Did you know the Accelerated Placement Act (Public Act 100-0421) was signed into law on August 25, 2017? It takes effect on July 1, 2018 in advance of the new school year which starts as early as mid-August for many Illinois school districts.
In short, according to the Illinois Association for Gifted Children, "This Accelerated Placement Act requires Illinois public school districts to adopt and implement policies on acceleration that, at minimum, provide opportunities for early entrance to kindergarten and first grade, opportunities for accelerating a student in a single subject area, and opportunities for “whole grade” acceleration (sometimes referred to as 'grade skipping')." The full text of the law is contained in this article.
Up until this point, districts had varying policies regarding early entrance and grade skipping so this is a victory for families of high achieving children all over Illinois.
So much attention is given to the practice of redshirting, or holding a child back a year before entering Kindergarten but very little is often said of its converse, early entrance. I remember the frustration I felt when the only option I had for my 4-year old gifted son was putting him in preschool one more year although he was so very ready for Kindergarten. I know I am not alone but I think parents are afraid to speak up, because we are made to feel like we are bragging about our children when in fact we are just trying to find the best fit to help them thrive in school, setting them up for the confidence and success they are entitled to, just like any other child.
Kindergarten registration will start soon in many districts so while it is unclear at this point how many families will take advantage of the new opportunities this new law provides, I do think the greatest impact will be on early entrance into Kindergarten. This has a number of implications for not only the children, but also the schools they will attend. Teachers will now have a much wider range of ages in the classroom, especially if more families continue to redshirt their children. Also for districts like mine who are facing greater enrollment and are approaching the brink of capacity, with more children entering school a year earlier, this law may accelerate the timing of dealing with the issues that higher enrollment brings, like increased need for space, supplies and busing.
All in all though these are good problems to have, especially if it means we can give more opportunities to help gifted children flourish.
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