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Iowa Acceleration Scale: A Guide for Whole-Grade Acceleration K-8 Recommended

by Susan Assouline, Ph.D., Nicholas Colangelo, Ph.D., Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik, Ph.D., and Jonathan Lipscomb, B.A.

Review by Carolyn K. director, Hoagies' Gifted Education Page

A Parent's Experience... by Beth

Purchase Iowa Acceleration Scale Manual (without forms) from Amazon.com or
Iowa Acceleration Scale Manual from Barnes & Noble. 

First and foremost: this is the best tool I've ever seen to help make an objective decision on whole- grade acceleration.  It's full of research based questions, and addresses pretty much every aspect you can think of, plus a few more!

The name is important - grades K-8. The scale seems most appropriate for the moderately or highly gifted kid, though it doesn't rule out the profoundly gifted, or multiple grade skips.

My basic summary is that these scales turn a subjective decision - grade acceleration - into an objective decision: "Exceptional candidate, good candidate, marginal candidate, or whole-grade acceleration is not recommended (but that means that single-subject acceleration, mentoring, enrichment or other alternatives should be considered).

There are a few critical issues that make a whole-grade acceleration not recommended. I'm not sure I agree, but... they drew the line somewhere. IQ less than 115, no problem there. Student is against the acceleration, again I agree. The next two are the ones I have trouble with: sibling in the same grade, or sibling in the receiving grade. According to the scales, these are critical items, and totally negate the idea of whole-grade acceleration. I disagree there - in my opinion we should always treat our kids as individuals, and though a lot more care needs to be taken, these two issues should not make whole-grade acceleration a total "NO".

But that's pretty much the only thing I disagree with.

The rest of the form / evaluation is thorough, and gives weight (more or less) to every factor that any parent, teacher or administrator has ever considered, including size and motor coordination (which it finds a minor issue), behavior, social participation, both inside and outside school activities (separately counted - they think having outside activities that aren't affected helps a lot), even attendance, motivation, self-concept and attitude towards learning. But all these items are considered together. And given most weight are the ability and achievement tests, particularly in and out of grade level achievement tests.

A student who hasn't had out-of level achievement tests loses 14 points, right off the bat, but this does not eliminate him or her from the possibility of acceleration. Achievement test levels of 90%+ on grade level and 50%+ on out-of-grade level count for 2 points in each subject, up to 7 subjects including 'other'.

Oh, that's another "NO" reason - ability and achievement testing (profoundly gifted kids will all have gotten 4 points for ability) total less than 10, so without out-of-level ability testing, that will be a little tougher to make, but they only need 3 percentiles above 90 on the grade level test to make the minimum of 10...

Anyway, the form goes on and on, 0,1,2,3 points for this and that, including school system attitude and planning (you can lose 5 points there, but if the school is filling the form out, that should give them at least a 2). And when all is said and done, you have a grand total, a number that quantitatively answers a previously subjective question: should this child be grade accelerated at this time.

Then the book concludes with 2 student analysis (one gets a two grade skip, and the footnotes mention that the skip actually took place 3 years ago and is very successful), the other does not get a mid-year skip he didn't want, but is recommended for an end-of-year skip review), and then 11 pages of great research citations as to why whole-grade acceleration is a good and effective educational alternative for these kids, and then another 8 pages of references.

If a school will purchase this book, and use this form to make quantitative a decision process that used to be purely emotional, I think we will see far more appropriate use of whole-grade acceleration, and far more comfortable folks involved, from the parents to the district personnel to the student themselves.

This is good stuff - it really puts down on paper the what and whys and wherefores into numbers that linear-sequential type teachers and administrators and even parents can sink their teeth into.

The only place the Iowa Acceleration Scale disagrees with any literature I've read is one point on the timing of a skip - it recommends that children NOT skip the last year in a school, the transition year, when trips to the new school and other adjustments are made. Instead it recommends skipping the first year in a new school. But, again, this is not a stopping factor, just a suggestion that is weighed with all the other factors in the decision. And, it says, if a skip is recommended for that last year in a building anyway, the only changes that need to be made is some extra district planning for the transition services that the child will miss.

Iowa Acceleration Scale Manual; A Guide for Whole-Grade Acceleration published by Great Potential Press, 2nd edition 2003.  

Purchase Iowa Acceleration Scale Manual (without forms) from Amazon.com. 

A Parent's Experience, by Beth

Just read this article on the Iowa Acceleration Scale, and wanted to let you know that we used it last spring to advocate for a grade skip for each of our boys, ages 7 and 6. Really, for the educators involved, it was the deciding factor.

Our school system is open to many options in gifted education, but no one in our elementary school could remember the last time, if ever, they had skipped a child a grade. I believe that many schools, like ours, rarely practice grade skipping because the decision is just too "fuzzy," too full of "what ifs" and "down the road" concerns. This is a shame as grade skipping is a good method for accommodating gifted students in the early elementary grades, where gifted programming is often very minimal or nonexistent.

In our case, the scale allowed the educators to feel that this was a decision made objectively. In an era in which our children's educations are constantly being evaluated by proficiency exams, SATs, ACTs, and the like, the ability to "quantify" the decision definitely fits the mindset of the modern education professional.

By the way, our sons are doing exceptionally well; my oldest son was on the "A" honor roll the very first school quarter following the skip. And other children have benefited - another child was moved forward a grade at mid-year in our elementary school.

I would recommend this scale to anyone considering a grade skip for their child (also look at the article here on Hoagies' Advocating for a Grade Skip by Sandy - very useful). Get a copy of this scale and get it into your principal's and/or gifted coordinator's hands.

Beth

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