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Why grade-skipping should be back in fashion

As the second month of school nears, some parents wonder if their children are getting all that they need. The lessons seem too simple. Their kids are bored. If they have been designated gifted, there may be occasional pull-out lessons to enrich what they are learning, but that may not be enough.

I have seen no data to confirm this, but it seems to me that schools rarely consider skipping those students ahead anymore. I have talked to Washington area administrators about this. They are uncomfortable with the approach. They think students who are above grade level learn better--with some extras thrown in--if they stick with kids their age.

A generation or two ago the attitude was different. I run into far more people my age who skipped a grade than I meet friends of my children who did the same thing. My wife skipped second grade in the early 1950s. Her parents had nothing to do with it. Six weeks into the school year in California, after attending a hard-charging school in Kansas, her teacher said, “You can already do this stuff. This is a waste.” She was suddenly a third grader.

Parents these days appear reluctant to sanction such a jump. If anything, the fashionable move is to make sure your child is a bit old for her grade. People put their children in kindergarten a year late so her chances of both academic and social success are enhanced. That is fine for kids who are late developers. But in the long-running debate over what to do with students ready for more, acceleration deserves another look.

In my experience, students are far more ready to adjust to age differences in their classes than we give them credit for. A 2004 study by the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development at the University of Iowa found that “an overwhelming majority” of students who had been accelerated endorsed the move when surveyed years later. They said they had been both academically challenged and socially accepted.

It can be both cheaper and more effective to move a child into a higher grade rather than hire an extra teacher to enrich his lessons where he is. I have argued, based on the complaints of many parents of gifted children, that they shouldn’t count on public schools to do a very good job with gifted education. It is difficult to find well-trained teachers with that specialty. Often that slot is one of the first to go in a budget crunch. Acceleration might solve the problem.

Last year Laura Vanderkam, who runs the Gifted Exchange blog, and education author Richard Whitmire of made many calls trying to find school districts that embraced grade skipping. There were very few, but the ones that did that had good ideas.

At Zumi Elementary School in Scottsdale, Ariz., all the math classes met in first period. Students went to whatever class they were ready for regardless of their age. In Lebanon, Penn., all children were screened for subject competency and offered a chance to take a higher grade version of that class, even if it meant a bus ride to another school.

My mother would never had allowed that. She was concerned about my social backwardness, and she had a point. But most children are not as immature as I was. We have fine schools in the Washington area. Why can’t they open the door to higher grades for kids ready for more than just an abridged version of the next logical step in their educations?

Read Jay's blog every day, and follow all of The Post's Education coverage on Twitter, Facebook and our Education Web page.

By Jay Mathews  | September 22, 2010; 8:00 PM ET
Categories:  Local Living  | Tags:  Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development at the University of Iowa, Gifted Exchange blog, Zumi Elementary School, acceleration better than gifted education classes, grade skipping, grade skipping less common than before  
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Why would an administrator EVER skip a child ahead to a level where they would just be average at standardized testing when they can be outstanding being tested on materiel they already knew?

Posted by: mamoore1 | September 22, 2010 10:34 PM | Report abuse

I would say that the trend is to keep a student with his/her peers for at least part of the day but to "accelerate" for certain classes.

Many school districts allow students to "move ahead" in math or reading. For example, some third graders skip third grade math and go on to fourth grade math. My son did this. My daughter did the 3rd grade math, but also the accelerated homework problems.

They may change classes for reading and be with a group that is reading books way above their grade level. Usually they stay with their classes for other subjects.

This is quite common. There are also gifted and talented programs now. Many high school courses in Montgomery County are taught to sixth, seventh and eighth graders. Some 8th graders take courses at their local high schools and take the bus back to middle school for other classes.

This happens especially in foreign languages and math.

Many students now take Algebra in 7th grade and Geometry in 8th grade. Those courses used to be offered in 9th and 10th grade.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 23, 2010 12:34 AM | Report abuse

I guess the question remains whether this is a truly gifted and talented program, because it is really just moving faster. Some kids get lost, like they are not mature enough for so much material so quickly. Most kids keep up and it seems to me that less kids are bored from going over the same thing again and again. But I think there has been some research done that the kids who move very quickly are missing out on some of the skills that require more time and practice, like long division, for example.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 23, 2010 12:39 AM | Report abuse

Interesting that you mention the trend of holding back children so that they are able to do well. I think that it is really ironic that working class parents often try to get their children to start earlier, to save money on childcare, while wealthy parents do the opposite to make sure their child has an advantage over others. A mom from a wealthy suburb told me that some parents started their kids late there so they would be better at sports than the other kids! I guess they want scholarships?

