Accelerating the Learning of All Students: Cultivating Culture Change in Schools, Classrooms, and Individuals

Accelerating the Learning of All Students: Cultivating Culture Change in Schools, Classrooms, and Individuals

Accelerating the Learning of All Students: Cultivating Culture Change in Schools, Classrooms, and Individuals

Accelerating the Learning of All Students: Cultivating Culture Change in Schools, Classrooms, and Individuals

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

Imagine a young child you care about deeply. What kind of education do you hope he or she will receive? Most likely you hope for an experience that the child finds stimulating, challenging, engaging, and relevant. Let's imagine this child has been identified as gifted. How likely is it that he or she will receive the kind of educational experience described above? Now imagine the child has trouble learning and has been labeled low achieving. What is the likelihood he or she will receive such an education? What is the likelihood for this kind of an educational experience if he or she is an average student?

Most people would agree that gifted children are more likely than other children to have a stimulating, challenging, engaging, and relevant learning experience. Gifted children are often provided enrichment opportunities that allow them to build on their strengths and use their full potential. Average children's odds of having such a learning experience are greatly reduced. Average children spend a good part of their day working from text books, completing worksheets, and learning isolated facts. Low-achieving children are highly unlikely to have a stimulating learning experience. These children spend the majority of their time drilling on skills they have not mastered or sitting through whole class instruction they do not understand.

Accelerated learning describes learning experiences that stimulate and challenge students. The term "accelerate" can be applied to learning experiences designed for students identified as gifted and for students identified as low achieving. It is most promising when it is applied to the learning of all students. The term "accelerate" can describe efforts to move some students faster than other students through a course of study. We accelerate the learning of gifted students by moving them faster than other students through a course of study, often by having them skip grades. Educators have begun to speak of accelerating the learning of low-achieving students as an alternative to remedial instruction. In this case, the emphasis is on moving students faster through material in order to catch up with other students.

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