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-Theodore Roosevelt

Enrichment vs. Acceleration

Acceleration Strategies


ACCELERATION means that the student is advancing in a subject more QUICKLY than others. He/she may complete the year's work in less time or move to a higher level earlier, with support to fill in any gaps.  Acceleration strategies include:  


Whole-grade acceleration

Whole-grade acceleration is the practice of placing a student in the next grade without having completed the previous one. This practice requires the consideration of several factors, including testing results, school and academic factors, developmental factors, interpersonal skills and attitude and support.  If the child is not physically placed in a class of a higher grade, a full GIEP may be developed and followed so that her needs are being met in her present classroom.

  Subject acceleration

Subject acceleration is suited to the student who is gifted in one or two subject areas, such as the child who excels in math but has average literacy skills.  A partial GIEP is usually developed and followed in this case.  The gifted student may also join a higher grade class for part of the day. This is generally easier to implement in elementary schools than junior high. Occasionally, subject acceleration may require a student having contact with a mentor teacher.

  Curriculum compacting/Telescoping

Another approach to subject acceleration is through pretesting and compacting the curriculum to what the student does not yet know. Through compacting or telescoping, the student can earn time to pursue topics of interest or proceed to a higher level more quickly.

  Correspondence or distance courses

If a suitable correspondence or distance course exists beyond the student’s current grade level, she may enroll in a course rather than follow an GIEP.  Occasionally, however, there may be knowledge gaps that will need to be addressed by a classroom teacher.

  Challenge for credit

The Challenge for Credit option exists primarily for high school students who have already undertaken studies similar to what is offered in a particular course.  The process can be complex and would likely be pursued by a student who is interested in accelerating for the purposes of early enrollment in a post-secondary program.


Enrichment Strategies

    ENRICHMENT means that the student is working on a topic in more DEPTH or BREADTH than others. The student keeps pace with the rest of his/her classmates but has more time to explore topics of interest. Enrichment strategies include:
  Independent study

In an independent study, the student selects a topic of interest in any academic area where he shows strength. The student and teacher work out parameters for process (how much time each day, where research will take place, what materials will be needed, what other persons will be involved, etc) and product (how will the student demonstrate what was learned, will the product be shared, will it serve a real—life purpose, etc.) The independent study suits students who have task commitment and who tend to finish regular work quickly and correctly.

  Study contract

A teacher may use a study contract to keep a student working alongside her peers most of the time while allowing her to make choices about what or how to learn. The study contract is used when the student has already met some but not all outcomes for a particular unit. A menu of mutually-acceptable choices should accompany the study contract to ensure the student is using her earned time wisely.


A student with heightened knowledge in a specific academic area may benefit from contact with a specialist in this field. This is particularly the case in lower grades when the teacher cannot keep up with the student’s capacity to learn the subject. A mentor may be a teacher of a higher grade, a community member, an older student or an instructor at a local community college or university. Mentorships vary in frequency of visits and may even take place online. Care must be taken to ensure that the student and the mentor are compatible and that the arrangement is agreeable to both parties.

  Complete a learning log

Some gifted students already have outside hobbies and experiences arranged through their parents or communities. This learning can be compatible with the classroom curriculum. The teacher may allow the student to complete a learning log of her experiences to show what she has learned and how it connects to classroom outcomes. This may free up time for the student to pursue other interests during the school day or provide evidence of learning for her to move on to the next unit or level in a particular subject. A learning log is also a good assessment tool for a mentorship.

  Create an interest center

Students with intense interest areas may be willing to share their knowledge with their peers through an interest center in the classroom or school. The student can use earned time during the school day or create the center as a result of independent study. Others would be invited to use materials collected and/or created by the student to learn about a special topic which can be embedded in or tangential to the curriculum.

  Tiered assignments

Tiered assignments work well in skill areas where the student has not yet met the outcomes but can do so easily and requires additional challenge. For example, in math class the student may be performing similar operations as his peers but using more challenging numbers or complete more steps. In language arts, the student may read more challenging texts, write in a more sophisticated genre, or use more complex words in word study.

  Specialized grading criteria

Some students are ready for a greater challenge even when completing similar assignments. For example, when assigning a piece of writing, a teacher may only be looking for ideas, organization and correctness from the class, but a gifted student may also be assessed on voice or word choice. Likewise, the parameters of the assignment may be changed to suit the student's strengths. A science experiment may become a video or PowerPoint presentation; a social studies essay may require three sources from the class and more than five from the gifted student.

  Extension activities

Many textbooks and teachers' guides provide follow-up or extension activities as time allows. When gifted students finish early, these may be suitable ways for them to get the challenge and depth of understanding they require. Open-ended, real-world problems are excellent ways to extend students’ learning. 

  School-wide enrichment

Many researchers believe that what we label ‘gifted education' is important for all students. A school-wide enrichment plan can provide all students with exposure to new hobbies and experiences through an interest fair format. For one day, community and staff members can offer workshops at the school for which all students sign up. Exposure to these workshops may spark an interest or reveal a talent in particular students, which may then be nurtured in the classroom or through extracurricular activities.

  Enrichment clusters

If there is a small group of students in the school with similar interests and aptitudes, they may be brought together for a set period of time each week to pursue a topic of study under the guidance of a teacher or mentor. The topic may change frequently or develop into a long-term exploration, but it should be open-ended and have real-world application. Enrichment clusters may be worked into the schedule of a committed teacher as contact time.