Posted by: celestun100 | September 23, 2010 12:44 AM | Report abuse

The reason why is few schools or systems have paid student advocates who, in the interest of quality, are there to meet the special needs of students—all students, as opposed to ‘special needs-students’. Parents often attempt to advocate for their children, whom are bored and unchallenged by a subject, to get them into a higher level class. Yet, families often run afoul of the bureaucracy and close-mindedness of your typical administrator. Often it requires the assistance of an assistant superintendent or similar official to motivate principals to sign-off on these student promotions.

Gifted-program students often get better treatment, as long as administrators pay attention to individual education program (IEP) documents. In my experience, IEP’s work best when written together with student, parent and a experienced gifted-education teacher of specifically gifted-education counselor or evaluator (in the room, all at the same time).
Note that in some places principals could care less if an IEP has been customized for a student.

However, you don’t have to be in a gifted-education program to be considered for grade or subject level promotion. The example in the post about moving to different states or districts is very good reason. Apart from this, I think there is a more problematic systemic issue for many students in general. Too often students are prodigious in a particular subject or three, but effectively held-back from this type of promotion because they may not have top grades in all classes. A student may be a genius when it comes to history, government and geography, but due to their mediocre grades in science subjects and English, they’re deemed unworthy of special treatment. This conflation of performance potential from one subject to another is wrong on many levels. Many educators are guilty of this fallacy.


Posted by: professor70 | September 23, 2010 1:22 AM | Report abuse

Student advocates are a solution. A better one is to allow teachers, school counselors or psychologists to make the grade of subject-level changes when they see the need to do so. Requiring administrator signatures—often several—to approve this kind of promotion is what often sinks these efforts. Required signatures from department heads are even worse, due to their persnickety prerequisites:

(a short screenplay)

Mrs. Crabapple, the Language Arts Chair, “I’m sorry Mrs. Jones, but your Mary is just not allowed to move up from Literature 7 to Literature 8 unless she’s completed A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations!”

Mrs. Jones, “Mary devoured the Victorians two summers ago. I’m sure of this because she uses my Kindle and I can see what she’s gone through. She and I talk about the books. The Bronte’s, Dickens, Alcott, Twain and Hawthorne are all dead to her now—buried under the long shade of a linden tree. She needs to move on. Have you met my daughter? Why don’t you ask her about the copy of Studs Terkel’s Working I found on her bedstand. She may be 13 and may have vomited twice in biology lab this year, but she can handle it or anything you plan of boring her to tears with in Lit 8. Bring on the scary stuff: Poe, Jack London, Hemmingway, Conrad, the Tolkein—yes, she know it’s really about World War 1. For god-sakes she is right now deciding which of Tuchman’s histories to ‘Evelyn Wood’ through next week. Will just sign the form!?!


My point is: Stop the archaic bureaucratic madness! Move student regardless of age or grade into the appropriate level courses.

Posted by: professor70 | September 23, 2010 1:24 AM | Report abuse

We live in a district in NY with no gifted ed. The school will not consider the idea of skipping a kid ahead. Their mantra is "all children are gifted". In reality, they just want to keep the advanced students at grade level so the district keeps its state test scores high.

Posted by: bkmny | September 23, 2010 6:06 AM | Report abuse

Jay - both of your examples involved something OTHER than grade-skipping. There are many similar ways to make sure that kids are challenged at the optimal level and, though the 'reformers' would disagree, those ways are good for improving achievement by all measures, and for all children. Traditional grade-skipping doesn't do this. Instead it makes it easier to tout the traditional one-size-fits all type of teaching that doesn't make us very well educated.

Posted by: Linson | September 23, 2010 7:26 AM | Report abuse

In the 60's, my brother's 5th grade teacher (a male) highly suggested that my brother skip 6th grade tho' he was already the youngest in the class. Interestingly, his grades weren't that great since he rarely did his homework, yet, he aced his tests. He found homework to be exceptionally awful (since he already knew the material and considered homework a utter waste of his time) and would much rather be playing outside with his friends after school and then conduct his own learning activities in the evening. Yes, back then, kids rode bikes, climbed trees, hiked, played kickball, and other healthy stuff. So, when he wasn't out playing, he was reading through all (I do mean all) the science and history books from the school libray. Of course, there was also his chemistry set and his microscope set that kept him very busy and entertained. I remember my mother having to go to the pharmacy to sign off of some of the materials that he needed for chemistry. Maybe not the safest stuff for kids to mess with, but whatever.

