ChapterPDF Available

Long-term effects of educational acceleration

Authors:
VOLUME 2
Susan G. Assouline, Nicholas Colangelo, and Joyce VanTassel-Baska, Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik
Editors
Belin-Blank Center, College of Education, University of Iowa
Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students
A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back Americas Brightest Students, Volume 2 1
Long-Term Eects of Educational Acceleration : Wai
Introduction
When you want to improve your physical health, you dont
have to eat one specific type of food or exercise in a specif-
ic way. Rather, you need an appropriate mix of healthy foods
and exercise — no one thing is required. A variety of foods
and exercise exist and dierent combinations of exercise and
foods, which match the individual’s needs and preferences,
are in some sense interchangeable in the quest for a healthy
lifestyle. What matters is that the individual gets the appro-
priate combination of healthy food plus exercise that match
his or her preferences and needs. Could this common idea
from health translate into the world of education? Consid-
er the cases of two hypothetical high school students, Suz-
ie and Greg. Suzie is engaged in her Advanced Placement
(AP) courses, conducts research after school, recently joined
the chess club, and is in a special math class. Greg recently
skipped a grade, is taking a college course while still in high
school, is an avid competitor in science fairs, and after school
is working on an invention that he thinks will help cure a rare
disease. How should we think about the educational inter-
ventions in which Greg and Suzie are involved? Furthermore,
how might participation in these interventions influence
their long-term educational decisions, career paths, and
achievements later in life? First, let’s consider the concept of
educational acceleration.
Educational acceleration has been formally defined by
Pressey (1949, p. 2) as “progress through an educational pro-
gram at rates faster or at ages younger than conventional.”
Both Suzie and Greg are involved in educational interven-
tions that oer cognitive and academic stimulations that fit
this definition of acceleration. For example, Suzie is taking
AP courses and is in a special math class, whereas Greg has
skipped a grade and is taking a college course in high school
(see Southern & Jones, 2004; this volume). However, they
are also both involved in educational opportunities that fall
outside the formal definition of acceleration, and might be
considered educational enrichment (e.g., pull out classes or
special camps). Acceleration combined with enrichment has
been recommended by gifted educators as best professional
practice when serving the needs of talented students (Na-
tional Mathematics Advisory Panel, 2008; Rogers, 2007).
Conducting research, competing in science fairs, working
on an invention, or participating in an academic club are all
Abstract
Educational intervention comes in many forms. Educational acceleration is an important class of interventions that comprise the appropriate
educational dose for an individual. Dosage implies that one specific intervention may not be as relevant as the right mix, number, and
intensity of educational interventions for any given person. This chapter reviews findings from the Study of Mathematically Precocious
Youth (SMPY), a longitudinal study of thousands of intellectually talented students followed for many decades to the present. The long-
term educational-occupational impact and positive subjective impressions about educational acceleration from academically advanced
participants reported in these studies supports the importance of educational acceleration and, more broadly, an appropriate educational
dose. The longitudinal research findings reveal that an educational program designed to move students at a pace commensurate with their
rate of learning is educationally appropriate and necessary. Exceptionally talented students benefit from accelerative learning opportunities,
have few regrets about their acceleration, and demonstrate exceptional achievements. What matters for each student is a consistent and
sufficient educational dose across a long span of time, what we think of as life-long learning, or learning at a pace and intensity that matches
a student’s individual needs. All students deserve to learn something new each day, and if academically talented students desire to be
accelerated and are ready for it, the long-term evidence clearly supports the intervention.
Long-Term Eects
of Educational Acceleration
Jonathan Wai,
Talent Identification Program, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
2 A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back Americas Brightest Students, Volume 2
Long-Term Eects of Educational Acceleration : Wai
examples of activities outside the traditional definition of ac-
celeration.
