Students deserve to be in educational environments that meet their individual needs. For some learners, this means removing barriers to their academic curiosity and acceleration. Unfortunately, research conducted by Empower Illinois and its partners showed that nearly two-thirds of Illinois school districts did not have a policy early entrance for high-ability students, nearly half did not have a policy that allowed students to take above grade-level classes or graduate early, and 90 percent did not have a policy that allowed students to skip grades.

 

For those schools that did accelerate students prior to the passage of the law, many did not utilize best practices. They would often have one decision-maker (superintendent or principal) and one referrer (parent, teacher, or principal) and rely on anecdotal evidence about whether acceleration benefits students.

 

But in fact, research shows acceleration does benefit students. A recent study that reviewed more than 100 years of acceleration research found that when high-ability students were accelerated, they exceeded the academic achievement of their non-accelerated, high-ability peers by nearly one-year on a grade-equivalent scale. Additionally, the study of Mathematically Precocious Youth, conducted over the past forty years by Vanderbilt University showed that accelerated students achieved higher degrees of education, were published in more scholarly journals, and were awarded more patents at an earlier age than non-accelerated peers of similar ability.

 

This is why in 2017, Empower Illinois, working alongside a broad coalition, passed the Accelerated Placement Act. The law requires school districts to have a policy based on best practices that allows students to enter school early, enroll in above-grade level classes, or skip grades altogether.

 

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