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Book Review: A Nation Deceived

December 19, 2007
by

A Nation Deceived“A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students.”
Templeton National Report on Acceleration.
Eds: Colangelo, Nicolas; Assouline, Susan; Gross, Miraca U.M. Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education & Talent Development: 2004

More than just grade skipping, “acceleration means matching the level, complexity, and pace of the curriculum with the readiness and motivation of the student.” Endorsed by the National Association for Gifted Children, this two-part report on acceleration is an impressive achievement.

The report provides accurate, research-based information about acceleration to those who most need it – parents, teachers, school administrators, and public policymakers. It draws on the expertise of many of today’s top experts in gifted education, pointing out that accelerating gifted students is strongly supported by those who have studied the practice. American educators, on the other hand, commonly are reluctant to consider acceleration as an option. Attempting to bridge the divide between these two positions, the authors outline some reasons why bright students in this country are “held back,” or not allowed to move through the curriculum at a rate that is appropriate for them, including:

  • Philosophy that children must be kept with their age group
  • Belief that acceleration hurries children out of childhood
  • Fear that acceleration hurts children socially
  • Political concerns about equity

Volume 1

In Volume 1, the authors summarize research findings in short chapters dealing with early entrance to school, grade-skipping in elementary school, academic talent searches, and highschool issues including advanced placement and leaving high school early for early college entrance. Interspersed are sidebars highlighting brief, relevant excerpts from other publications as well as short interviews with students who have experienced the sorts of accelerative options recommended by the authors. Also included are resources for parents of bright students, as well as sections directed at teachers and policy makers. This volume is very accessible for most parents and will be helpful for some educators.

Volume 2

The research summaries in the second volume may help readers better understand current research, buttress arguments for accommodations for individual children, or work on changing or creating school policies. While the range of research reviewed and cited is comprehensive – with a nuanced and objective presentation of the issues – it remains very readable and applicable.

The chapters most useful to parents include one by Southern and Jones that provides a comprehensive listing of accelerative options as well as a discussion of important components of forms of acceleration (e.g. pacing of instruction and the degree to which the program keeps students with chronological peers).  The chapter may help parents find an option that fits their child. For example, faster pacing of instruction may be more appropriate for a particular child rather than whole grade acceleration. Another key chapter for parents is by Robinson on the social and emotional effects of accelerative placements. Parents will find this chapter reassuring.

School administrators should read the chapters by Kulik and Rogers who  resent strong evidence from research studies that accelerative options raise and increase achievement of students. Parents who are negotiating accommodations for their gifted child will find these chapters to be helpful and may want to share them with school officials.

Moon and Reis provide rare coverage of acceleration and the twice-exceptional child. These authors review the handful of studies that examine special populations of students including gifted children with behavioral disorders or learning disabilities. With careful management and support, accelerative strategies appear to be a viable option for these students.

Finally, the volume contains an annotated bibliography and the position statement of the National  Association for Gifted Children on acceleration. This volume is recommended for school officials and parents seriously considering accelerative options.

For further information, to give your own opinion on the report, or to download the entire report for free, visit www.nationdeceived.org.

Provided by Northwestern University Center for  Talent Development, 617 Dartmouth Place, Evanston, IL 60208.

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