Although involved in very dierent activities, both students
are intellectually stimulated and engaged, and that is the key
to individual development of talent. It is likely that they each
have educational experiences tailored to their needs, which
also could be considered an appropriate ‘educational dose’
(Wai, Lubinski, Benbow, & Steiger, 2010). Figure 1 shows how
educational dose encompasses more than the targeted forms
of acceleration. For example, interventions in the smaller cir-
cle (e.g., special academic training and college courses while
in high school) are examples of what is traditionally consid-
ered to be educational acceleration. However, interventions
outside the smaller circle but within the larger circle (e.g.
science fair/math competitions, research) are examples of
educational interventions beyond acceleration. Therefore,
accelerative options are central to the concept of dose, which
refers to “the density of advanced and enriching precollegiate
learning opportunities beyond the norm” (Wai, et al., 2010,
p. 861); however, they are complemented by other education-
al opportunities. Therefore, these dierent types of educa-
tional interventions combine to provide a stimulating and
challenging educational program for academically talented
students.
Some educational opportunities are much more eective
than others and many individual types of educational ac-
celeration (see Rogers, this volume; Southern & Jones, this
volume) have been found to have a positive eect on learn-
ing (e.g., Benbow & Stanley, 1996; Colangelo, Assouline, &
Gross, 2004; Heller, Mönks, Sternberg, & Subotnik, 2000;
Kulik & Kulik, 1984; Southern, Jones, & Stanley, 1993), and
oftentimes educational acceleration is needed to challenge
academically talented students appropriately. In addition to
being challenged and engaged, students may also gain in ma-
turity. Accelerated students can use the time they have saved
for various options, including career advancement, creative
accomplishment, or personal use (Park, Lubinski, & Benbow,
2013; Pressey, 1955; Terman, 1954).
Long-Term Effects of Educational
Acceleration from the Study of
Mathematically Precocious Youth
The Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY) is
a longitudinal study of thousands of students in the top one
percent of intellectual talent (Lubinski & Benbow, 2006) com-
prised of various groups at dierent levels of cognitive ability
(e.g., Cohorts 1 and 4: top 1%; Cohort 2: top 0.5%; Cohort 3:
top 0.01%; and Cohort 5: intellectually talented top math/sci-
ence graduate students). These groups, most of whom were
originally identified in the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s around
age 13 based on their Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) scores,
have been followed longitudinally from those early years to
the present. Collectively, the SMPY studies provide a long-
Figure 1: Illustration Of How Educational Dose Encompasses More Than Acceleration.
Acceleration Dose
Special Academic Training
College Courses
While in High School
AP or Other Courses
for College Credit
Special Classes
Advanced Subject
Matter Placement
Science Fair/Math Competitions
Research
Inventions and Projects
Writing Opportunities
Academic Club
From Wai et al. (2010). Illustration of how educational dose encompasses more than acceleration. Interventions in the smaller circle, such as college courses while in high
school, are examples of what is traditionally considered as educational acceleration. Interventions outside the smaller circle, such as science fair/math competitions, are exam-
ples of educational interventions beyond acceleration. Copyright © 2010 by the American Psychological Association. Reproduced with permission.
A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back Americas Brightest Students, Volume 2 3
Long-Term Eects of Educational Acceleration : Wai
term evaluation of the impact of educational acceleration on
educational and occupational criteria as well as oer a retro-
spective evaluation of how students felt about the interven-
tion. For example, did the accelerated students have positive
or negative views about their educational experiences?
Nearly all the studies reviewed here have identified students
based on an above-level assessment process known as the Tal-
ent Search Model (Olszewski-Kubilius, this volume). Talent
searches identify students through a two-step process (As-
souline & Lupkowski-Shoplik, 2012). Step one begins with
the performance on a grade-level standardized test, which is
typically administered in the school. Students who score in the
top 3 to 5% on a grade-level standardized test are invited to take
college entrance exams, specifically the SAT (College Board,
2014) and the ACT (ACT, Inc., 2014). The number of junior
high aged students who take these exams in the 7th and 8th
grades is now over 100,000 per year, and their score distribu-
tions are very similar to college-bound high school seniors.
The average talent search participant can assimilate a typical
high school course in three weeks, and those scoring in the
top 0.01% can assimilate double this amount or more (Ben-
bow, & Stanley, 1996; Stanley, 2000).
An important caveat is that research on the eectiveness
of accelerative opportunities as presented in these stud-
ies is quasi-experimental at best (Campbell & Stanley, 1963;
Cook & Campbell, 1979) because such opportunities have
not been withheld from students for ethical reasons. Since
the SMPY studies began in the 1970’s, more accelerative and
enrichment opportunities have become available (Wai et al.,
2010) both inside and outside school and on-site and online.
