Magazine article Science News

Academic Acceleration Gets Social Lift

Magazine article Science News

Academic Acceleration Gets Social Lift

Article excerpt

Academic Acceleration Gets Social Lift

Parents and educators often resist encouraging intellectually advanced teenagers to skip a grade or take special college-level courses, for fear the academic jump-start will wreak havoc on the students' social and emotional development. But according to a new study, this widespread fear doesn't make the grade.

Educational "acceleration" exerts no ill effects on social and emotional adjustment, at least among mathematically precocious youth, and it may even enhance peer-group relations among gifted female students, report psychologists Teri M. Richardson and Camilla P. Benbow of Iowa State University in Ames.

Their study, described in the September JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY, provides "compelling evidence" to dispel misgivings about alleged social and psychological side-effects of educational acceleration, comments psychologist Carol Tomlinson-Keasey of the University of California, Riverside.

Previous studies showed that students with extremely high academic ability, especially in verbal areas, have difficulties making friends and may develop a poor self-image during adolescence. However, Benbow maintains that these problems stem from factors associated with intellectual giftedness -- such as increasing difficulties finding peers with common interests -- rather than from accelerated study programs.

Richardson and Benbow studied 1,247 12- to 14-year-olds who scored in the top 1 percent on a national mathematics achievement test and exhibited intellectual abilities on the Scholastic Aptitude Test at the level of students four to five years older. Different types and amounts of academic acceleration were encouraged for each youngster, and about half of them accepted expedited regimens. The researchers assessed the students' social development at ages 18 and 23 with extensive self-report questionnaires, delving into such areas as educational and career aspirations, employment history, interests and activities, family encouragement, quality of friendships and opinions about the accelerated program.

Overall, youngsters in both groups at both ages reported feeling good about themselves and in control of their lives. …

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