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University of Iowa News Release

May 20, 2004

National Report: Gifted Children Often Kept Behind

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Potentially thousands of academically gifted K-12 students are being denied opportunities to take the kinds of challenging coursework that might lead to careers in math, science and other important fields, even as the United States' preeminence in these areas continues to slip.

In many instances obstacles are being placed in the students' paths by the very people charged with educating them to their highest potential: teachers and school administrators.

That is one of the preliminary findings of a national study due out in September from the University of Iowa's Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. Funded by a $205,000 grant from the Templeton Foundation, the Templeton National Report on Acceleration will be one of the most comprehensive syntheses to date of research on academic acceleration, a term that covers such practices as grade-skipping, early entrance to college, single-subject acceleration and Advanced Placement (AP) courses and programs.

Belin-Blank Center Director Nicholas Colangelo, Ph.D., will discuss the report from 7:30 to 8:45 p.m. Sunday, May 23, as part of the Seventh Biennial Henry B. & Jocelyn Wallace National Research Symposium on Talent Development in the UI's Iowa Memorial Union. After delivering his talk, he will moderate a panel discussion with guests Jan Davidson, president of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development; Rena Subotnik, director of the Center for Gifted Education Policy at the American Psychological Association; Lane Plugge, Iowa City Community School District superintendent; Lauren Reece, president of the Iowa City Community School District Board of Education; and Alexis Hanson, an undergraduate student at the UI who skipped sixth and 12th grades.

Paid registration is required to attend the symposium, which runs from May 23-25 on the UI campus.

The final version of the Templeton National Report on Acceleration, authored by Colangelo and coauthored by Belin-Blank Center Associate Director Susan Assouline and Miraca Gross, a professor of gifted education at the University of New South Wales in Australia, will include 11 chapters, with contributions from some of the country's top researchers and practitioners in the area of academic acceleration.

Colangelo said he hopes the report will help debunk some of the myths that plague accelerated education, including the notion that grade-skipping and similar practices have adverse psychological, social or emotional effects on students. He said some of these concerns may stem from the disproportionate attention given to highly unusual cases, such as students still in their teens who are accepted by medical or law schools.

In most cases, he said, a student may simply be ready cognitively to take courses in a particular subject area at a slightly higher level than is offered at his or her grade level, or to move up a grade or two.

"The evidence so far indicates that accelerated education helps students in both the short- and long-term," he said.

Unfortunately, he said, many educators are unprepared or unwilling to help students and parents adequately assess - and meet - the gifted child's needs. They may not want to appear to be giving preferential treatment to such students. They may have had a negative experience and, as a result, are unwilling to assist other gifted students. Or they may fear that the cost of helping students with accelerated education will greatly exceed allocated per-pupil funding.

The truth, Colangelo said, is that costs for accommodating gifted students are often minimal.

"What does it cost a school to skip a grade from, say, three to five?" Colangelo said. "Nothing. It's easy, and it's cost-efficient."

Students who take AP courses also save considerable money by taking college-level classes without incurring tuition. Nationally, more than a million students took some form of AP exam last year.

"It's an interesting dilemma," Colangelo said. "Academic acceleration is probably the most researched intervention in K-12 education, with the most consistent and most positive results. And yet it has not translated into practices in schools."

He said the report is intended not as an indictment of today's educators but as a wake-up call to America about the enormous loss of potential to schools, families and the nation when academically precocious students are denied access to opportunities for academic advancement.

To make the report's findings more accessible to the public, the Belin-Blank Center is planning to release an abridged version that Colangelo hopes will spur acceleration advocates to action. Until now, he said, parents and educators struggling with decisions about acceleration have had to look to a patchwork of research, policies and practice.

He said the Belin-Blank Center is uniquely qualified to lead this study. In addition to serving as one of its coauthors, Assouline is the principal author of The Iowa Acceleration Scale, the nation's only tool for helping educators determine whether gifted and talented students in kindergarten through eighth grade should bypass a grade level. And the center itself is one of the nation's leaders in promoting the use of online AP classes through its Iowa Online AP Academy. Last fall, 355 Iowa students took AP courses online and via the Iowa Communications Network and 100 Iowa teachers participated in last summer's AP Teacher Training Institute at the UI.

"The prospect of accelerating students still raises hesitancy," Colangelo said.
" Educators are still misinformed or rely on a personal philosophy that all students should remain with their own age groups at all times under all circumstances. While that might serve a school's interests, clearly it does not serve the student who is ready, willing and able to tackle greater challenges."

More information about the Wallace Symposium is available at http://www.uiowa.edu/~belinctr/special-events/researchsym/index.html

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007, stephen-pradarelli@uiowa.edu.

NOTE TO EDITORS: To arrange coverage of Nicholas Colangelo's talk on the report during the Wallace Symposium, or an interview with Dr. Colangelo, contact the Belin-Blank Center at (319) 335-6148, toll free at 1-800-336-6463 or by email at belinblank@uiowa.edu. For help in finding K-12 students in your coverage area who are involved in academic acceleration interventions or programs, contact Stephen Pradarelli at (319) 384-0007, or via email at stephen-pradarelli@uiowa.edu.