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Understanding Academic Acceleration, Part 1

April 18, 2013
CISD Deadlines to apply for Credit by Exam: (click here)

  • July 1 for Kindergarten acceleration (skip Kindergarten)
  • June 4 for elementary grade skipping
  • May 1 and July 1 for Math acceleration in middle school
  • May 1, June 4, July 1 for High School Credit by Exam (either with or without prior instruction)

What do America’s brightest students hear? Every year, across the nation, students who should be moved ahead at their natural pace of learning are told to stay put. Thousands of students are told to lower their expectations, and put their dreams on hold. Whatever they want to do, their teachers say, it can wait.

A Nation Decieved

A common complaint among parents of gifted children is that the child has already mastered the curriculum and is required to sit in class and wait while the rest of the students catch up.  One option to address this situation is academic acceleration.  Part 2 of this article (in the upcoming May newsletter) will specifically address considerations in whether to pursue acceleration. Part 1 is a primer on academic acceleration.

What is academic acceleration?

Academic acceleration is the practice of offering curriculum content earlier or at a faster pace than normal.  As emphasized in A Nation Decieved, acceleration is not pushing a child beyond where they are ready to go, instead, acceleration “means matching the level, complexity, and pace of the curriculum with the readiness and motivation of the student.”  According to the National Association for Gifted Children, the purpose of acceleration for the gifted is:

  1. to adjust the pace of instruction to the students’ capability in order to develop a sound work ethic,
  2. to provide an appropriate level of challenge in order to avoid the boredom from repetitious learning, and
  3. to reduce the time period necessary for students to complete traditional schooling.

What are the types of academic acceleration?

Category 1: Content-based acceleration. Provides students with advanced content, skills or understanding before the typical age or grade.


  • Single-subject acceleration: student is placed with older peers or with higher level materials for a specific subject.  e.g. student tests out of 6th grade math and takes 7th grade math as a 6th grade student.
  • Curriculum compacting: instruction time is reduced typically by reducing time spent on introduction and repetition through drills and practice.  Time gained may be used for advanced content or enrichment.
  • Concurrent/dual enrollment: student takes a course at one level and receives credit at a higher level.  e.g. student takes college level classes at Northlake that counts as both high school and college credit; student takes Algebra as an 8th grader that counts for both middle school and high school credit.
  • Credit by examination: student receives credit for a class by successfully completing a test.  The mastery requirements are different depending on whether a child has had instruction in the course. i.e. a student without prior instruction must score a 90% or better on the test to be able to skip that class; a student with instruction (perhaps as a summer class) can receive credit for that class by scoring a 70% or better on the test.

Category 2: Grade-based acceleration.  Typically shortens the number of years a student spends in the K-12.


  • Early entrance to 1st grade: student enters 1st grade while kindergarten age.
  • Whole grade acceleration: student tests out of a grade of school and advances to the next grade.  To do this, a student must show mastery of the 4 core subject areas for that grade by receiving a 90% score or better on the 4 core subject tests. e.g. student tests out of 3rd grade and becomes a 4th grade student.
  • Telescoping curriculum: student receives instruction at a faster rate and always results in advanced grade placement.  e.g. math curriculum is taught at a faster pace to allow students to take Algebra (a high school level class) in 8th grade.
  • Early high school graduation: student graduates from high school in under 4 years typically by taking an increased course load, dual credit, and credit by exam.
  • Early entrance to college: Texas Academy for Leadership in the Humanities (TALH)Texas Academy of Math and Science (TAMS)

Important links:

Additional Articles about Acceleration from CGA archives:

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