Isn’t acceleration just for gifted kids? This is a common assumption when we think about who benefits from efforts to accelerate student learning. For generations, students identified as gifted have been separated from other students and provided enriched learning opportunities many adults believe would be wasted on other students. More recently, in response to failed efforts to remediate low-achieving students, the term has been extended to efforts to reverse the negative effects of grade retention for many low-achieving students. The most promising application of the term involves efforts to extend the curriculum and instruction usually reserved for gifted students to all students.
Accelerating the Learning of All Students: Cultivating Culture Change in Schools, Classrooms, and Individuals explores the multiple applications of the term acceleration and the assumptions that shape schools, classrooms, and individuals that encourage and discourage efforts to accelerate the learning of all students. This book begins with an exploration of the multiple definitions of acceleration, examining the social and historical context that led to an emphasis on labeling and sorting students. Descriptions of exemplary programs geared to each group of students provide useful ideas for addressing special needs of students. These descriptions also illustrate the wisdom of providing a rich, challenging learning experience to all students rather than focussing on separating them for special instruction. The book proceeds to explore the conditions in schools and classrooms that facilitate or hinder efforts to accelerate learning of all students. Focusing on the importance of changing individuals’ assumptions about students, adult roles in schools, acceptable educational practices, appropriate communication patterns and the value of change, the book ends with a challenge to all of us to assume responsibility for making schools a better place for all students. Written by authors who bring a wealth of experiences to this topic, Christine Finnan and Julie D. Swanson draw on their own research and experience and on current research to provide a much-needed exploration of issues surrounding efforts to effectively educate all students. Accelerating the Learning of All Students provides hope to all citizens and educators that the dismal history of educating low-income students can be turned around, and that all students can be provided the rich, engaging educational experience that has historically been reserved only for those identified as gifted.
Christine Finnan is assistant professor of education at the University/College of Charleston in Charleston, SC. She also directs the South Carolina Accelerated Schools Project. She is trained as a cultural anthropologist, with degrees from Stanford University, University of Texas at Austin, and University of California, Berkeley. She is co-editor of Accelerated Schools in Action: Lessons from the Field. She has also written several articles and book chapters on school culture change.
Julie Swanson is assistant professor of education at the University/College of Charleston in Charleston, SC. With a background in gifted education in public education, she has combined research and practice through her work with the application of gifted education in schools serving primarily low income students. Her current interests include teacher change and innovative practice used with all students.