student readiness at each stage of the student's development.  These strategies would include multiple curricular options such as: 

  • Grade-skipping -- the most well-known acceleration strategy

  • Early entrance to kindergarten

  • Early exit from school based on proficiency

  • Acceleration of a specific subject (e.g.; 5th grader taking algebra)

  • Dual enrollment in high school and college

  • Curriculum "compacting" (compressing the curriculum to eliminate the repetition of work that has already been mastered)

"We face administrative and policy obstacles in many states and districts that impede implementation of acceleration strategies.  The price we are paying is a slow, but steady, erosion of American excellence," added Dr. Olenchak.  

The full report can be obtained at

The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) is the largest national organization dedicated to meeting the needs of the more than three million gifted and talented students in the U.S. With more than 7,800 members, the association is fully committed to national goals that advocate both excellence and equity for all students, and believes that the best way to achieve these goals is through differentiated educational opportunities, resources, and encouragement for all students.

About the Belin-Blank Center:  The Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development was established at The University of Iowa by the State of Iowa Board of Regents in June 1988. The Center was made possible by a one million dollar endowment which established the Myron and Jacqueline Blank Chair in Gifted Education. The Belin Center is one of the few centers that has an endowed chair in gifted education. Dr. Nicholas Colangelo was appointed as the first Myron and Jacqueline Blank Professor of Gifted Education in 1989. The Iowa state legislature provided matched funding to the Blank Endowment, to initiate the Belin Center. In its brief history, the Belin-Blank Center has demonstrated remarkable growth and has established a national reputation for its research, training, and service. It is seen as a leader in the field of gifted education. Recently, the Belin-Blank Center has added a focus on international education for the gifted.

About the John Templeton Foundation:  The mission of the John Templeton Foundation is to pursue new insights at the boundary between theology and science through a rigorous, open-minded and empirically focused methodology, drawing together talented representatives from a wide spectrum of fields of expertise. Using "the humble approach," the Foundation typically seeks to focus the methods and resources of scientific inquiry on topical areas which have spiritual and theological significance ranging across the disciplines from cosmology to healthcare. In the human sciences, the foundation supports programs, competitions, publications, and studies that promote character education and the exploration of positive values and purpose across the lifespan. It supports free enterprise education and development internationally through the Templeton Freedom Awards, new curriculum offerings, and other programs that encourage free-market principles.