New York Times Misses the Mark on Accelerating the Gifted Child

Jessica Lahey, a blogger for the New York Times, recently wrote a post, Against Accelerating the Gifted Child,  questioning if acceleration is really what we (society, educators, who?) want for gifted children. I can only surmise that Ms. Lahey is not the parent of a gifted child or dealing with a school where options are fairly limited.

The child she uses for an example isn’t just gifted but a prodigy and featured in the YouTube series Prodigies. In the episode Tanishq Abraham, the child featured, does mention that he wishes he had more friends. How many children with average IQs say the same thing? My guess there are many.

It’s unfortunate that an article questioning the wisdom of acceleration, which usually means a grade at a time, uses an example where the child is truly an outlier. The worst thing that could be done for children like Tanishq is to keep him lock-step with his age mates. Luckily, his parents recognize this and homeschool and have found a college for him to attend at such a young age.

Ms Lahey does reference A Nation Deceived, the 2004 report from the Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration which shows that acceleration is in fact a valuable solution for students in need of academic challenge. However, she also quotes Maureen Neihart in the Gifted Child Quarterly who states acceleration “may be harmful to unselected students who are arbitrarily accelerated on the bases of IQ, achievement, or social maturity.”

The truth is that NO student should be accelerated with out a rigorous vetting process. Ms. Lahey failed to mention another Iowa Acceleration Scalepublication from the Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration – the Iowa Acceleration Scale. According to the IRPA, the Iowa Acceleration Scale provides:

  • A more objective look at the student
  • An analysis of the major factors to be considered in making a decision
  • Guidelines for weighting the relative importance of the major factors
  • Documentation of the student’s strengths and concerns
  • A numerical range to guide the discussion and decision of acceleration
  • A standard of comparison with students who have had successful accelerations

The author doesn’t seem to understand that gifted children, those with IQs 125 and up, need options to keep them intellectually challenged. Students are more likely to make social connections with intellectual peers rather than age-mates. Surely the best case scenario is attending classes with students in the same age and intellectual range. Unfortunately, that isn’t an option for the vast majority of gifted children as full-time schools for the gifted are a rarity. Academic acceleration must remain an option for these students.

3 Responses

  1. Great post. I have dealt w/naysayers re: my child, and I now have a child in my school that has fled PS b/c they are not able to work w/her 160 IQ. So frustrating for kids and families.

  2. The Common Mom says:

    Thanks for visiting Suzannah – you’re the first commenter on The Common Mom! Thank goodness for schools like HoneyFern, wish there were more schools like this available to these students.

  3. Thank you for posting about the IAS. It’s an important resource and underutilized by schools!

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