I spent part of my time this week looking at data to answer the question, “Do students who are subject accelerated continue to be successful* throughout their K-12 years?” First, I want to share the answer I found so far is, yes they continue to be successful.
I’ll be honest; I was a little irritated I was being asked to “prove” this acceleration decision was correct. After thinking about it for a while I realized I should know. We should know. And after all, isn’t that what research is? Finding out what really is and is not true? As I got to work determining what’s and how’s of my data collection process something else was gnawing at me. My irritation didn’t come from the hours of work I knew it would take to seek out the data of students over a 7 year time span. It was because of the clashing beliefs of some (well intentioned) people who strongly believe some students need extra time to learn concepts. Yet those same people question the belief that other students can learn at a rate faster than “average”. Or, that some students might already know the ideas and concepts that will be taught during the upcoming school year and NEED something different.
Acceleration is a proven strategy to help engage students in learning. Years of research back it up. My own inquiry into the decisions we have made for students, to keep them engaged, prove acceleration works. So what is the root cause of the apprehension to accelerate students? Here are my thoughts. Administrators and educators are afraid to make a mistake. What if, sometime further down the education path the student struggles? Where will the “fault” of a student struggling fall? The truth is making these decisions scares me, too. But I am more fearful of students sitting (quietly or not) in classrooms waiting for the time to pass so they can move on.
My data collection and analysis is almost complete. I am excited to share it with decision makers. I have “proof” that acceleration is working for students. Maybe I will need more or different proof. But, I HAVE proof! I’m excited to use my proof as an advocacy tool for more students. Keeping students engaged matters. If you read this to the end I know you too are an advocate Thank you for being a starfish-thrower difference maker!
*Success can be measured in many ways, for the purposes of our study we measured success by successful completion of 4 years of high level high school/college math classes and a math ACT score of 27 or higher.