To the Editor:
In their Commentary “What Ever Happened to Grade Skipping,” (Aug. 12, 2009), Laura Vanderkam and Richard Whitmire cite Montgomery County, Md., as a district “overlooking” acceleration as a way to nurture gifted students in a time of tight budgets.
Contrary to their assumption, acceleration is already an integral part of the program options in Montgomery County public schools. The district’s systemwide model for acceleration ensures that students can access an appropriate, above-grade-level curriculum every day without skipping a grade.
The math curriculum, for example, includes accelerated topics and assessments in the required curriculum, not as a pullout. The access to and success of such acceleration is evidenced by 48.8 percent of 5th grade students’ successfully completing grade 6 mathematics or higher in 2008-09. Similarly, 59.6 percent of 8th grade students successfully completed Algebra 1 or higher in 2008.
For the smaller percentage of students working at even more advanced levels, the option exists to work two or more grades above. At the elementary level, this means that students can take classes in higher, middle school math.
Montgomery County also buses students whose needs cannot be met at the local elementary school to a nearby middle school, or to a center for the highly gifted. Providing a continuum of services that includes offering the most challenging instruction in a setting that supports the social and emotional requirements of gifted learners helps the district meet all children’s needs.
In Montgomery County, more students are learning to read at an earlier age, more are taking rigorous and challenging courses, and more are being provided with opportunities to succeed at higher levels than ever before. In fact, 61.5 percent of students in the graduating class of 2008 scored a 3 or above (on a 5-point scale) on at least one Advanced Placement exam, more than triple the national average.
The results of the district’s model for acceleration and enrichment have been recognized throughout Maryland and the nation.
Division of Accelerated and Enriched Instruction
Montgomery County Public Schools
A version of this article appeared in the September 16, 2009 edition of Education Week as Cited District Does Have Options for ‘Acceleration’