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Carr has also had more recent problems with acceleration. Because he tested well, Carr enrolled her son Alonzo Jr. in kindergarten at age 4 in 1998. But he wasn't socially prepared, and he began overturning chairs and tossing books in class. Alonzo was eventually diagnosed with a behavior disorder. Last year, the Carrs decided to have him repeat Grade 4. Working with age peers for the first time, he now gets straight A's.
A Nation Deceived doesn't ignore such cautionary tales. It includes the results of a study released this year showing that 63% of early entrants were judged by their teachers to have adjusted "relatively well" or "very well" to school--but that leaves 37% who, like Alonzo, had adjustment problems. Colangelo and Assouline say errors can be avoided by screening potential accelerants--judging not only academic prowess but also levels of motivation, emotional development, motor coordination. "We're not saying it should be a quick decision," says Assouline. "But we have every reason to believe that when the decision is carefully made, the student will do fine."
It's impossible to say how many students who should be accelerated are kept with their age-mates, but more than 22,000 of the 87,000 seventh- and eighth-graders who take the SAT as part of talent-search programs each year score at the level of college-bound seniors. "If they can do that kind of work, the typical curriculum is going to be way below their needs," says Colangelo.
Why isn't that more obvious to school administrators? Consider the case of Davin Gros. Davin is a rangy, sweet, brilliant kid who lives with his mom, stepdad and three siblings on a remote stretch of Iowa cornfields outside Thornburg (pop. 91). Davin, who turns 15 this week, has blindingly blue eyes and blondish-brown hair that he colors jet black. The day we met was a Thursday, but Davin was at home. After a long struggle with the school system, his mom Laura Knipfer now home schools him.
Her fight to have Tri-County Community School teach Davin at a level commensurate with his rare intelligence--he has an IQ of 146--began when he was in first grade. Davin was always bored, but instead of recognizing his academic promise, Knipfer says, the school carped about her boy's fidgeting and poor handwriting.
Despite earning strong scores on his Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) in Grade 3, Davin wasn't invited to join the school's talented-and-gifted (TAG) program until the following year--an oversight Knipfer attributes to the family's social standing in a small town. Laura runs a day-care service in their home, and her husband Russell is a truck driver. "We're low income, and I'm not in the local political game," she says. (School superintendent Jody Gray denies this and says Davin was enrolled in TAG as soon as the school recognized his gifts.)