Academic Acceleration

Acceleration Overview

Academic acceleration is a formal process of a student skipping a grade level in either one subject area or all subject areas.  The acceleration process involves multiple data collection, cognitive and above grade-level achievement testing, and review of academic, developmental, and social-emotional data by an acceleration committee that includes the student’s principal, current teacher(s), potential teacher(s), gifted specialist, parent/guardian, and any other relevant support specialists. The committee uses testing results and other collected data to inform their decision to accelerate or not to accelerate the student.

Acceleration is an option for any student who demonstrates readiness, regardless of whether or not the student has been identified as gifted, and whose needs cannot be met within available grade level options.  Due to Bexley’s high rate of gifted identification, teachers extend and enrich their typical grade level instruction to meet the needs of their gifted students.  As such, acceleration typically is only necessary for students who consistently score significantly above the norm. in comparison to both national and local norms.  For students who are gifted and are in need of such a placement, academic acceleration may be considered a form of gifted service per state rules.  

Ohio policy defines four types of acceleration:

  • Early Entrance to Kindergarten or First Grade - This is the practice of admitting a student to Kindergarten who has not reached the age at which students are admitted to Kindergarten or placing a student in First Grade who has not completed a kindergarten program. This option is for students who show significant cognitive and academic advancement for their age, not simply “kindergarten readiness.” Click here for more information about Early Entrance to School.

  • Subject Area - This is the practice of assigning a student to a higher grade level course than is part of the typical academic transition. An example would be a student in 3rd grade who attends 4th grade math.  Students must be able to demonstrate knowledge of content and skills for the content to be skipped as a result of the acceleration. Although this is an option for any core subject area (reading, math, science, and social studies), it is most commonly done in mathematics due to the mature of each of the disciplines. And the potential for each to be enriched within the on-grade level. classroom.

  • Whole Grade - This is the practice of assigning a student to a higher grade-level across all subject areas than is typical given the student’s age for the purpose of providing access to appropriately challenging learning opportunities. This acceleration results in an earlier graduation from high school and matriculation with peers who may be older with a different level of maturity.  Although this type of acceleration can be done at any grade level, it is most effective in younger grades to allow for early sustained engagement and assimilation into the new group of classmates.

  • Early High School Graduation - This is the practice of skipping coursework to complete the high school program in less than four years for the purpose of providing earlier than typical access to post-secondary education opportunities.  This option is available but rarely used.  More commonly used options include early graduation due to early completion of required credits or taking advantage of College Credit Plus in lieu of early graduation.

Acceleration Referral and Assessment Process

Parents/guardians, teachers or students can submit referrals for acceleration for a subject area, whole grade, or early graduation. Referrals should be made by submitting the Referral for Acceleration and Authorization to Assess forms to the principal by November 1 for potential acceleration at the start of the second semester or by March 31 for potential acceleration at the start of the next school year.  Referrals received after these windows may not be processed until the next referral window. 

Once the forms are received by the principal, they are sent on to the district administrator responsible for gifted education.  That administrator will schedule appropriate testing, which may include a cognitive assessment and an achievement test set two grade levels above the student’s current grade level.  The student will be tested in the subject to be accelerated if the referral is for a subject acceleration. If it is a whole grade referral, the student will be tested in all four core subject areas. The achievement test will be normed for the student’s current grade level and two grade levels above.  The scores from these assessments are then placed on the acceleration tool appropriate for the type of acceleration considered.  

For whole grade accelerations, early entrance, and early graduation, the district uses the Iowa Acceleration Scale, a research-based tool approved by the Ohio Department of Education for this purpose.  In alignment with the critical measures on this instrument, students must have a minimum cognitive score of 115 and a combination of achievement scores to meet a minimum threshold to continue on in the evaluation process.  Those achievement scores are, on average, 90th percentile or higher compared to grade level peers and 50-75th percentile when normed two grade levels above.

For subject accelerations, the district uses a placement tool developed by the Gifted Coordinators of Central Ohio.  This tool is widely used throughout the region and has been shown to predict success in subject-acceleration placements.  In alignment with the critical measures on this instrument, students must have a minimum cognitive score of 110 and achievement scores, on average, 90th percentile or higher compared to grade level peers and 60-75th percentile when normed two grade levels above.