What became of my brother? He decided to not skip 6th grade; he wanted to stay with his friends. However, by the time junior high rolled around, he realized that he had to do that homework stuff anyway. While I recall all of the fanfare about his high SAT score (nobody seemed to study for it then and only took it once anyway), he never had stellar grades. However, he went to college, received a degree in accounting and is now the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Happily married, with kids and enjoys traveling the world.

Posted by: shadwell1 | September 23, 2010 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Correction: I had CFO on the mind. He is actually a VP.

Posted by: shadwell1 | September 23, 2010 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Even when grade-skipping is an option (it's not unheard-of in our district), parents of younger children may hesitate because the difficult social atmosphere in middle schools is even harder for children who are not yet adolescent, or not yet as far advanced into adolescence. This is not a trivial issue; middle school can be three or four years of misery on the social side. Picture a naive ten-year old taking classes with attitude-filled 14-year olds.

Posted by: jane100000 | September 23, 2010 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Three comments:

1) It doesn't need to be an all or nothing. Subject acceleration can provide appropriate challenge and classroom learning without all of the social (and financial) implications of a grade skip.


2) Acceleration doesn't solve the pace issue for kids who learn more quickly than others. This means the accelerated kid may need to do so again, or enrich with the acceleration.


3) The current trend is to worry about "stress" from hard academics. Kids are told to not take all honors/APs, etc. . Of course, this means kids never know what they can do when they try (but they never fail!)

Posted by: mom22 | September 23, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Each gifted child should have acceleration options tailored to their academic talents and family choice and should not necessitate skipping years of a free and appropriate education before age eighteen (unless they chose to).
For example, grades 1-6th could be compressed into four years through subject acceleration. They could then follow with one year of middle school instruction and five or six years of honors and AP level high school courses.
In this way, they will have created a transcript that makes them competitive for highly selective colleges rather than attending a local cc or non-selective college as a 14-year-old commuter student.

Posted by: wednesdaydog | September 23, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I have a child who skipped 2 grades in elementary school (in another state) and is now in HS in fairfax county. Yeah, there have been a couple of times when it's been socially hard. But academically, I can't imagine what else they could have done. This is a kid who was in 7th grade taking algebra at 10 and still at the top of the class. Can schools really be expected to accomodate this level of difference in age appropriate classrooms? Frankly speaking, they don't do anywhere close to a decent job of it. Grade acceleration is not perfect but it requires no extra funding and addresses the problem as well as anything.

The biggest obstacle to grade skipping is adult attitudes. If adults could get over themselves and be more accepting it'd eliminate a lot of the problems; honestly most kids are ok with it and the ones who aren't usually have PARENTS who have issues with it.

School attitudes are bad too.. often they don't believe such a child exists as can be that far ahead. It's as though it might imply the school is inadequate...take fairfax county, for one of the "best school districts in the country" they seem to think their setup is above question. It is excellent so it must be excellent for everyone.

Another equally big problem is not about student welfare or the outcome for an individual student. It's that schools fear opening the floodgates. By skipping one kid, they will be inundated with parents who are convinced their child should be advanced as well. I've met them - it's some kind of status thing for a lot of people... so this concern is not unfounded, but it's a lousy reason to deny appropriate accomodation for those who really do need it.

Posted by: littlebs | September 23, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for posting this article. For those who don't believe in grade skipping, please read the cited study, A Nation Deceived, from the Belin-Blank Center. The evidence that grade skipping and other related acceleration strategies works when done appropriately is extensive.

In my 30 years experience as an educator and advocate, the biggest obstacle for grade skipping comes from administrators who cite an anecdotal tale about a student who did not thrive after acceleration; the research on this subject is routinely ignored. I hope this article will change a few minds.

Posted by: tweinberg | September 23, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

What great comments, giving us inside information on skipping that is being done and smart ideas for making acceleration work. More please. As you know, personal stories like many I see here are extremely valuable.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | September 23, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

One downside where I teach is the competitiveness of the parents. If we started skipping some kids, we'd have a whole group of people who wanted their kids skipped and we'd in the position of having to explain why NOT skip someone instead of having them try to explain why we should.

Posted by: pittypatt | September 23, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Skipping full grades is controversial for good reason: it's rare that the student is a full grade (or 2) ahead in all subjects, and the social development often does not coincide with the academic knowledge.

