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The Speed of Life: How and When Should You Accelerate Graduation?

Authored By: 
Maren Holmen, Director of The Tutoring School

The four-year high school model works for most students; it provides enough time to adequately learn all of the information that we expect students to learn before they go on to other institutions or start careers as well as enough opportunity to mature and learn those “soft skills.”  However, there is a segment of the student population who would strongly benefit from an accelerated high school program, enabling them to graduate in less than four years.  Who are these students and how can schools support them?

Often, the mind immediately goes to gifted students.  How can parents find programs for gifted students?  The not-so-obvious answer is that it isn't necessarily dependent on choosing one particular school or program.  While a program that meets your gifted child’s needs without going outside is certainly preferable, it’s possible to create your own gifted program.  For instance, would your child like to jump ahead in math by taking two courses at the same time but the class schedule won’t allow it?  Look into taking the other math class through another program after school, on the weekends, or over the summer.  Are you homeschooling your child because there’s no single program that seems to be a good fit?  Use an established curriculum for the subjects where your child is not as advanced and then look into contracting with an experienced tutor to create a curriculum for the one or two subjects where your child works dramatically above average.

There are other students, however, who can benefit from accelerating high school graduation.  Students who have been out of school due to an extended medical leave or who have struggled with personal issues and are now back on-track may not wish to delay graduation but wish to graduate with his/her peers.  Those who are committed to activities outside of school may wish to finish high school credits as quickly as they can to focus on pursuits in advanced athletics or professions related to music, dance, acting, or modeling.

Students who are consistently resistant to school may be the best (and most unexpected) candidates for early graduation.  In many cases, students who are distracting others or themselves are disruptive because they are bored.  When engaged and challenged in an academic setting, they calm down and put that excess energy to better use.  Students who are resistant may feel that they don’t fit in or may have experienced bullying by other students.  The mantra “it gets better” resonates for many, as high school is not a time looked upon fondly by some students.  Taking additional courses to shorten the time until high school completion may keep these students from dropping out entirely.