by Joseph Miller, III and Touline Elshafei (Winter 2018)

The Gifted and Talented Children Act, Article 14A of the School Code, will soon be known as the Gifted and Talented Children and Children Eligible for Accelerated Placement Act. Beginning July 1, 2018, Article 14A will be amended by the Accelerated Placement Act (the “Act”) (Public Act 100-0421). This Act is designed to help the advancement of students and districts alike, guiding them with program development and implementation of educational programs for students who are eligible for accelerated placement, in addition to students who are gifted and talented.

A new Section 14A-17 defines “accelerated placement” as the placement of a child in an educational setting with curriculum that is usually reserved for children who are older or in higher grades than the child. Such placement may include, but is not limited to, early entrance to kindergarten or first grade, accelerating a child in a single subject, and potential opportunities for “whole grade” acceleration (i.e. skipping a grade).   This definition conflicts with Section 10-21.12 of the School Code, that allows but does not require schools to permit early entrance to kindergarten or first grade. Hopefully, the General Assembly will resolve this conflict before the Act goes into effect.

With respect to accelerated placement, school districts will be required to adopt a policy that allows for accelerated placement. The policy must include the following:

  • A provision that provides that participation in accelerated placement is not limited to those children who have been identified as gifted and talented. Rather, participation is open to all children who demonstrate high ability and who may benefit from accelerated placement;
  • A fair and equitable decision-making process that involves multiple persons and includes a student’s parents or guardians;
  • Procedures for notifying parents or guardians of a child of a decision affecting that child’s participation in an accelerated placement program and;
  • An assessment process that includes multiple, valid reliable indicators.

Additionally, the new policy may incorporate the following components:

  • Procedures for annually informing the community-at-large, including parents or guardians, about the accelerated placement program and the methods used for the identification of children eligible for accelerated placement;
  • A process that allows for multiple individuals to refer a child for accelerated placement, including a child’s parents or guardians; licensed education professionals; the child, with the written consent of a parent or guardian; a peer, through a licensed education professional who has knowledge of the referred child’s abilities; or, in the case of possible early entrance, a preschool educator, pediatrician or psychologist who knows the child; and
  • A provision that provides that children participating in an accelerated placement program and their parents or guardians will be provided a written plan detailing the type of acceleration the child will receive and strategies to support the child.

The Gifted and Talented Children and Children Eligible for Accelerated Placement Act continues to “encourage” school districts to design educational programs for eligible children without any state funding. Through this recent amendment, the Illinois General Assembly mandates school districts to implement   an accelerated placement program regardless of access to state funding. The Act requires the State Board of Education to adopt rules regarding the collection of accelerated placement program data and an efficient method of making the data available to the public.

Please contact an Ottosen Britz attorney if you have any questions as you put your accelerated placement policy into practice.