When students reflect on choices they made in the past, it is
important to remember that they only can evaluate the path
they took, not the path untraveled. All the studies described
here should be considered within this context.
SMPY Findings Reviewed
In This Chapter
This chapter reviews key findings from six longitudinal
studies from SMPY surrounding the long-term education-
al-vocational and social-emotional impact of acceleration.
The first four studies were reviewed by Lubinski (2004), and
that chapter provides a wider historical context. Many of
the empirical findings reviewed in this chapter were antic-
ipated to some degree by early scholars (e.g., Allport, 1960;
Hobbs, 1951; Hollingworth, 1926; Paterson, 1957; Pressey,
1949; Seashore, 1922; Terman, 1954; Thorndike, 1927; Tyler,
1974), and for many decades there has been a large body of
empirical work supporting educational acceleration for tal-
ented youths (Colangelo & Davis, 2003; Lubinski & Benbow,
2000; VanTassel-Baska, 1998). Although neglecting this evi-
dence seems increasingly harder to do (Ceci, 2000; Stanley,
2000), putting research into practice has been challenging
due to social and political forces surrounding educational
policy and implementation (Benbow & Stanley, 1996; Galla-
gher, 2004; Stanley, 2000). This chapter will focus on the key
findings from Lubinski (2004) and updated findings from
two recent SMPY studies that provide the strongest evi-
dence for the long-term impact of educational acceleration,
and more broadly the concept of educational dose. Finally,
educational implications will be considered and some con-
clusions will be drawn.
Study 1: A 10-year longitudinal study of
the top 1 in 10,000 in mathematical and
verbal reasoning (SMPY Cohort 3).
Lubinski, D., Webb, R. M., Morelock, M. J., & Benbow, C. P.
(2001). Top 1 in 10,000: A 10-year follow-up of the profound-
ly gifted. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 718-729.
This study examined the profoundly gifted SMPY group
(N=320, identified in the 1980’s at age 13) in the top 0.01%, a
group with an average IQ of 180. Figure 2 shows the dierent
types and the high degree to which this group took part in
acceleration. Remarkably, approximately 80% of this group
had advanced subject matter placement and AP or other
exams for college credit; approximately 40% grade skipped
and took special courses; and approximately 15% entered
college early. When asked about their feelings regarding ac-
celeration, 70% said they were satisfied by their choices, 13%
wished they had accelerated more, and only 5% wished they
had not accelerated. Figure 3 illustrates participants’ subjec-
tive views about the impact of acceleration on various educa-
tional and personal life aspects. Participants rated academic
progress and interest in learning as the highest and social life
and getting along with same age peers as the lowest, but all
categories showed essentially no eect to favorable eects,
indicating their views about the impact of acceleration on
their experiences were generally favorable.
Study 2: A 20-year longitudinal study
of the top 1% in reasoning ability
identified at age 13 (SMPY Cohorts 1 & 2).
Benbow, C. P., Lubinski, D., Shea, D. L., & Eftekhari-Sanjani,
H. (2000). Sex dierences in mathematical reasoning ability:
Their status 20 years later. Psychological Science, 11, 474-480.
4 A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back Americas Brightest Students, Volume 2
Long-Term Eects of Educational Acceleration : Wai
Figure 2: Participation In Accelerative Programs And Satisfaction Of SMPY Cohort 3.
Figure 3: Subjective Views Regarding Acceleration.
From Lubinski, Webb et al. (2001). Participation in accelerative programs and satisfaction of SMPY Cohort 3. Copyright © 2001 by the American Psychological Association.
Reproduced with permission.
From Lubinski, Webb et al. (2001). Copyright © 2001 by the American Psychological Association. Reproduced with permission.
Advanced subject-matter placement
AP or other exams for college credit
College courses while in high school
Grade-skipping
Special courses
Tutors or mentors
Early entrance to college
I wish I had not accelerated
I wish I had not accelerated as much
I wish I had accelerated
I wish I had accelerated more
None of these. I am satisfied with what I did.