If the referred student meets the minimum ability and achievement criteria during testing, the principal will call an acceleration evaluation committee to conduct further review.  This team consists of the student’s principal, current teacher(s), potential teacher(s), gifted specialist, parent/guardian, and any other relevant support specialists.   The team reviews the assessment data to look for patterns of strengths and needs.  They also complete rubrics or survey items to assess the student’s developmental, social, and emotional maturity.   This data is summarized using score tables embedded in the instruments to generate a placement recommendation.  The committee makes the final placement determination in light of the tool recommendation and other pertinent factors.  The decision is made by consensus of all committee members; in the event consensus cannot be reached, decision is made by a majority vote.

Written Acceleration Plans

Written Acceleration Plans (WEP) are created for students who are accelerated in any manner described in this section.  The WAP is a one-time document created at the time of the acceleration decision to outline the transition plan as the student skips from one grade to another.   The plan notes the type of acceleration and timing of the new placement.  It also includes any student supports and logistical arrangements that will facilitate a smooth transition and will specify a timeframe of a trial period and criteria for determining the transition is successful.  At the end of the transition period, the acceleration evaluation team will either make the placement permanent, reverse the acceleration without penalty to the student, or modify supports for the student.  A copy of the WAP is provided to the receiving teacher(s), parent/guardian, and principal and is placed in the student’s cumulative school record. 

The WAP also includes documentation of any adjustments to state testing participation due to the acceleration.   In general, students will participate in any state tests (OST) administered in the grade level/content area of instruction.  Students who are whole grade accelerated will be tested with their new grade level group.  Students who are subject accelerated will tested at their typical grade level for all subjects except the accelerated subject; the accelerated subject will be tested at the higher grade level.   

Reversal of Acceleration Placements

Because of the careful process used for determining acceleration placements, the vast majority of accelerated students are successful in both the short and long term.   However, there is rare occasion that a student struggles more than expected.  All new acceleration placements include a six- to nine-week trial period to give the student time to adjust to the new placement.  If the student does not do well academically or emotionally, the placement may be reversed without penalty to the student or any negative consequence on the student’s academic record.  However, after that trial period, the placement becomes permanent.  Any reversal of the acceleration after that point, whether it is at the end of the first year or in a future year, is documented as a retention in that subject or grade level.  Decisions to retain a student who has been accelerated should be made collaboratively between teacher, principal, and parent and should be carefully documented in writing.  The documentation should be included in the student’s cumulative file and provided to the district administrator responsible for gifted education.

Special Acceleration Options

There are a few programs at the middle and high school level that do not utilize the acceleration process described above but are considered an acceleration in accordance with state definitions.  

Compacted Math (Middle School)

This is a sequence of middle school math courses that compacts three years of math (Math 6, Math 7, and Math 8) into two years during grades 6 and 7.  Students then go on to take Honors Algebra I in 8th grade, thus opening space in the high school years for higher level math courses.  While students do not need to be identified as gifted to enroll, provided they meet other eligibility criteria, these courses are considered a gifted service for students who are gifted in the subject area of the course.  The sequence is also considered a subject acceleration for all students during the second year.  To be placed in this program, students must have either a 1-year or 2-year average score at or above the 85th percentile on the MAP math test.  Students and families will be automatically notified in the spring of 5th grade if eligible for this course sequence.

Credit Flexibility (High School)

Credit flexibility is a state-created educational option that enables students to earn high school credits through non-traditional means. Examples include independent study, summer programs, online courses, and testing out.  In some cases, credit flexibility may be considered an acceleration for participating students depending on the courses skipped.

College Credit Plus (Middle and High School)

The program is available to eligible students in grades 7 through 12.  Students may apply to and enroll in college courses as participating universities while still enrolled in Bexley City Schools.  Students earn dual high school and college credit for these courses.  Tuition and books are provided for students who maintain required performance levels.  In some cases, they may also be considered an acceleration for participating students depending on the courses taken.  Because these are true college level courses with the expectation of previous mastery of high school content, this program is typically only appropriate for a very small number of students in grades 7-10.  Please weigh all options carefully when considering CCP.