Office of Advanced Academics
Acceleration Framework Guidance Document

Each case for subject or grade-level acceleration must be handled individually. Acceleration should only be considered after differentiation strategies have been explored, implemented, and documented through the use of Advanced Academic curriculum and instruction. These strategies should include differentiation of content, process, product, learning environments, and time.  While this differentiation may meet the needs of most students demonstrating advanced capabilities, occasionally there may be a student who is an “outlier” – a student with no intellectual peer group who requires a faster pace and more complex application of knowledge. This student may benefit from subject or grade-level acceleration. Students who are accelerated are placed in Advanced Academic instruction at the next grade level.

When considering a student for subject or grade level acceleration, the school Review and Referral Team should meet in order to complete the Office of Advanced Academics Acceleration Framework. Baltimore County Public Schools’ Office of Advanced Academics requires schools to analyze data from six categories when making recommendations regarding subject or grade level acceleration. The six categories, with their attendant data components, are explained below. While not all data points from each category will be available for every student, each category must be considered by the Review and Referral Team in making decisions and all available data points should be utilized.

Upon considering all of the evidence, the Review and Referral Team will reach consensus regarding its recommendation for acceleration. Should the evidence not reflect a need for subject or grade level acceleration, the school team must communicate the results to the parent/guardian.

If the Review and Referral Team recommends moving forward with a request for acceleration, all evidence considered will be sent to the Office of Advanced Academics along with the completed Request to Obtain Official Approval for Subject or Grade Level Acceleration and the completed Acceleration Framework. Parents will be notified of this step by the school and be notified of the results by the Office of Advanced Academics.

Category 1:    Standardized Assessments

All available standardized assessment scores should be gathered and analyzed by the Review and Referral Team. These standardized assessments should include, when available, PARCC scores, MAP scores, Qualitative Reading Index (QRI), Fountas and Pinnell reading levels, DreamBox and iReady scores. In addition, if there are other standardized test scores available, they may also be included for discussion. When considering standardized test scores, schools are encouraged to consider local, school-based norms in addition to the national norms used on most standardized tests in making recommendations, particularly in reference to determining if a student meets the Criteria for Acceleration (see Category 6).

Category 2:    Curricular Body of Evidence

The curricular body of evidence encompasses the work the student has completed to date reflecting mastery of grade level standards and beyond and may include work from previous school years, particularly if the student is being considered for acceleration in the first quarter of a new school year. The curricular body of evidence examined should include end-of-unit assessments (Parts 1, 2 & 3), culminating events, pre-assessments, periodic assessments, student work samples, mathematics enrichment tasks, above grade level work samples, writing samples and work generated in response to the acceleration group planners available in English Language Arts. The curricular body of evidence should encompass a wide, representative sample of a student’s total work, not just a small number of assignments or tasks. The Review and Referral Team should focus not only on scores achieved, but also on the level of critical and creative thinking and depth of understanding revealed by the body of evidence the student has produced.

Category 3:    School Records

School records include report cards, interim reports, record of reading group participation, SST records, IEP records and anecdotal teacher records when available. These records should reveal patterns of achievement and may also be instructive for the team in terms of additional needs the student may have that could impact the acceleration recommendation. There are students who are twice exceptional, meaning they have both a diagnosed educational disability requiring an IEP or 504 Plan and are also highly-able or gifted. The assigning of a 504 Plan or IEP should not disqualify a student from being recommended for acceleration.

Category 4:    Student Characteristics

Students being considered for acceleration may demonstrate intense frustration or disengage with the current academic program. The student may demonstrate success when provided with access to educational options, including differentiated instructional approaches such as compacting, and/or accelerated content. The Review and Referral Team should consider student characteristics such as motivation, academic self-concept, creativity, critical thinking, peer relationships, staff relationships, perseverance, maturity, age appropriate motor skills (particularly in primary grades) and P21 skills in making a recommendation. Subject-specific checklists may be used to gather information about student characteristics.

Category 5:    Stakeholder Attitudes toward Acceleration

Prior to meeting, the Review and Referral Team or a designated member should ascertain the attitude the student has toward acceleration. This is an important factor in reaching a recommendation, particularly if the student has strong negative feelings toward acceleration. In addition to the student’s attitude, it is also important to determine parental attitudes toward acceleration as their support is critical to student success. If either the student or the parent express strong reservations regarding acceleration, it may be in the best interest of the student for the Review and Referral Team to put other interventions in place to meet his/her educational needs.

Category 6:    BCPS Criteria for Acceleration

Baltimore County Public Schools has established two criteria for acceleration:

  1. The student has no intellectual peer group in his/her current grade level placement or across the grade level; and
  2. The student is capable of working two to three grade levels above his/her same age peers in the area(s) being considered for acceleration.

Review and Referral Teams should gather data to support their conclusions related to the student meeting these two criteria. This data could include comparing the student’s work with the work done by other advanced students both at the child’s current grade level and one grade level above. Standardized test scores could also be compared, again with the advanced students in both his/her current grade level and one grade level above. This would provide the Review and Referral Team with concrete data related to these two criteria. It is important to keep in mind this should be a local comparison between students within the same school only, not a comparison with students across BCPS or nationally.


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