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Academically Advanced Education

In 2002 the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education published a report on state and district policies and programs for academically advanced students. The executive summary of that report is below, followed by a link to the entire report.

Promoting High Achievement:
Policies and Programs for Academically Advanced Students in Massachusetts

Executive Summary

This report responds to a legislative request for information about initiatives of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for academically advanced students and services for these students in the Commonwealth’s public schools.

The report has three sections. The first section summarizes the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s state initiatives for academically advanced students implemented as a result of the Education Reform Act of 1993. These included grants to enhance district gifted and talented and Advanced Placement (AP) programs and joint initiatives with the Board of Higher Education such as Dual Enrollment, which allowed advanced high school students to take courses in the public higher education system while in high school. Other programs, for which the Massachusetts was awarded funds from the U. S. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, included AP fee reduction and AP incentive grants to low income districts. Funded at approximately $2.6 million to $2.8 million between 1996 and 2001, the state-funded components were suspended in 2002 as a result of the decline in the state budget. The Stanley Z. Koplik Certificate of Mastery, a recognition program for academically advanced high school juniors and seniors begun in 2000, will continue to be awarded in 2003.

The second part of the report presents data from a survey conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2002 about the services to academically advanced students provided in individual districts at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Approximately half of the districts in the Commonwealth responded to the survey. The survey responses revealed broad trends in district approaches to academically advanced education.

In the elementary and middle grades:

  • Academically advanced students in PreK-5 are more likely to be taught by elementary classroom teachers with some training in individualizing or "differentiating" instruction than by specialists in content or in gifted education.

  • When advanced instruction is provided, it is more likely to be available in the upper elementary and middle school grades than in the primary grades.

  • Academically advanced students in grades 6-8 are just about as likely to receive advanced instruction through differentiated classroom instruction as through separate advanced or accelerated courses.

  • Students may receive no advanced instruction whatsoever in a third of the elementary schools and a fifth of the middle schools.

  • The subject matter priorities in advanced instruction mirror the subject priorities of the regular PreK-8 classroom. Students are more likely to receive advanced instruction in reading and mathematics than in other subjects in PreK-8. They are also more likely to receive advanced instruction in science and history/social science in grades 4 and 5 than in middle school. It is relatively rare that they receive advanced instruction in foreign languages and rarer still that they receive advanced instruction in the arts.

At the high school level, the survey found that:

  • Honors, advanced, and Advanced Placement courses are offered in all the core academic subjects in most Massachusetts high schools.

  • Advanced courses in mathematics and the sciences are more common than advanced courses in the humanities, foreign languages, and the arts.

  • Beginning in the mid-1990s, the opportunities for high school students to take Advanced Placement and college courses expanded, and the Certificate of Mastery Program provided an incentive for students to score high on MCAS in order to receive scholarships to state colleges and universities.

The third section of the report discusses findings on the academic preparation of K-8 teachers of the academically advanced. Because until 2001 Massachusetts did not have a specific license for K-8 Teacher of the Academically Advanced, educators currently working in this field hold a variety of other licenses. The 66 teachers who returned the survey on academic preparation held a total of 98 licenses.

  • The majority held licenses that were not subject-specific (elementary education, followed by special education, middle school generalist, guidance, audio-visual specialist, principal and supervisor).

  • Twenty-eight percent of the licenses held were in humanities disciplines.

  • Nineteen percent of the licenses held were in mathematics or science disciplines.

The report concludes with recommendations, including:

  • incorporating measures of progress by academically advanced students into existing Department initiatives in reading, mathematics, and instructional technology;

  • establishing an index of advanced achievement as part of the state accountability system;

  • providing professional development for K-8 teachers of the academically advanced and for high school teachers of honors, advanced, and AP courses; and

  • developing educator preparation programs leading to licensure as K-8 teachers of the academically advanced in mathematics/science or the humanities.

Download PDF Document Full Report


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Links and Resources

Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document AP Courses by District and School 2006-2007

Advanced Placement Examination Fee Subsidy

Gifted and Talented Advisory Council

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education: Stanley Z. Koplik Certificate of Mastery



Last Updated: June 5, 2007
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