This information was produced by the staff of the Belin-Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development (B-BC) at the University of Iowa ( The resources and information listed here are for informational purposes; there is no direct or implied endorsement by the B-BC. Services provided by the B-BC include programs for academically talented K-12 and college students, professional development for teachers, the Assessment and Counseling Clinic, the Acceleration Institute (, and graduate programs and research in gifted education.

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Annotated Bibliography

Articles are listed in descending order by year (most recent first), and then by first author's last name.

Secondary (High School) Acceleration

Plucker, J. A., Healey, G., Meyer, M. S., & Roberts, J. L. (2022). Early high school graduation: Policy support for secondary acceleration. Gifted Child Today, 45(3), 150–156.

In recent years, state and local support for academic acceleration has created opportunities for students with advanced learning needs to move through their education at a pace that matches their abilities and may be faster than their same-age peers. As a result, it is not uncommon for exceptionally bright students to complete their high school graduation requirements early. These students have the option to stay in high school and complete additional coursework or move on to postsecondary settings to continue their academic talent development. This article explores state and local policies on early graduation and highlights supportive policies and potential barriers to this type of acceleration.

Arens, A. K., & Watermann, R. (2015). How an early transition to high-ability secondary schools affects students' academic self-concept: Constrast effects, assimilation effects, and differential ability. Learning and Individual Differences, 37, 64–71.

This study examined the operation of contrast and assimilation effects, and the development of academic self-concept of students in the education system of the German federal state Berlin. One group of students experienced an early transition to high-ability secondary schools while the other group experienced the regular transition after sixth grade. The early transition was found to bear an assimilation effect on academic self-concept which was stronger than the contrast effect immediately after early transition but weaker at the end of the first school year after early transition. The early transition did not affect the normative stability of academic self-concept between two measurement points. Students with an early transition displayed higher levels of academic self-concept at both measurement points but a more substantial decline in academic self-concept than students experiencing regular transition. The findings are discussed in the context of the debate on tracking and acceleration practices in education systems.

Wilson, H. E., Siegle, D., McCoach, B., Little, C. A., & Reis, S. M. (2014). A model of academic self-concept: Perceived difficulty and social comparison among academically accelerated secondary school students. Gifted Child Quarterly, 58(2), 111-126.

Academic self-concept predicts students’ future goals and is affected by a student’s relative success compared with his or her peer group. This exploratory study used structural equation modeling to examine the contributions of the perceived level of difficulty of the curriculum, in addition to the contributions of social comparison and achievement in schoolwork, to academic self-concept among students enrolled in advanced coursework. Along with school achievement, perceived difficulty and social comparison also predicted academic self-concept. The final model indicated that students differentiate between learner self-concept, which is how students perceived their ability to understand new ideas or knowledge, and student self-concept, which is how they perceived their abilities to succeed in school-related tasks. Of these two constructs, student self-concept was a better predictor of future goals; however, the overall effect was small.

Espenshade, T. J., Hale, L. E., & Chung, C. Y. (2005). The frog pond revisited: High school academic context, class rank, and elite college admission. Sociology of Education, 78, 269-293.

Espenshade, Hale, and Chung address the idea that students from less academically competitive schools are more likely to be admitted to a prestigious college or university. This idea was first introduced by Davis (1966) where he concluded similar research by saying, “It is better to be a big frog in a small pond, than to be a small frog in a big pond.” The authors of this article considered that statement by looking at five hypotheses:

  1. If two students come from the same or comparable high schools and if their demographic and other social characteristics are equivalent, there is a positive association between a student’s academic merit and the probability of admission;
  2. Without screening students based on information about individual scholastic abilities, applicants from “better” high schools stand a greater chance of being admitted;
  3. If two students are equivalent in terms of individual academic merit and other social characteristics, the one from the more academically competitive high school has a smaller chance of being admitted to an elite college or university;
  4. The negative effect of a school’s average achievement levels will be smaller for more academically talented students; and
  5. Information about high schools’ academic environments can help us understand elite college admissions.
Espenshade, Hale, and Chung examined data about students applying to three prestigious colleges or universities during the 1997 academic year. They found that all five hypotheses were true.

Martinez, M., & Klopott, S. (2005). The link between high school reform and college access and success for low-income and minority youth. Washington, D.C.: American Youth Policy Forum and Pathways to College Network.

Martinez and Klopott conducted a literature review of documents related to school reform, college access, predictors of college-going behavior, and curriculum materials aimed at school reform. Based on the analysis of collected data, academic rigor and strong social and academic support were identified as the best predictors of college enrollment and completion. Review of school reform curricula indicated that programs with evidence of post-secondary success for low-income and minority students had four attributes in common:

  1. Access to a rigorous academic common core curriculum for all students,
  2. Personalized learning environments,
  3. Academic and social support for students, and
  4. Alignment of curriculum between the high school and postsecondary levels and following through on K – 12 learning goals.

Gentry, M., & Owen, S. V. (2004). Secondary student perceptions of classroom quality: Instrumentation and differences between advanced/honors and nonhonors classes. The Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, 16(1), 20-29.