The two people I knew who were skipped - one was skipped 1 grade, the other skipped 2 grades - were out of sync with their peers and had great difficulties socially well into middle age.

Then there are students, like my grandson, who are 4 or 5 grade levels above their peers in specific subjects, but are emotionally 2 or 3 years BEHIND their peers....think you have to go student by student, and make some very careful adjustments. In my grandson's case, he is staying with his 2nd grade peer level class, but is being given resource support in his gifted and social areas. The parents and school are taking it year by year.

I hold broad data generalizations to be suspect.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | September 23, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Skipping full grades is controversial for good reason: it's rare that the student is a full grade (or 2) ahead in all subjects, and the social development often does not coincide with the academic knowledge.

The two people I knew who were skipped - one was skipped 1 grade, the other skipped 2 grades - were out of sync with their peers and had great difficulties socially well into middle age.

Then there are students, like my grandson, who are 4 or 5 grade levels above their peers in specific subjects, but are emotionally 2 or 3 years BEHIND their peers....think you have to go student by student, and make some very careful adjustments. In my grandson's case, he is staying with his 2nd grade peer level class, but is being given resource support in his gifted and social areas. The parents and school are taking it year by year.

I hold broad data generalizations to be suspect.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | September 23, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

It's interesting.....many of the advanced students at the small high school where I teach skipped a grade in elementary school. They are all extremely intelligent and NEED as many academic challenges as they can get their hands on. Scholastically, skipping the grade seems to have been the way to go.

However, none of them participate in sports. Several have tried club activities, but have had difficulty working with the other students. Groupwork (even with other bright students) is agony - the social skills are simply not there. It isn't unusual to see challenging work or low grades greeted with crying fits in the classroom or utter meltdowns in the hallway. Many eat lunch by themselves and spend much of their time before and after school trying to be "friends" with the adults in the school. I doubt that many date and I rarely see any at dances or other school functions. Socially and emotionally, they are light years behind their chronological peers.

There is such a social/academic trade-off when it comes to skipping grades. I'm glad that my advanced students are academically ready for life at an Ivy League school, but I worry about them in the dorm and cafeteria at college. College is so much more than academics and without mature coping skills it can be an incredibly difficult 4 years. I hope that we haven't created such lopsided students that they will be unable to function in life after high school

Posted by: mtnmeyer2 | September 23, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

While there may be parents who don't like the idea of grade skipping, it is my experience in the Fairfax, VA school district, that it is the elementary schools that don't like the idea.

And then, even when you can convince the school to accept one grade skip, heaven help you if your child needs two or more grade skips.

Remember: if a kid is self-accelerating at a pace faster than 99.x% of the rest of the kids, they will need to skip grades more than just one time.

Posted by: NoJunk | September 23, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

I agree that the biggest obstacle to accelerated students is teacher/administrator bias. My son skipped from 2nd grade into 4th grade, and many teachers, citing anecdotal evidence, were convinced he would not succeed, either academically or socially. He is now a straight-A junior in high school, taking a full load of AP courses and loving every minute of it. His PSAT scores were stellar, he is involved in extracurricular activities, and he gets along well with his peers, many of whom mistake him for a senior. Some children are just born with an affinity for learning, and teachers should not be afraid to let them follow their natural inclinations.

Posted by: lutzena | September 23, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

I don't think it is always the administrators that discourage grade skipping. I remember my daughter's friend who suddenly began reading very clearly and without hesitation as I picked the just- turned- four- year- olds up from preschool. Later, her mom told me the school district had her tested and she could have skipped kindergarten. Her mom laughed and said "Socially, she NEEDS kindergarten." Later the little girl did attend a Gifted/Talented school.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 23, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

I think the thing with elementary school is that there is so much social stuff going on.

Younger children tend to be more sensitive and have a sort of innocence that doesn't always work with fifth graders.

I think that skipping grades is not really the answer. The kids need to be able to do the social activities that the kids do to be able to learn.

I wouldn't really want one of my children in with a bunch of 8th graders when my child is in 5th or 6th grade. Maybe one or two classes. All day? No thank-you.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 23, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Grade skipping isn't the best solution because of uneven abilities and discrepancies between academic readiness & social & emotional maturity. What we need more of in this country is specialized schools for gifted students. Every large city should have at least one of these schools as should every county with a large enough population of gifted students.

