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Is Accelerating a Child a Good Choice?

This is an interesting question in that for many, it's an obvious answer. Many believe, "Of course not. Children should remain with other students their own age." There's a lot of truth to that conviction. We don't want a 7-year old suddenly asked to spend his or her recess playing only with 9 and 10-year olds. But when we look at serving children in the most effective and ethical ways possible, maybe the answer looks a little different.

For years many school systems, including the Seventh-day Adventist, didn't automatically consider accelerating a child when evidence suggested it might be a good idea. The thinking was, “We can’t necessarily have kids skipping grades whenever a parent feels his or her kid is ready for it.” For many of those parents, whose students clearly needed to study at higher levels than their classmates, those policies often led to procedural hoops to navigate. They were left wondering whether their children were being served appropriately.

Blessedly, more recent policies in most school systems--including the Seventh-day Adventist--have shifted to consider parent or instructor requests to allow for acceleration in specific subjects without skipping grades. In many parts of the country, students as young as 2nd or 3rd grade are given opportunities to advance in their math classes if they're clearly ready for it. By the time other students reach sixth grade, they're finding opportunities to begin Pre-AP or talented and gifted classes. Those opportunities often lead to college credit classes as students move into high school. Not all students are ready to move at the same pace; because of that, we at Central Valley have no fewer than a half dozen students accelerating beyond their grade levels in math studies; one of those nearly three grade levels beyond his classmates.

We understand this idea of kids accelerating in school is a little uncomfortable or unusual for some. We apologize for that, but when we look at the boy Jesus, we wonder why it has taken schools so long to offer environments where students can learn at the rate and level that is most comfortable--and appropriate--for them. It's hard to imagine all of the kids in Christ's neighborhood in Nazareth ready to discuss elements of the law, in the synagogue, with religious leaders, when only 11 or 12. The only explanation we find is this: Jesus must have been given opportunity to learn at an accelerated pace when he was a child. Luke 2:40-52 offers a glimpse into this approach to education, and its apparent outcome.

As we continue to serve students as appropriately as possible, a couple things remain in our thinking: First, not all students need--or are ready for--studying beyond their grade levels. God's gifts to each of us are unique; being stronger in math or reading are only two examples, and no more or less important than any other. Secondly, asking a student to study at the same level as his or her classmates when he or she is clearly ready to move more quickly is unfair to that student. So if your child is in a classroom where it’s difficult for him or her to find consistent opportunities to study at the level most appropriate, consider visiting us. We’d love to talk with you about serving your child as God intended.