This information was produced by the staff of the Belin-Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development (B-BC) at the University of Iowa (belinblank.org). The resources and information listed here are for informational purposes; there is no direct or implied endorsement by the B-BC. Services provided by the B-BC include programs for academically talented K-12 and college students, professional development for teachers, the Assessment and Counseling Clinic, the Acceleration Institute (accelerationinstitute.org), and graduate programs and research in gifted education.

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Transition to Acceleration

Acceleration doesn’t happen overnight. Grade-skipping and subject acceleration result after careful thought and planning; the decision to accelerate includes contributions from a team of people. The acceleration team might include an administrator, gifted teacher or coordinator, the receiving teacher, parents, school psychologist or counselor, and other adults who know the student well. Once the decision to accelerate has been made, careful planning helps ensure the transition is smooth.

Schools often plan for a trial period of 4 to 6 weeks before the decision to accelerate is made final; this amount of time allows the student to adjust to new routines and the new level of challenge. It is common for a student to feel somewhat overwhelmed or discouraged at first; those feelings are normal. Our goal is to see that the student is challenged (but not overly frustrated) by the academic work. Other indicators of a successful acceleration include:

  • Students continue to be motivated and enthusiastic about acceleration and find themselves challenged (but not overly frustrated) by the new academic work.
  • Students make new friends but keep old friends.
  • Students have a positive attitude about school.

School structures help ensure that the transition to acceleration is smooth. These include:

    A systematic process and policies in place for making acceleration decisions.
  • Staff trained in acceleration procedures and policies.
  • Receiving teachers who are supportive of acceleration.
  • School counselors and other trained staff available to assist in the transition to acceleration.
  • Regular communication with the family.

Accelerated students sometimes have gaps in their academic backgrounds and need time and a process for filling in those gaps. This might include opportunities for diagnostic testing (to document gaps), as well as to meet individually with a teacher to learn new content, answer questions, and clear up any misunderstandings about the content.

Additionally, some simple steps help the student to be ready for acceleration. For example, in the case of a student who skips a grade, having the student meet the new teacher and visit the new classroom can help smooth the transition for this student. Participating in “move-up day” activities so the student can learn about the cafeteria system, learn how to use a locker, and otherwise become more comfortable with the new environment will also be helpful.

Once the student has moved into the new grade or has moved up to a new classroom for a specific subject, it will be helpful for the student (and also the parents) to have opportunities to meet with the school counselor to discuss the acceleration and how it might have an impact on course scheduling now and in the future.

We would like to thank Wendy Behrens and Randy Lange for their contributions to the content on this page.