Supporting Academic Acceleration in Schools

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The National Center for Research on Gifted Education is seeking school districts interested in expanding their use of subject-specific and whole-grade acceleration as a way to meet the needs of advanced learners. Academic acceleration is the intervention for advanced learners that has shown the greatest effect on learning and achievement. This project seeks to (a) provide professional learning around what acceleration actually is and how it can be used, (b) develop a universal screening process to determine which students should be considered for acceleration, and (c) provide resources and professional learning to schools to help them implement subject-specific and whole-grade acceleration decisions for students who meet the criteria.

What you would get from us:

  1. Face-to-face and/or virtual professional learning on how to implement subject-specific and whole-grade acceleration at no cost to your district.
  2. Access to online professional learning modules for educators who would be involved in acceleration decisions.
  3. Technical support implementing a universal screening system with your existing data to determine who should be considered for whole-grade acceleration.
  4. Access to the Integrated Acceleration System (Acceleration Institute, University of Iowa) for making acceleration decisions.
  5. Funding necessary to purchase any additional assessment tools.
  6. Limited funds to support teachers in completing the professional learning modules.
  7. Ongoing facilitation of accelerated placement decision making.
  8. Compliance with all district policies. We understand that working with your district may require a data sharing agreement and/or approval by district or school research institutional (ethical) review board. We will comply with all district policies.

 

What we would want from you:

  1. A commitment to have teachers in grades 2 through 5 and administrators work through up to about 3 hours of professional learning related to acceleration. The amount of time depends on your role.
  2. Academic achievement and ability data for all district grade 2 and 3 students disaggregated by race/ethnicity, gender, and ideally free and reduced-price lunch (FRPL), language, and special education status.
  3. Willingness to work through the Integrated Acceleration System process for some students (approximately 1 hour per student–with our support); any decision to accelerate students is determined by the district.
  4. A willingness to share student ability and achievement test data for participating students as part of the IAS process. We will pay for those tests if they are not already given – this should take about 2 hours.
  5. A commitment to have teachers in grades 2 through 5 and other school personnel provide feedback about the acceleration process.
  6. Data on how often acceleration is used in subsequent years of the project.

District requirements:

  1. Must have at least two elementary schools in the district participate.
  2. Must have academic achievement test data for all students in grades 2-5 — ideally a computer-adaptive test such as Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), STAR, or iReady. Preference given to districts that administer the MAP.
  3. Must have administered an aptitude test (e.g., CogAT) to all current grade 3 students. In the second year of the study, grade 2 should also have aptitude scores. We will pay for testing for students in the top 10% in math and reading who do not have an aptitude test score.
  4. Must be willing to accept random assignment of schools to receive the professional learning resources in Fall 2021 – Spring 2023 (Group A) or Fall 2023 (Group B) – ultimately all participating schools will receive the training and
  5. Must be willing to participate in the study for two academic school years.
  6. At schools interested in participating, all third-grade classroom teachers must give consent to participate for the school to participate.

Timeline:

2021-2022 (Year 1)

September – December

  • NCRGE Recruits 30 schools to participate (Cohort 1).
  • School representative signs agreement with expectations for school and NCRGE.
  • Schools share recruitment video and distribute informed consent to classroom teachers at grades 3-5 and other educators (g/t specialist, counselor/psychologist, and administrator) working with 3rd-, 4th-, and 5th-grade students.

January – February

  • NCRGE assigns schools to treatment (Group A) and control (Group B) within districts.
  • Participating educators complete “Educators’ Attitudes about Acceleration Survey.”
  • Schools organize 3rd grade students’ achievement and aptitude data and select potential student participants following NCRGE guidance.

