Radical acceleration is a successful, yet rarely utilized educational practice that assists educators in meeting the cognitive and affective needs of highly gifted students. Individual case studies and cohort studies of students who have radically accelerated are reviewed regarding combinations of procedures that result in successful acceleration, variables that appear to predict success and cognitive and affective outcomes. While research supports the use of radical acceleration for the positive cognitive and affective gains that result for highly gifted students, some concerns about the process have been identified. An outline is presented of procedures that have been shown to lessen the likelihood of unfavorable outcomes. These procedures include counseling support, study skills programs, and opportunities to foster social interaction with other students. The literature concerning radical acceleration strongly supports the wider adoption of this most successful intervention.
PUTTING THE RESEARCH TO USE:
Radical acceleration addresses the needs of students who can move at an extremely fast pace through the prescribed school curriculum. Where IQ is cited, these students are, in general, exceptionally (IQ 160-179) or profoundly (IQ 180+) gifted. They tend to be significantly more mature in their affective development; many prefer the company of older children and adults to that of their age peers. When schools retain such students with age peers, they typically underachieve and experience negative affective outcomes, including lowered self-esteem, anxiety and serious demotivation.
Interventions limited to enrichment and moderate degrees of acceleration tend to be unsuccessful either for reversing underachievement or for improving affective well-being. Schools should be aware of the wide range of accelerative procedures that can be combined to radically accelerate gifted students. Programs of cohort acceleration provide access to a supportive group of age and ability peers undertaking similar educational programs. Dual enrollment at school and college can assist students in developing skills necessary for successful college study. Precollege counseling can assist students in gaining a realistic understanding of what college will involve. Schools should evaluate gifted students’ intellectual ability, academic readiness, and emotional maturity when considering any form of acceleration. However, many exceptionally gifted students experience social isolation in the inclusion classroom. This should not be misinterpreted as a lack of social skill or emotional immaturity; rather, it may indicate that the student would be better placed in an accelerated setting.