Forms of Acceleration
Percentage Endorsing
Feelings Regarding
Acceleration
Male
Female
O% 1O% 4O% 7O%2O% 5O% 8O%3O% 6O% 9O%
Views of Acceleration
Strongly
Favorible
Moderatly
Favorable
No Effect
Moderatly
Unfavorable
Strongly
Unfavorable
Ratings of Acceleration
5
4
3
2
1
Male
Female
Male
.42
Female
.42
Female
.42
Female
.29
ES>.25.p<.05
ES>.38.p<.01
Academic progress
Interest in learning
Interest in education
Interest in math
Interest in humanities
Interest in social science
Interest in science
Get along with intellictual peers
Personal growth
Get along with adults
Acceptance of self
Emotional stability
Social life
Get along with peers
Grades, marks
Acceptance of abilities
A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back Americas Brightest Students, Volume 2 5
Long-Term Eects of Educational Acceleration : Wai
This study surveyed SMPY participants identified in the top
one percent of ability, who had accelerated earlier in life (N =
1,975). Participants were asked at age 33 about the influence of
acceleration on their educational planning, career planning,
and social development. Of the participants, 70% viewed
acceleration as having a “somewhat positive influence,” “pos-
itive influence,” or “strongly positive influence” on their ed-
ucational planning. Respondents also indicated that acceler-
ation had a positive influence on their career planning; less
than 10% of participants thought that it had a negative im-
pact on their career planning. However, the results concern-
ing the impact of acceleration on their social development
(the ability to form friendships) were essentially neutral.
Participants were also asked how supportive they were of
grouping students according to ability level (also known as
homogeneous grouping):
A number of educational policy makers have proposed
the following: eliminating homogeneous grouping for in-
struction (i.e., grouping students according to their abil-
ities and skills, as in reading groups and honors classes)
and, instead, teaching students of all ability levels in the
same group. How supportive are you of this proposal?”
The question was worded negatively for a bias against homo-
geneous grouping, and it is important to keep in mind that
in the 1970’s the range of accelerative options was limited.
However, despite these caveats, 80% of the study partici-
pants were “somewhat” to “very” unsupportive of eliminating
grouping based on ability level.
Study 3: Three decades of longitudinal
data on the Advanced Placement (AP)
program (SMPY Cohorts 1 through 5).
Bleske-Rechek, A., Lubinski, D., & Benbow, C. P. (2004).
Meeting the educational needs of special populations: Ad-
vanced Placement’s role in developing exceptional human
capital. Psychological Science, 15, 217-224.
This study focused on the educational and socio-emotional
impact of AP participation (N = 3,700). It includes each of
the SMPY groups already examined in the first two studies
along with an additional group in the top one percent (Cohort
4, N = 173, identified at ages 12-14 between 1992 and 1997, pri-
marily from the state of Iowa). Cohort 5 is also introduced in
this study (N = 709, identified during their first and second
years of graduate school in 1992). Cohort 5 consists of an in-
tellectually talented group of math/science graduate students
from premier training programs throughout the U.S. These
students were not identified via the talent search testing in
middle school, but were identified while they were in grad-
uate school. They provide a useful comparison group to the
cohorts identified via the talent search
.
AP Participation. Both SMPY participants and graduate
students were highly involved in AP. With the exception of
Cohort 1, for which there was limited AP availability, 76% to
86% of the other groups took at least one AP course, with
the average number of AP courses taken ranging from 3.3 to
3.8, which is quite impressive considering the fact that these
AP courses were taken before they were as widely available
as they are today. The percentage of participants who took
at least one AP course and indicated that it was their favorite
ranged from 22% to 49%.
This study provides more evidence supporting the fact that
intellectually talented students benefit from specialized
learning environments such as AP courses. These courses
help to meet their unique intellectual and social/emotional
needs while they are still in high school. AP courses provide
gifted students with the appropriate developmental place-
ment needed by all students for optimal learning: a curricu-
lum that progresses at a pace commensurate with their rate
of learning.