The current focus on testing in education has bypassed issues of student perceptions about school, which are related to student success, particularly in gifted education. Gentry and Owen created a new instrument, Student Perceptions of Classroom Quality (SPOCQ), in an attempt to measure this often-ignored aspect of education. They hope to eventually use the results to improve student achievement in both general and gifted education. In this study, SPOCQ was shown to effectively assess student perceptions of meaningfulness, challenge, choice, self-efficacy, and appeal of their education among advanced/honors and nonhonors students.

Marcel, K. W. (2004). Using technology to increase access to accelerated learning opportunities in four states. Boulder, CO: Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

This report outlines the use of the Wyoming Equality Network (WEN). WEN is a project which links all public schools in Wyoming to high-speed internet and interactive video classrooms. Although the project is expensive, WEN was developed to give rural students the opportunity to participant in AP, IB, and dual credit courses, even though teachers in the school district do not have subject-area expertise at the level of those classes. The report details the compressed video technology used to provide assistance to low-income and rural students, the history and mission of WEN, how WEN works together with Northwest Community College in Wyoming, and how other interactive video networks in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Oregon work.

Shireman, R. (2004). "Rigorous courses" and student achievement in high school: An options paper for the governor of California (Research and Occasional Paper Series: CSHE.13.04). Berkeley: University of California. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED492333)

Holding schools accountable for student achievement can only work if the goals are clear. California's school standards are well-regarded nationally for their clarity and their rigor, but it is not clear what courses students are expected to take beyond the minimum graduation requirements. The paper discusses the relative successful efforts to encourage students to take higher-level courses in high school in two states, Indiana and Texas; it outlines potential stumbling blocks in these efforts; and it suggests three options for California: (1) Do not focus specifically on higher-level course-taking; (2) Propose legislation to raise the minimum courses required for graduation; and (3) Use the bully pulpit to encourage higher-level course-taking in high school.

VanTassel-Baska, J. (2004). Quo vadis? Laboring in the classical vineyards: An optimal challenge for gifted secondary students. The Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, 15(2), 56-60.

This article puts forth an argument for the optimal match of the subject matter of Latin for verbally precocious students at the secondary level, beginning no later than the middle school years. It delineates the major benefits for students of learning the language and links those benefits to a view of differentiation in curricula and instruction of the gifted. Furthermore, the article provides a blueprint for schools on developing a Latin program of study over the secondary years.

Wlodkowski, R. J. (2003). Accelerated learning in colleges and universities. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 97, 5-15.

This chapter provides a research-based overview of accelerated learning as a program and educational format in higher education today.

Renzulli, J. S., & Richards, S. (2000). Meeting the enrichment needs of middle school students. Principal, 79(4), 62-62.

Through a continuum-of-services approach, the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM) provides numerous enrichment and acceleration alternatives designed to accommodate the academic strengths, interests, and learning styles of all middle-level students. Major components include the total-talent portfolio, curriculum modification, and enrichment clusters. SEM labels services, not students.

Gallagher, J. J., Coleman, M. R., & Nelson, S. (1995). Perceptions of educational reform by educators representing middle schools, cooperative learning, and gifted education. Gifted Child Quarterly, 39(2), 66-76.

The present article describes the results of two surveys comparing the perceptions of educators of gifted students with the perceptions of mainstream educational personnel in middle schools and those specializing in cooperative learning. The results indicated a major gulf between the perceptions of mainstream educators and those of educators of the gifted. In the case of middle schools, the disagreement focused on the value of ability grouping and the social consequences of being labeled gifted. In the case of cooperative learning, there were major differences across the board on practically all items.The authors conclude that it is in the interest of all concerned to have more extensive dialogue between educators of the gifted and members of the educational reform movement.

Coleman, M. R. (1994). Middle schools and the gifted - A natural fit. Exploring options. Gifted Child Today, 17(4), 38-39.

This article explores similarities in the educational philosophies and goals of middle education and gifted education, notes the concerns raised by educators of the gifted, and describes various service delivery options for gifted students within the middle school format including pullout variations, advanced classes, cluster grouping, mentor programs, interdisciplinary units, flexible pacing, and independent studies.

Alltucker, M. M. (1924). Is the pedagogically accelerated student a misfit in the senior high school? The School Review, 32(3), 193-202.

Margaret Alltucker describes the social impact of giftedness on the 137 gifted students at Berkeley High School in 1922. Alltucker uses feedback from the students’ teachers to address the questions of whether the typical pedagogically accelerated student is a student-body leader, what kinds of attitudes other students’ attitudes have toward him, and whether the typical pedagogically accelerated student is a misfit at school. The discussion includes answers to these questions, as well as questions about level of scholarship and physical growth compared to other students in the school. She finds that the majority of gifted students in this high school are not considered social misfits. More gifted females than males are leaders of the student-body and are accepted by their peers. However, in both cases the percent of students rejected by their peers was less than 5%. Alltucker displays the results of her findings in 6 tables, one for each of the questions she sets out to answer at the beginning of the article.