Acceleration — Is Your Model Worth It?

Let me state the obvious: There are certain students who do not like school. You know some of them. I know you do. Maybe you were even one yourself.

There are numerous reasons for this dislike, and sadly, some of the negative feelings have their claws in deep by the time these students get to high school. In my experience, most students who claim to hate school are struggling readers; therefore, their writing suffers, and they score low on most assignments–if they are willing to do them at all. These students just don’t feel smart — or capable.

Every day I make a concerted effort to reach them, to help them like learning, to encourage them to practice reading and writing. And sometimes I succeed.

But success comes hard when outside forces inflict unnecessary roughness.

Take tutorials for example. “Mandatory” tutorials in order to “prepare” for standardized testing. You know the kind.

The date for the re-take of the STAAR EOC looms, so schools go into panic mode. Students need extra support, and the state mandates we give it, so schools figure out how to provide this accelerated instruction. In my humble opinion, the mode of this instruction does nothing but give students who already struggle, already dislike school, another bucket of reasons to hate the whole deal.

Pass out reminders during regular classes:  students feel dumb for being singled out.

Call students from class early to escort them to tutorials:  teenage students get angry for being treated like young children.

Pull students our of class during the day and put them in a room with a teacher they do not know:  students feel angst for being forced to be yet another place they do not want to be with a teacher that doesn’t know their names. The lessons are a whole other story.

I’d say we’ve done our duty. Not.

When will we change the model of this “necessary” tutoring? When will we put the student first instead of never?

The same old same old tutorial sessions just do not work, and they probably do more harm than good– at least when done like the model I describe. It’s painful for students who struggle anyway. All we do when we go through the motions of acceleration is hurt the young people we claim to be helping.

Okay, probably not every program, but that’s my take on what I’ve seen this year.

And it makes me very sad.


For a new idea check out how North Star of Texas Writing Project, in partnership with innovative districts, is figuring it out. See  Finding True North: Accelerated Camps for Students at, celebrating students’ writing instead of disparaging the student writer.


How does your school handle acceleration?


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One thought on “Acceleration — Is Your Model Worth It?

  1. Laura Harrington (@LaurHarrington) November 19, 2013 at 1:07 pm Reply

    Thank you for this honest and thought provoking post.


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