Saturday, 13 April 2013

To accelerate or not to accelerate!

Ok back to my friend Linda with her gifted child Liam. You will remember from an earlier blog how he wasn't engaged in his first year of school and her and her husband were not sure what to do with him. Liam had gone from being a well behaved child who loved to learn to a boy who didn't want to go to school and was playing up in class.

The advice was to get him tested. From the testing they gained useful information that identified him as gifted. Once the school were presented with this information they began to put different practices in place like taking him out for reading with a small group of students and giving him mathematical work pitched at a child in year 2.

Now Liam is in Year 2 and has just finished his first term. Half way through the term he began becoming extremely angry with his little brother and having outbursts over the littlest of things. Linda also noticed that he was beginning to become uninterested in things that he previously had loved and she was concerned that he was depressed. It was building up to become similar to his first year at school as once again he didn't want to go to school.

As her and her husband had been there before they knew that they needed to do something earlier then they had previously. The straw that broke the camels back was him wetting the bed- at 7. He hadn't done this since kindergarten.

The first thing they did was look at and talk to different principals at the surrounding schools. One particular principal had said that on the evidence that she could see that she would be happy to accelerate him straight into year 3.

The dilemma that now faced them was to accelerate or not to accelerate? The topic is hotly debated with people who aren't faced with this dilemma also believing they are an expert!

The main thing people say is that students shouldn't be accelerated as they wont be able to drink when they finish school. To me this particular comment is irrelevant. What should Linda do? ignore that her son was showing signs of depression? To me this may lead to him eventually becoming so disengaged that he doesn't make it to the drinking age.

Anyway they approached the school and voiced their concerns and emphasised that there needed ot be a change as he was not interested in school. They also let them know that he liked his teacher and they know that the school was doing a lot to differentiate the curriculum for him. It is important to let the school know what they are doing right and not just launch into what they aren't.

At the meeting there was the school's assistant principal and Liam's class teacher. At first they stated their point of view that they didn't believe that Liam would benefit from acceleration as socially he wasn't ready. I am not sure how they would know if he socially was ready as they hadn't made any attempts to see how he interacted with older children. They also stressed how they had been extending him in maths by bringing in some other high achievers in maths. Linda pointed out that this was great BUT that was only one lesson in Liam's day and wasn't enough to keep him interested.

Linda pointed out that her and her husband wanted Liam to experience failure so that he learnt new things. School shouldn't be a babysitting service but rather a place of learning for all children and this would be easier for teachers to do if they have other children at the same level. Linda also pointed out that Liam had made the comment that he didn't want to be the kid in the class that everyone wanted to be friends with so that he would help them with their work. And frankly that isn't his job!

Eventually they reached a compromise. For the rest of the term he would go to year 3 for the reading and writing part of the day. For maths he would continue to work with the group of students that had been selected.

So has there been a difference? Yes in such a short amount of time he is finding things challenging and is already 20 times happier. The plan is for next term for him to also do his Science with year 3.

The question is then is acceleration going to be right for my child? below are some links on the topic that are well worth looking at for anyone considering this. The thing that you also need to take into consideration is if the child wants to move a grade.

I like how the school didn't just give into the parent and place the child straight into Year 3. This gradual move allows the student to get used to the new arrangement and see if it is going to work. So far in this situation so good. The year 3 students have accepted him and are even playing with him at different times throughout the day- lunch and after school.

Research show that failed acceleration usually occurs when the proper preparation hasn't been done. The child has to be the centre of the whole thing and should be consulted throughout the process. They need to be checked on to see if they are comfortable and everything is going well.

Some students may need to be accelerated in just one subject. In Liam's case he is only 6 months younger then most of the kids above him and therefore it takes away the social aspect as he already has friends in the older grades.

In the end you need to do what is right for your child and not worry about what others think. Because they don't know your child as well as you do. Sometimes you just need to push for what you need.

Different links to help you are