Posted by: CrimsonWife | September 23, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

As one of those who was "skipped" and part of a program known in NY as rapid advance where you do three years of Jr High in two years I would think very hard before I skipped a child. I found myself a sophmore in high school the only 13 year old surrounded by 15 year olds. Yes I could easily do the work, but I was way out of my league socially. It's been well over 50 years but I still regret it. I never fit in, hated high school and underperformed well into college. It wasn't till after I'd graduated that I realized I was in the wrong field, and stated over, I was way to young to make that kind of decision

Posted by: wrsc424 | September 23, 2010 7:57 PM | Report abuse

I have taught both 15 year olds and 13 year olds and can imagine how tough that must have been.

I once taught a 7th 8th grade split class, which would be 13 year olds and 12 year olds and the 13 year olds really just had this age hierarchy thing going. Just awful.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 23, 2010 10:24 PM | Report abuse

The problem is that "skipping" kids would mean that almost all suburban kids would be ready for 8th grade by fourth grade. Most of the curriculum is simply repeated to let the slower kids kept up.

So why skip a kid two years ahead, when they are four or five years ahead of their peers?

Again, Jay, you never seem to consider the problems introduced with heterogeneous student bodies with cognitive abilities differing by a standard deviation or more.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | September 23, 2010 11:03 PM | Report abuse

My anecdotal experience: I didn't skip a grade, but I did sit in on the next grade up's math classes in elementary school. From my point of view, that was a good way to go. In middle school, there was one standard honors math class when I was in 6th grade, but my teacher let me and two or three other students just work at our own pace ahead of the class. That was also an effective solution. I was pretty good with most of my other subjects, and I think skipping a grade would have worked out as well. The important thing was that I had challenging material to keep me interested.

I was a nerd in high school who wasn't really popular. That would have been the case whether I was a year ahead, a year behind, or, as I was, right in the middle of my grade's age range. I think I turned out okay.

Posted by: tomsing | September 24, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

I work in a school district that does a fair amount of grade skipping and am the mother of a boy who skipped 2 grades. My son fit in much better socially with each skip. He graduated shortly after his 15th birthday with honors, received all 5s on his AP exams and attained a perfect SAT-M w/o a course on test prep. He is still friends with some of his HS peers and never connected - either then or now - with his age mates. HS was his best experience socially - he really fit in and made lifelong friends. He really didn't fit in at all in the elementary grades.

In our district we interviewed every grade skpped student we could find several years ago as we studied our acceleration policies and practices. We found more than 50 grades 1-12 and with only 2 exceptions were pleased by the results and would chose to skip again if they could go back and relive the decision. The 2 who felt negatively about it shared one unique characteristic - they both felt that it was "done to them" and that they had no voice in the decision. The others, whether at first grade or in HS, felt that they were included in the decision in an age appropriate way. They were allowed to ask question and get their fears and concerns addressed. Some of these were as simple as "where is the bathroom in that hall" or "what if I forget my locker combination." They have someone at the school who is their designated advocate - someone they can go to, usually a teacher, counselor or GT Advisor. We continue to do a fair amount of grade and subject acceleration and it is quite successful for our students. We are careful and deliberate in our process which helps it be successful. We also provide opportunities for a very few kids to begin kindergarten at age 4 or to take classes at the university so we accelerate students throughout the PreK-post12 spectrum. The reality is that it works. The mythology is that it doesn't.

Posted by: becky6 | September 24, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

"It can be both cheaper and more effective to move a child into a higher grade rather than hire an extra teacher to enrich his lessons where he is. I have argued, based on the complaints of many parents of gifted children, that they shouldn’t count on public schools to do a very good job with gifted education."

Well, it's certainly cheaper, and given the budget situation it may be the only option available. But "cheaper" and "more effective" seldom go together neatly. From a social standpoint, it would be better when possible to cluster group same-age advanced learners and let them learn together in the subjects in which they are advanced. What you hear gifted students' parents complaining about is the schools' unwillingness to do this because they consider it "tracking."

And why on earth would you argue that taxpaying parents of gifted kids shouldn't count on getting an appropriate education for their kids in public schools? Why don't you argue for better gifted education instead?

Posted by: ragingmoderate | September 24, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I don't think skipping a child a whole grade is wise. As others have mentioned above, maybe 'gifted' children can take certain courses at a higher level, but don't skip them to a higher grade. What administrations forget, I feel, is that yes maybe one is gifted in education, but that's one year of school that they lose to grow socially. Of all the kids I know who have been skipped they lack social abilities to the extreme. I for one strongly oppose skipping no matter how book smart an individual is.

