Iowa Acceleration Scale and Grade Acceleration

You think your child is ready for grade acceleration (grade skipping) but maybe you, and or the school, aren’t sure?

There’s a tool for that.

What is the IAS?

The Iowa Acceleration Scale: A Guide for Whole-Grade Acceleration K-8 from the Belin-Blank Center at the University of Iowa is an objective tool used to make decisions on whole-grade acceleration or double-promotion. In my day they called it grade skipping.

It’s not a test. Thank goodness, right?

It’s an inventory covering several topics to determine if acceleration is most appropriate for the student.

One thing I like about using the IAS, and we used it in deciding to accelerate my daughter from kindergarten directly to second grade, is that it covers a wide range of issues that are of concern to both parents and educators. Iowa Acceleration Scale

For instance, one of the criteria is motor skill. I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal when considering grade acceleration and I said so, maybe a little too loudly. But if you’re moving a kindergartner, especially one on the younger side, into a classroom with students who have an extra year of practice at holding the pencil, there might be some disparity. And there could be tears. Lots of tears.

Is that a deal-breaker for grade acceleration? No.

Should it be a factor to consider? Yes.

My daughter had a hard time keeping up with writing assignments and came to dislike writing after loving it in kindergarten. I can’t say for certain it’s related to the grade skip and her struggle with the physical aspect of writing but it was something we had to work on.

My point is the IAS covers a variety of topics to be considered when deciding if grade acceleration is right for your student. Some are no-brainers like IQ scores and out-of-level achievement tests while others are more subjective. Intellectual and emotional development are taken into consideration. All of these topics are evaluated as a whole.

Another reason I like it is it prevents schools making decisions without a foundation. It helps eliminate any bias on the part of the educator or school by allowing them to make an objective decision. You definitely want the school to have objectivity in this process.

If your school doesn’t use the IAS it is available for parents to purchase and I would highly recommend it. It gives the ability to take what can be a highly subjective issue and present it in an objective manner as you advocate for your student. Priceless.

Anything that can help you avoid being “that” parent and instead lead to meaningful and productive advocacy conversations for your gifted student is well worth the investment.

Grade acceleration can be a good thing, it has been for my daughter, but there are several issues to consider. Each child is different and requires individual solutions.

What were your outcomes using the Iowa Acceleration Scale?

Parents of Gifted Children: The Silent Minority

That’s how I think many parents of gifted children think of themselves. The National Association of Gifted Children reports that the academically gifted make up approximately 6% of the K-12 students – so there just aren’t a lot of us.

Parents of Gifted Children: The Silent Minority

I found out pretty early – as most of you have as well – that most of my friends, family, and teachers I know  don’t really want to hear about the struggles I have with my gifted daughter who gets straight A’s. They don’t appreciate how hard it is to find appropriate reading material that’s when she’s reading and comprehending 8-10 years above her age.

Of course, while I’m trying to explain this to someone she running around talking “kitty-cat language”. Thank you asynchronous development.

When I attended our state’s gifted association’s state-wide conference this year I thought I’d finally get to meet all the other parents who were serious about getting things changed. I thought we’d talk about ways to improve our own kid’s experiences and pave the way for those to come.  Except the parents didn’t show up.

Granted, there were some dedicated parents there and it was definitely worth my time. The conference planners did try: there was an entire day dedicated to parents on a weekend day. The location was convenient to all in the state and it was kid friendly. I brought my daughter and there were several other kids there.

But, seriously, I’ve seen more parents in the freezing cold to attend a pee-wee soccer game. I made a decision a long time ago to try not to judge other parents (and really – I don’t) but it was disappointing.

Seeing the low attendance is what drove me over the edge to become more engaged. So I started reaching out to other families with uncommon children in the blogosphere, on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest because that’s where we hangout anyway. Or am I alone in wasting time doing research on social media?

I know you’re out there silently biting your tongue as educators, politicians, and other parents tell you to stop worrying about your kids – they’re going to be just fine. After all, they’re gifted!

Silent No More

I’m NOT an expert, my daughter is NOT the girl with the highest IQ, and I’m probably NOT the most fed up mom going through this. But, I am committed to becoming more engaged in the conversation. And if the conversation isn’t happening – I’m committed to starting one.

So, that means educating myself and others. It means attending conferences when possible. It means joining my state’s gifted association and/or the NAGC. It means writing letters to school board members and politicians who control the funding that make a difference in my child’s education. It means becoming a resource to overworked and usually under-appreciated teachers. It means advocating for all gifted kids. It means being engaged.

How do you advocate for gifted children?


What You Need to Know About Above-Level Testing

Above level testing for gifted children

When we first considered advocating for a grade acceleration for our daughter we came up with the brilliant idea of having her take the end of year assessment for the skipped grade to prove she already knew the material. Little did I know that we weren’t the first ones to think of this tactic and it has a name – above-level testing.

Above-level tests are commonly used in talent searches and as screening tests to identify students for gifted programs. Getting high scores is commonplace for gifted students and most tests don’t adequately measure what they could achieve if the test were more difficult. This is the ceiling effect – student test scores clustered at the upper end of the test because it wasn’t sufficiently challenging. This is the concept you explain to other moms who don’t understand why your child getting straight A’s isn’t good enough for you. All those A’s don’t mean that your student is being challenged and stretched.

When advocating for your child to be challenged appropriately in school, being armed with this information can be helpful. The above-level testing scores give educators an indication of the student’s actual achievement level. This can help determine where the student’s strengths and weaknesses may be. Remember, these kids tend to have asynchronous development. Just because they’re ready for calculus doesn’t mean they can put a sentence together.

Knowing a student’s strengths is obviously important but knowing where any gaps in knowledge may lie is equally essential. Understanding both of these information points can be influential in determining if a student should be grade or subject accelerated. Being armed with cold, hard data (test scores) is one way to avoid being labeled as “one of those parents” and want to discuss the issue objectively.

Tests commonly used for above-level testing are typically the SAT and ACT for students in at least seventh grade. For elementary students the EXPLORE is often used. These tests are also used in most talent searches. However, when working with a school on grade or subject acceleration other testing options may be available. A common practice is to have a student take the end-of-year assessment test for the grade in which they’re considering moving to.

Talent Searches for Gifted Students

Duke TIP

Center for Bright Kids

Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth

Carnegie Mellon Institute for Talented Elementary & Secondary Students

Additional Resources

Discovering Highly Gifted Students

Share how you’ve used above-level testing to advocate for your student in the comments or on Facebook.