Accelerated Learning Laboratory

As I walk into the main office at Accelerated Learning Laboratory (ALL), I am dwarfed by two walls covered with framed acceptance letters to colleges like MIT, Princeton and Duke, along with financial award letters for $50,000 to $60,000 per year for four years. I’m dumbfounded, that’s about a quarter of million dollars to each student. Distracted by a voice calling my name I pivot around and fall into Asian eyes belonging to a gorgeous ALL administrator, Serei Kay, who has come to fetch me for our interview. Trying not to stare, I sheepishly follow. I ask about the letters. In a matter-of-fact voice Serei says, “Yup, most of them get into highly selective schools with loads of financial aid. But! I thought you wanted to talk about the wisdom of academically accelerating students?”

Serei takes a pile of books and papers off a chair, places them precariously on her desk and motions me to sit, as she talks without pausing, “You know, we opened Accelerated Laboratory years before ‘A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students’ was published. They got a lot of things right but they should have talked with me before going to press. They got a few things wrong, very wrong.” Puzzled, I ask, “Thought A Nation Deceived was based on hard research.” All five foot of her gives me a mocking smile that makes me feel two-foot tall and she chimes, “The research is pretty conclusive: Academic acceleration is the most effective intervention for smart kids. It has beneficial emotional and social effects…long-term and short-term. Acceleration appears to be critical for developing world-class leaders. We could use a few of those! And, unchallenged smart kids often develop behavioral problems and paradoxically may become underachievers. What “A Nation Deceived” did not tell the public was that giftedness, to a large extent, is a matter of opportunity. Studying in an accelerated school not only develops giftedness but often reveals it. All children deserve such an opportunity.”

Lifting up my two foot ego to six, I challenge her, “If accelerated education is so good, why don’t any schools in Tucson, other than Accelerated Learning Laboratory do it?” With that same smile, she does not hesitate, “You could guess but you don’t need to. The research cited in “A Nation Deceived” has already answered this question: Despite the overwhelming evidence supporting acceleration most teachers are unaware of the research and benefits and have not been educated in its implementation. They incorrectly believe that a child’s social and emotional health could be at risk, although research has shown that accelerated children are often better adapted socially and emotionally even when they are grouped with differed aged peers. Some districts, that should know better, argue that gifted students should remain in the general population to benefit their lower performing same age peers. Perhaps the most daunting reason is that the current educational system is geared towards the needs of low and average achievers.” Just as Serei finishes her sentence, an effervescent twelve year old bursts in asking to borrow a calculus book … I can see, “It’s time to go.”

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