High School Likes and Dislikes. The study authors reported
participants’ high school likes and dislikes in relation to AP
involvement. Students were positive about working hard and
being intellectually challenged. SMPY participants (Cohorts
1 through 4) and math/science graduate students (Cohort 5)
showed quite similar patterns. Both groups liked academic
and intellectual activities and disliked the lack of such ac-
tivities. Sixty percent cited academic and intellectual activi-
ties and 49% cited social life and extracurricular activities as
things they liked about high school. Regarding high school
dislikes, 45% cited lack of intellectual stimulation or engage-
ment and 30% cited social isolation and peer pressure. The
intellectual engagement participants enjoyed ranged from
associating with other highly intelligent classmates, taking
AP classes, having a solid education, and working hard. The
lack of intellectual engagement they disliked ranged from not
having similarly-able or motivated classmates, the slow pace
of instruction, not being taught enough, and not being chal-
lenged intellectually.
For students in all groups studied, students who took one or
more AP courses were more likely than those who did not
to list academic and intellectual activities as something they
liked about high school. Among both groups, students in-
volved in AP were less likely than those not involved in AP to
list a lack of intellectual stimulation or engagement as some-
thing they disliked about high school.
6 A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back Americas Brightest Students, Volume 2
Long-Term Eects of Educational Acceleration : Wai
Degree Attainment. For Cohorts 1 and 2, longitudinal data on
the attainment of higher degrees was available at age 33. For
participants who took at least one AP course in high school,
70% had obtained a master’s degree or higher. For partici-
pants who did not take an AP course, this number was 43%.
And even after controlling for mathematical reasoning abili-
ty, students who were involved in AP were more likely to ob-
tain an advanced educational degree. The authors concluded,
“Thus, through self-selection or something intrinsic to the
AP program itself, AP involvement is a positive predictor of
educational success and satisfaction for intellectually talent-
ed youth” (p. 219).
Comparisons to Normative Data. Relative to same age, typical-
ly-developing peers, SMPY students were quite dierent on
various educational and social preferences. For example, 85%
of a normative sample of 1,560 Indiana high school students
cited friends and socializing as a high school like, with only
40% of that sample liking educational aspects (Erickson &
Lefstein, 1991). This is the reverse pattern from the SMPY
samples reviewed here who liked educational aspects more
than social aspects of high school. Nineteen percent of Indi-
ana students cited the opposite sex and dating as a favored as-
pect of high school, whereas less than two percent of SMPY
participants did so. Thirty-five percent of Indiana students
cited homework or term papers and six percent cited tests
and exams as a high school dislike, whereas less than sev-
en percent of SMPY participants cited exams, homework,
or studying as a high school dislike. A small percentage of
SMPY participants cited early mornings (two percent) and
long school days (one percent) as a dislike, whereas for Indi-
ana students these percentages were much higher at 23% and
20% respectively. Overall, this illustrates that SMPY partic-
ipants, in comparison to their same age, typically developing
peers, tend to be more focused on academics and their intel-
lectual development.
Study 4: A comparison of top math/
science graduate students with same-
age SMPY participants tracked over 20
years (SMPY Cohorts 2 and 5).
Lubinski, D., Benbow, C. P., Shea, D. L., Eftekhari-Sanjani,
H., & Halvorson, M. B. J. (2001). Men and women at promise
for scientific excellence: Similarity not dissimilarity. Psycho-
logical Science, 12, 309-317.
This study reported data from SMPY participants in the top
one percent of ability (Cohort 2) with same-age intellectual-
ly talented math/science graduate students (Cohort 5). The
SMPY group (females = 528, males = 228) were compared to
top math/science graduate students (females = 346, males =
368). The findings reported here refer to the educational
experiences of graduate students and talent search partici-
pants. Roughly 90% took part in some form of acceleration.
The dierent types of acceleration experienced ranged from
AP involvement (approximately 90% for talent search par-
ticipants, which is more than comparable graduate students
(66%); advanced subject matter placement (approximately
60%); college courses in high school (approximately 33%); and
grade skipping (approximately 12%). Overall, approximately
79% reported a positive experience and less than three per-
cent reported a negative influence of their acceleration expe-
rience. Generally, the findings for both graduate students and
talent search participants were quite similar, with only a few
comparisons being statistically significant
1
. However, twice
the percentage of talent search students were grade skipped,
twice the percentage of graduate students were presidential
scholars, and fewer talent search females participated in a
math/science contest during college.
