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Posted March 4, 2011
This book describes in detail the rationale and process for using the Iowa Acceleration Scale, a tool that is used to determine whether or not it would be most appropriate for a child to skip a grade. The book also addresses early entrance into kindergarten and first grade.
The IAS is a diagnostic tool comprised of several sections that is completed by a team of teachers and parents, along with the student. Several test scores are taken into consideration and given a score based on the student's performance. These include an IQ test, an aptitude test, and an achievement test. In addition, many other factors are taken into account and given an appropriate score by the team (reached by consensus agreement). Some of these factors include the student's interpersonal skills, the student's relationship with his or her teachers, the student's participation in team sports, siblings, and the student's physical size and age.
There are some built-in "deal breakers" in the IAS. These include the student's own desire to remain at grade level, the possibility of a student advancing to a grade in which he or she already has a sibling (and sometimes a situation in which the student- perhaps a twin- would leave a same-age sibling behind in a grade), or the student not scoring high enough on an IQ test.
An overall score is reached by adding up individual scores for each of the sections of the test. This score can indicate the student as an "excellent" candidate for acceleration, a "good" candidate, "marginal," or "not recommended." I love the leeway allowed in the upper scores. The test is designed to be mostly objective (taking into consideration a human element in the non test score sections), yet the ultimate decision is still left to the team and the student in question.
I also found it fascinating that, even when it is clear early on that acceleration is not recommended, the scale can still be used to determine appropriate educational measures to be taken on the student's behalf.
Two key elements mentioned repeatedly in the text are the timing of the acceleration (avoiding "transitional years" if possible, those years that would prepare a student to transition from elementary to high school, for example) and the support system of people needed to make the transition effective. These people include the student's current and future teacher, as well as the student him/herself, parents, and other staff such as the principal or gifted coordinator. Some of these recommendations seemed so obvious to me, such as the receiving teacher should be warm and open to the new student, and when doing so, will make that student's transition much more effective.
Really, there seemed to be so much common sense imbedded in this manual, making it a beautiful tool that seems an easy sell to staff and administrators (or perhaps I'm just feeling optimistic!).
I was wary of this book at first, but was quickly won over by the very logical, yet also warm and human attitude taken by the authors and of the diagnostic tool itself. This tool provides a fantastic medium for real discussion about the best possible situation for the student that is distant from entrenched views of acceleration always being a bad thing, or always interrupting the student's social well-being (an idea that I carried with me already).