To Accelerate or Not Accelerate in Middle School

Sorry I didn’t post this sooner, but I did want to share this with everyone.

The issue to accelerate or not accelerate students has grown every year in our district, and I am sure that as colleges become a bigger industry, this decision will just continue to grow. 

Last Wednesday, we invited parents and community members to the school to join in a discussion of the pros and cons of acceleration.  Both Principals from the Middle and High School and myself acted as moderators of the discussion.

Living just outside of Ithaca, we are lucky to have several colleges within 20 minutes of our location.  Those colleges include:  Cornell University, Ithaca College, Wells College, SUNY Cortland, Tompkins Cortland Community College and Cayuga Community College.  Earlier in the week, I contacted several of my friends in admissions at these schools and asked them to reign in with some info I could share with parents during our presentation. 

Here is a summary:

Cons of Acceleration~

¡ Past students experience mid-high school math burnout. They were advanced math students in middle school but by high school their interest and/or skill level declined and they hit a metaphorical mathematical wall.
¡ Some universities don’t count middle school classes for admission, even if students were awarded high school credit for them.   They recalculate GPAs based on core academic classes, and middle school classes don’t count in the equation. This is a fact that might surprise many parents who thought that they were giving their children an advantage by having them take a science or math during middle school.
¡ Just because a student can do something, it does not mean that he/she should do it.  Many families fear missing out on an academic opportunity, believing that a misstep will sentence their student to a lifetime of academic mediocrity.  This is not the case.

Pros of Acceleration~

¡ The ability to take more  advanced math/science courses 
           in High School (AP).
¡ An accelerated and enriched high school curriculum.
¡ A more challenging course of study for those who are ready.
¡ The ability to demonstrate a pursuit of high standards and  transcript enhancement for college admissions.

At one point during the conversation I asked parents “Who wants their child to go to college?”  Every hand went up.  I then asked, “Who wants their child to be successful once they get there?”  Once again every hand went up. 

Remember that there is a big difference between getting a student into college and having a student be successful once they get there. Being successful is more important.  We are not helping students be successful in college if we don’t teach them math and science for their last 2 years of high school. 

All in all, when making the decision to accelerate, one must ask the following questions:

¡ Does your student love math/science?
¡ Have you looked at the high school  sequence of courses? Will your child really be ready for AP Calculus/AP Biology or is he/she already showing academic reluctance?
¡ Are you bowing to social pressure and/or are you secretly enjoying the cachet that comes with having a child in advanced academics?

We had a great discussion last week.  What do you think?  Leave a comment below.

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