Study 5: A 40-year longitudinal study
examining the effects of grade skipping
(SMPY Cohorts, 1, 2, & 3).
Park, G., Lubinski, D., & Benbow, C. P. (2013). When less is
more: Eects of grade skipping on adult STEM accomplish-
ments among mathematically precocious youth. Journal of
Educational Psychology, 105, 176-198.
This 40-year longitudinal study (N = 3,467) investigated the
impact of grade skipping (or whole-grade acceleration), one
of the most eective educational opportunities (see Lupkow-
ski-Shoplik, Assouline, & Colangelo, this volume; Rogers,
this volume). Participants across three SMPY groups who
had skipped one or more grades were compared to those who
had not grade skipped but were statistically matched on a
number of important characteristics, to determine wheth-
er there were dierences many years later on the earning of
STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)
doctorates, publications, and patents. Across all these educa-
1. Group dierences were significant for only three of the 19 educational experiences:
math-science contest or special program before college χ2(3, N = 1,251) = 20.6, p <
.001; math-science contest or special program during college, χ2(3, N = 1,173) = 11.1, p
< .05; and favorite high school class being in math or science, χ2(3, N = 1,223) = 87.7,
p < .001. No dierences were significant between male and female graduate students,
but talent search females diered significantly om the other groups for the first two
items above, and both talent search males and females diered significantly om the
graduate students as a whole. See Lubinski, Benbow et al. (2001) for more detail.
A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back Americas Brightest Students, Volume 2 7
Long-Term Eects of Educational Acceleration : Wai
tional and occupational outcomes, some of which can be con-
sidered creative achievements, grade skippers, in comparison
to matched controls, showed a large advantage. Concerns
about accelerated students ‘burning out’ were not supported
by the research findings, Students who skipped one or more
grades began and finished their STEM graduate degrees earli-
er and produced more publications at a younger age.
The non-accelerated students in this study also were very
successful, earning advanced degrees, publishing scientific
papers, and securing patents at an impressive rate. However,
the accelerated students were even more accomplished than
the comparison group. This illustrates the long-term impact
of one potent form of educational acceleration. Grade-based
acceleration, when used appropriately with very highly-able
mathematically talented adolescents, can have positive ef-
fects on long-term productivity in STEM fields, 30 to 40, or
more, years after the educational intervention.
Study 6: A 25-year longitudinal study
examining the effects of educational
dose among intellectually talented
students and top math/science graduate
students (SMPY Cohorts 1, 2, 3, & 5).
Wai, J., Lubinski, D., Benbow, C. P., & Steiger, J. H. (2010). Ac-
complishment in science, technology, engineering, and math-
ematics (STEM) and its relation to STEM educational dose:
A 25-year longitudinal study. Journal of Educational Psychology,
102, 860-871.
This 25-year longitudinal study incorporated the various
academic interventions of educational acceleration, en
-
richment, and stimulation into the concept of ‘education-
al dose.’ As described at the beginning of this chapter, ed-
ucational dose is “the density of advanced and enriching
precollegiate learning opportunities beyond the norm that
students have participated in” (Wai et al., 2010, p. 861). The
research reported here takes into account accelerative op-
portunities (including grade skipping, college courses while
in high school, AP courses, or advanced subject matter
placement) as well as other appropriately challenging en-
riching educational activities, such as science or math com-
petitions, special classes, research, inventions and projects,
and writing opportunities.
Figure 1 illustrates the various components of acceleration
and enrichment activities investigated in this study in three
of SMPY’s talent search groups (N = 1,467) as well as the
math/science graduate student group (N = 714). As described
previously, Figure 1 includes accelerative as well as other
STEM-related educational opportunities and shows how the
two types of educational activities can complement each oth-
er to fully develop a student’s talents.
Table 1: Percentages Of Participants Earning Outcomes Across Each
Cohort And For All Cohorts Together.
