High Ability Learners

High Ability programs are essential to public education. These extra supports are beneficial to both the students and the district. When schools have proper foundations in place for high-achieving students, the district then becomes more desirable to prospective students. Many gifted learners do not feel challenged in the classroom, but teachers face a dilemma trying to balance the curricula to stimulate and inspire the students that feel bored while also attempting to raise the performance of struggling students.

I believe schools should use both ability grouping and acceleration to help academically talented students, as was reported in a Northwestern University study that analyzed a century of research looking at the controversial subject.

Ability grouping places students of similar skills and abilities in the same classes. Acceleration, most commonly known as grade skipping, subject acceleration, or early admission into kindergarten or college, gives students the chance access opportunities earlier or progress more rapidly. Accelerated students performed significantly better than non-accelerated same-age peers, and comparable to non-accelerated older students, according to the study.

This study published in the Review of Educational Research, “What One Hundred Years of Research Says About Ability Grouping and Acceleration for Students K-12“, found that these educational techniques effectively increase academic achievement at a low cost and can and has benefited millions of students across U.S. school systems.

Critics argue that dividing the students can mean the loss of leaders or role models, greater achievement gaps and lower self-esteem for struggling students. However the research indicated that students benefited from within-class grouping, cross-grade subject grouping and gifted and talented programs, although the benefits were insignificant for between class groupings.

I would propose WCCS implement the use of CogAT, a culturally unbiased, pictorial-based aptitude evaluation as the universal screener to better identify and place these high ability learners, as recommended by the Indiana Department of Education.

While I do not believe that acceleration is the answer for every gifted student, I do believe that it should be an option for high performers. Acceleration can also be modified to only single subjects or fast-tracking to college courses for the students that are not socially or emotionally ready to “skip grades”.

Implementation of these educational approaches would give the WCCS district a competitive edge with our surrounding districts and help our students to achieve much more.