February – March

  • Potential parent and student participants in treatment schools (Group A) receive printed or email-linked Qualtrics Parent Permission Form A from school (requesting agreement to complete “Parents’ Perceptions of Students’ Academic Challenge Survey” and “Students’ Perceptions About School Challenge Survey,” allow NCRGE use of student’s school data, and participate in IAS meeting).
  • Potential parent and student participants in control schools (Group B) receive Parent Permission Form B from school (requesting agreement to complete “Parents’ Perceptions of Students’ Academic Challenge Survey” and “Students’ Perceptions About School Challenge Survey” and allow NCRGE use of student’s school data).
  • Parent and student participants who agree to participate return permission forms to schools.
  • Parent/Student pairs who agreed to participate complete “Parents’ Perceptions of Students’ Academic Challenge Survey” and “Students’ Perceptions About School Challenge Survey.”
  • Participating educators complete four professional learning modules.

April – May

  • Educators in treatment schools prepare for and participate in IAS meetings.
  • Parents in treatment schools (Group A) who agreed to the study participate in IAS meetings with educators.

May – June

  • Teachers complete post “Educators’ Attitudes about Acceleration Survey.”
  • Treatment schools (Group A) begin transition for students who will participate in subject-specific or whole-grade acceleration.
  • Schools share students’ achievement and aptitude scores, students’ grades, and report on acceleration decisions with NCRGE researchers.

2022-2023 (Year 2)

  • Repeat all student- and parent-related Year 1 steps and timeline for students at grades 2 and 3.
  • Grade 2 teachers complete consent process and professional learning modules.
  • Schools share achievement data and grades for students who were considered for acceleration in Year 1 (grade 4 or 5 data, depending on whether accelerated).
  • Parents and students who were part of those acceleration decisions in Year 1 are asked to complete the online “Parents’ Perceptions of Students’ Academic Challenge Survey” and “Students’ Perceptions About School Challenge Survey” again.
  • Educators complete “Educators’ Attitudes about Acceleration Survey” at the end of the year.

2023-2024 (Year 3)

  • Schools share achievement data and grades for students who were considered for acceleration in Year 2 (grade 3, 4, or 5 data, depending on whether accelerated).
  • Parents and students who were part of those acceleration decisions in Year 2 are asked to complete the online “Parents’ Perceptions of Students’ Academic Challenge Survey” and “Students’ Perceptions About School Challenge Survey” again.
  • Educators complete “Educators’ Attitudes about Acceleration Survey” at the end of the year.
  • NCRGE provides control school educators (Group B) with professional learning modules and access to Integrated Acceleration System.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. What will be expected of teachers?
    • Teachers in grades 2 through 5 will
      • Complete brief surveys about their views of subject-specific and whole-grade acceleration,
      • Complete four, 45-minute modules related to academic acceleration,
      • Participate in an Integrated Acceleration System (IAS) team meeting if a student they serve or will serve is being considered for acceleration.
  1. What will be expected of students?
    • Some students who score in the top 10% (in math and reading/English language arts [ELA]) achievement test, and who score above the 50%ile for fall of fourth grade on both reading and math, and who score 120 or above (90th percentile or above) on an aptitude test will be considered for acceleration via the IAS process. This is similar to an IEP meeting where a team discusses whether or not an accelerated placement would be appropriate for the student the following school
  2. Will we be required to actually grade-skip students?
    • Some students will go through the IAS process, but the decision on whether to accelerate a student is up to the district and families.
  3. What is included on the Integrated Acceleration System (IAS)? How will acceleration decisions be made?
    • The IAS is not a “test”–it is a guided decision-making process using achievement test scores; ability test scores; and information on student interpersonal skills, learning, attitude, and support for an accelerated
  4. Does acceleration have negative academic and social-emotional outcomes?
    • Overwhelmingly, acceleration results in positive academic and social-emotional outcome. Similar to any practice in education, students can have a range of experiences; however, research supports the positive outcomes of
  5. How would acceleration work in virtual learning environments?
    • For whole-grade acceleration, a student might be involved in a virtual grade 3 classroom in 2021 – 2022 and then move to a virtual or face-to-face grade 5 classroom in 2022 – 2023. For subject-acceleration, a grade 3 student in 2021 – 2022 could participate in grade 5 math the following year but stay with grade-level peers the rest of the time.

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