Percentage Earning Outcome
Cohort and group N Doctorates STEM PhDs STEM Publications Patents
1972 Cohort
Matched Controls
Grade Skippers
358 15.1 3.6 6.4 2.2
179 27.4 10.1 12.8 4.5
1976 Cohort
Matched Controls
Grade Skippers
231 23.8 14.3 21.2 8.2
116 31.0 18.1 25.9 9.5
1980 Cohort
Matched Controls
Grade Skippers
68 33.8 17.6 23.5 10.3
68 45.6 29.4 38.2 17.6
All Cohorts
Matched Controls
Grade Skippers
657 20.1 7.9 13.4 5.2
363 32.0 16.3 20.9 8.5
The last two columns list the percentage of participants in each category with one or more peer-reviewed publication in a STEM field or patent, respectively. From Park et al.
(2013). Copyright © 2013 by the American Psychological Association. Reproduced with permission.
8 A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students, Volume 2
Long-Term Eects of Educational Acceleration : Wai
Figure 4: STEM Educational Dose And STEM Outcomes.
STEM = science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; SAT-M = math section of the Scholastic Assessment Test. From Wai et al. (2010). Copyright © 2010 by the Ameri-
can Psychological Association. Reproduced with permission.
30%
25%
20%
15%
10%
5%
0%
500 550 600 650 700 750 800
STEM PhD
SAT-M Before Age 13
30%
25%
20%
15%
10%
5%
0%
500 550 600 650 700 750 800
STEM Patent
SAT-M Before Age 13
30%
25%
20%
15%
10%
5%
0%
500 550 600 650 700 750 800
STEM Publication
SAT-M Before Age 13
10%
8%
6%
4%
2%
0%
500 550 600 650 700 750 800
STEM Tenure
SAT-M Before Age 13
50%
40%
30%
20%
10%
0%
500 550 600 650 700 750 800
STEM Occupation
SAT-M Before Age 13
1972-74 Talent Search
= High Dose
= Low Dose
1976-78 Talent Search
= High Dose
= Low Dose
1980-83 Talent Search
= High Dose
= Low Dose
A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back Americas Brightest Students, Volume 2 9
Long-Term Eects of Educational Acceleration : Wai
For this 25-year longitudinal study, each dierent type of
pre-college educational opportunity was summed to deter-
mine the educational dose level. Referring back to hypothet-
ical students Suzie and Greg introduced earlier, both were in-
volved in four dierent learning opportunities, so they each
had a dose level of four. This study focused on STEM learning
opportunities and outcomes. Two groups were formed with-
in each Cohort: those with a relatively higher educational
dose of STEM opportunities and those with a relatively low-
er educational dose. These two groups within each SMPY
sample were then compared on STEM outcomes 25 years
later—PhDs, publications, university tenure, patents, and
occupations. Figure 4 illustrates these findings. Cohort 1 is
represented by circles, Cohort 2 by triangles, and Cohort 3 by
squares. The higher dose group is indicated by filled shapes
and the lower dose group by unfilled shapes. The y-axis shows
the proportion attaining each outcome, and the x-axis shows
SAT-Mathematics scores at age 13. Along the x-axis, SAT
scores dier for the cohorts because they were initially se-
lected at the top one percent (Cohort 1), top 0.5% (Cohort
2), and top 0.01% of ability (Cohort 3). As can be seen with-
in each panel, even though SAT scores were similar across
groups, the group with a higher educational dose was more
likely to attain each of these outcomes. The earning of STEM
PhDs, publications, patents, and university tenure were all
much higher for the higher scoring groups, and the percent-
age in a STEM occupation was higher for the lower scoring
groups with a higher STEM educational dose. The same gen-
eral analysis was performed within the math/science graduate
student group, and a similar pattern of findings emerged. This
illustrates the long-term impact of educational acceleration,
and more broadly the concept of educational dose. This lon-
gitudinal study indicates the number of pre-collegiate STEM
educational opportunities that mathematically talented ad-
olescents experience is related to subsequent STEM accom-
plishments achieved over 20 years later. This is evidence for
the powerful impact that educational experiences have on
students’ later accomplishments.
Summary of Empirical Findings
The first five studies from SMPY reviewed in this chapter
independently as well as collectively demonstrate the long-
term impact of the various forms of educational acceleration.
