The name of the ACE curriculum has been around for 40 years, and the acronym – ACE – is catchy and projects a positive image, as in an “ace student” who “aces” his tests. The C stands for Christian, which doesn’t take much explanation, but deserves an exclamation point (one of the best selling points for this curriculum). And the E for Education is self-explanatory. It was initially designed to be used in Christian schools, especially small church schools that wanted to be able to offer K-12 education to every member of their church, and is now used by many homeschool families as well.
But what does the A for Accelerated really mean?
When ACE was first publishing and promoting their curriculum, they were touting the idea that students could move through the PACEs as quickly as they wanted and not be held back by other students. Each student could move at his own rate, and even accelerate through school.
The term also seems to communicate that the curriculum may be a notch ahead of other public school curricula and even Christian school curricula. In other words, it is similar to the connotation behind a phrase like “top-notch” or “ivy-league” college compared to other institutions.
For a period of time ACE changed their name to “School of Tomorrow” to communicate that they were using cutting-edge technologies and teaching methods and were therefore “accelerated” compared to the slower moving masses of normal education. That “brand-new technology” was VHS-players controlled by computers running DOS or Windows 3.1 to teach a few of the courses. As happens with any technology, breakdowns are frequent, the equipment becomes out of date quickly, and purchasing the equipment was expensive. The experiment didn’t last long before becoming out-dated and the tried-and-true paper PACES won the day! (Soon thereafter the name was changed from School of Tomorrow to ACE Ministries to better reflect their mission statement but School of Tomorrow still appears on some of their publications and products.)
Personally, I think the main distinguishing feature of the ACE curriculum is that it is “Individualized.” In other words, students can be placed at the level where they best function, can move at their own speed (whether that is a little faster or even a little slower to really get it), and can get the personalized help that they need in order to succeed! But I guess Individualized Christian Education doesn’t have the ring or acronym to it! (Though I think ICE is kinda cool! Pun intended J )
Here are a few observations to counter the wrong ideas about the term “accelerated:”
- Students should not be encouraged or pushed to finish their level early. If they move too quickly through the elementary levels and start high school PACES early they may not have matured enough to handle some of the abstract concepts and the vocabulary that has been designed for older students. Also, there is no real value in graduating early and entering college or the market place as a 16 or young 17 year old. (In fact I might argue that it is actually harmful to many teens). Instead, I would recommend that you broaden the education of your student with supplemental courses, extra outside reading, book reports, and projects. Turn a high school course into an honors course by adding a layer of additional work and learning
- If a student wants to finish his year’s work a couple of weeks early each year, that is actually very motivating – especially to boys, and particularly teen boys. Don’t hold them back! I allow our seniors to do half days in the spring or finish early if they have a part-time job and are on track to finish all their school work before graduation.
- If you have a particularly gifted and motivated student who wants to push hard through all his courses and finish high school early, explore the idea of dual enrollment at a local community college or online Christian college to get some college credits while living at home. ACE actually has some college courses available in PACE format, too. Those look good on a high school transcript and give him a taste of college level work! But still have him graduate at the end of four years of high school.
- After twenty years of being an ACE School principal and supervisor, I find that most high school students they are sufficiently challenged to complete the 12 PACES required in each subject each year. A few need a little prodding and other external motivation and incentive to get their required work done each year.
- The curriculum is easy in the elementary years but gets noticeably harder in 6th through 8th grade, and then is definitely high school level at grades 9-12. I plan to write an article later addressing in more depth the question, “Are the PACES too easy or dumbed down?”
I hope these observations about the term “accelerated” may help you keep your expectations in check since accelerated doesn’t mean your child will be guaranteed acceptance at Harvard, nor does it mean your child will whiz through high school in half the time! I suggest that if you substitute the word “Individualized” in place of accelerated you will have a better idea what the ACE curriculum is all about.