As the pandemic continues to impact another school year, a lot of focus has been on “accelerating learning,” which is about maintaining on-grade level instruction or infusing pre-requisite skills in the instruction so students can access on-grade level instruction.
There is another way the term “acceleration” can be used in math, however, and that pertains to moving students beyond grade-level instruction. Sometimes 5th grade students are accelerated into 7th grade math, or 8th grade students are accelerated into Algebra 1.
Research shows this is not optimal for many students and is oftentimes detrimental when students are inappropriately accelerated. Given this research, as well as the effects of the pandemic, the current practices of this acceleration need to be re-examined as some students may have gaps in learning which will be exacerbated through an aggressive acceleration program.
In the past, it was common practice for students to “skip” grades, because there was redundancy in the middle school standards. With College- and Career-Ready standards, the learning builds. Every grade has new content and does not re-teach content from the previous grade, but adds to it. If something is skipped, that initial chance of learning is lost.
Re-thinking acceleration practices will include creating coherent pathways that maintain the entire breadth and depth of K-8 mathematics learning. Below are four steps to determine if – and how – your district should rethink its middle school math acceleration practices.
Step 1. Bring together an advisory group that includes representation from key stakeholders, including middle school math teachers and principals, high school math teachers and principals, elementary and middle school gifted teachers, high school counselors, and parent/family members or a family liaison.