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New Iowa Acceleration Scale helps educators determine when to recommend "grade skipping"

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A new grade acceleration scale developed at the University of Iowa will help educators and parents determine whether academically gifted elementary school students should be accelerated, or allowed to "skip" a grade.

There is significant evidence indicating whole-grade acceleration is effective, but there is little information available to help determine who is ready and when that intervention is necessary, says Susan Assouline who developed The Iowa Acceleration Scale (IAS). The IAS is applicable for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

The IAS was developed to provide guidance in weighting major factors that should be considered when making a decision about whole-grade acceleration.

The objective-based IAS uses data from standardized tests that the student has previously taken to determine a student's level of ability and achievement, and it offers a standard of comparison with students who have been successfully accelerated.

The IAS provides educators and parents with a numeric scale and associated guidelines to help them make appropriate placement choices for children who have demonstrated high ability to process more information than presented in their current learning environments.

"There are a number of ways to modify the curriculum for talented students, including enrichment, pullout programs, cooperative learning and single-subject acceleration. Each is effective in some instances.

"Research studies indicate that "skipping" a whole grade is clearly the most effective form of intervention for these students," says Assouline, who presented the new scale at the National Association for Gifted Children national convention earlier this month.

"Whole-grade acceleration breaks with traditional lock-step schooling, but this does not necessarily mean that it is an educational risk," Assouline says.

A student might face negative academic, emotional and social effects from whole-grade acceleration. The possibility of such negative effects makes whole-grade acceleration one of the more controversial issues that educators and parents encounter, Assouline says.

But many gifted and talented children need additional educational challenges that can only be allowed by obtaining them to advance at least one grade.

Assouline is associate director of the Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development located at the UI. The IAS was co-developed by Nicholas Colangelo, gifted education professor, and director of the Belin-Blank Center; Jonathan Lipscomb, a UI doctoral student; and Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik, director of the Carnegie Mellon Institute for Talented Elementary Students at Carnegie Mellon University.

The IAS and its accompanying evaluation forms are available through "Gifted Psychology Press," (602) 954-4200.