The sixth study combined all these individual educational
opportunities into the concept of educational dose, finding
that participants with a higher dose of educational accelera-
tion and enrichment, even when controlling for ability, were
more likely to have earned creative educational and occupa-
tional achievements many years later. Some of the studies
also reviewed evidence showing that, overall, students who
had accelerated viewed their educational histories positive-
ly, and many said they would have accelerated more, not less.
These studies combine to show the powerful impact of edu-
cational acceleration in the lives of these talented students,
with accelerated participants reporting satisfaction with
their experiences as a whole. The key findings of these studies
are listed in Table 2.
Educational Implications
and Conclusions
The educational implications of these studies are quite clear.
They collectively show that the various forms of educational
acceleration have a positive impact. The key is appropriate
developmental placement (Lubinski & Benbow, 2000) both
academically and socially. Each student is dierent, and de-
cisions on whether a student should engage in acceleration
should be made thoughtfully based on evidence (Assouline,
Colangelo, Lupkowski-Shoplik, Lipscomb, and Forstadt,
2009) and tailored to their individuality (Wai, Lubinski, &
Benbow, 2009b). However, the long-term studies reviewed
here show that adults who had been accelerated in school
achieved greater educational and occupational success and
were satisfied with their choices and the impact of those
choices in other areas of their lives. Additionally, for some
of these students, educational acceleration might help them
to mature as well as to save valuable time, which could be al-
located for career advancement (see McClarty, this volume),
creative accomplishment, or personal use (Park et al., 2013;
Pressey, 1955; Terman, 1954). Some accelerative opportuni-
ties, such as grade-skipping or early entrance to college, are
likely more potent in boosting educational and occupation-
al outcomes compared to others, and saving such time. (see
Hertzog and Chung, 2015, for longitudinal findings mirroring
SMPY for early entrance to college).
However, overall, it may not be any one educational inter-
vention that matters, but the appropriate dose or stimulation
that matters (Wai et al., 2010). The groups examined in these
studies grew up in a time where there were relatively fewer
opportunities for educational acceleration and enrichment
compared to present-day opportunities. Consider the vast
number of online educational options that are now available
to students, from massive online open courses (MOOCs) to
the Khan Academy. Students have many ways to be stimu-
lated intellectually and avail themselves of accelerative op-
portunities both inside and outside the classroom. Because
one size does not fit all, no one intervention is going to be
right for everyone. What matters is that each student re-
10 A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back Americas Brightest Students, Volume 2
Long-Term Eects of Educational Acceleration : Wai
Table 2: Key Findings From The SMPY Longitudinal Studies.
Study 1
Academically talented students who accelerate in school view the impact of acceleration on their life experiences quite positively.
Study 2
At age 33, the vast majority of participants who had been accelerated in school viewed acceleration as having a positive influence on
their educational planning as well as on their career planning.
They viewed the impact of acceleration on their social development (the ability to form friendships) as essentially neutral, indicating it
had neither a positive nor a negative impact.
Study 3
Participation in Advanced Placement (AP) courses was a positive predictor of education success and satisfaction for intellectually
talented students.
Study 4
Roughly 90% of the exceptionally talented students studied took part in some form of acceleration. The vast majority reported a
positive experience with acceleration.
Study 5
Grade-based acceleration, when used appropriately with very highly-able mathematically talented adolescents, can have positive
effects on long-term productivity in STEM fields, 30 years or more after the educational intervention.
Study 6
Even when controlling for ability, participants with a higher dose of STEM educational acceleration and enrichment were more likely to
have earned creative educational and occupational achievements more than 20 years later. This is evidence for the powerful impact
that pre-college eduational experiences can have on students’ later accomplishments.
ceives a consistent and sucient educational dose across
his or her educational experience, which will thus essential-
ly comprise what we might consider to be life-long learning
(Lubinski, Benbow, & Kell, 2014).
It is important to emphasize that appropriate developmental
placement is important for all students (Humphreys, 1985).
Educational acceleration is essentially appropriate pacing
and placement that ensures advanced students are engaged in
learning for life. Every student deserves to learn something
new each day (Stanley, 2000). The evidence clearly supports
allowing students who desire to be accelerated to do so, and
does not support holding them back.
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A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back Americas Brightest Students, Volume 2 13
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