Posted by: lcollins2780 | September 24, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

My 6yo son just skipped first grade in our local public school in a mid-sized midwestern city. It has been mostly a success, except he is still underchallenged in many academic areas. The trouble is that he still writes like a 1st grader. The fabulous news is that our school staff recognize this asychronous development, and they are working to accommodate him by overlooking or helping him in areas where he is still age-appropriate in his skills. I think this approach is similar to how children at the other end of the spectrum are being accommodated. I think people should look at gifted kids as having special educational needs, just like kids who are struggling. There is no perfect fit for any kid, but a grade skip is an inexpensive way to get gifted kids closer to the academic challenges they need.

Full grape skipping, along with subject acceleration, has been working for the most part for our son. But each kid must be looked at individually. My son is quite social this year, in contrast to when he was in kindergarten and rarely spoke. I think he is finally finding kids who share his interests. We feel incredibly lucky that a grade skip was an option.

Posted by: stpauligirl | September 24, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

There is a great tool for looking at all the various factors that go into making a grade-skip successful - the Iowa Acceleration Scale and the manual that tells how to use it. (I believe information on this can be found at the Belin-Blank link in the article.) Anyone thinking about a grade-skip for their child or a child at their school would do well to get that manual. It's a structured approach to thinking about the issue and helps with making the decision based more on the student and less on anecdote.

By the way, I've been surprised to find that *many* of the people I know were grade-skipped in elementary. This info never came to light until my son accelerated one whole grade this year (+ additional math subject acceleration).

Posted by: fennbrook | September 24, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Kids don't get skipped if they will only be "average" the next grade up, although this can be debated. If a school skips a kid these days, the kid still ranks in the top of the class in the next grade. Which is all the more reason why that kid really needed to be skipped.

I really don't understand the latest fashion of holding your kids back a year. This trend further hurts the advanced students who sometimes are held back despite their abilities and the skipped/accelerated students who are now in class with kids 2 years older.

Posted by: wangwoman | September 24, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

I forgot to add that the deciding factor in the grade skip was the Iowa Acceleration Scale mentioned above by fennbrook. Initially, the school recommended first-grade placement with 3rd grade math and reading. I requested that the IAS forms be filled out, and then the school agreed that a full-grade skip was more appropriate in our situation. It was a great tool, which involved scoring the student based on several objective factors to determine whether he/she would be a good candidate for acceleration.

Posted by: stpauligirl | September 24, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

My father, born in 1916, was skipped; a small post-WWI baby boom meant the schools encouraged skipping to get the older kids out of the way building more rapidly. He always insisted it accounted for his problems with his check book, although my mother and I were more inclined to blame is atrocious handwriting, but in his 80s he still had dinner with many of those he grew up with.

My mother grew up in a peripatetic household and eventually ended up graduating at 17 simply because in the 1920s the school placed new students based on their last school's records, and having attended several very small, one-room school, she had picked up lessons from the older students. She also formed many close friendships.

I learned to read at 4 and in the mid-1950s my mother was unsuccessful in having me skipped, with the school citing both my social development and my less-than-stellar arithmetic skills. (They could have ignored the last factor; my math is still less-than-stellar.) By this time, the "social peer" argument held sway; actually, the post WWII baby boom and suburbanization made it impossible to skip a child, since there was often no room--literally--in the classroom for another student. I never made many friends in school. Partly, I wouldn't have anyway, since there were few girls my age living nearby, my family was the only non-religious family in a basically conservative area, my parents turned off television cartoons during dinner and made Saturday at the library a family tradition, and in a neighborhood of farmers, my parents both returned to college at mid-life. (I also was a near-sighted klutz and hit puberty in fifth grade; my athletic brothers, physically on target, fared much better.) Not until high school did I form any close friendships, and not until college can I recall reading the same books my friends read, except for school assignments. I now have many friends who share my interests.

Face it, an elementary schoolchild reading at a junior-high or high-school level--and reading junior-high or high-school material, simply isn't going to have many "social peers."

I have met many early readers who had the same problem--we preferred company of adults not because we were younger than our classmates but because we were mentally more mature than those "children" we were placed with.

And, by the way, "social peers" was also used at the time to justify not holding a poor student back--and we all know how well that worked out!

Posted by: sideswiththekids | September 24, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

sideswiththekids, thank you for pointing out the social downside of NOT skipping. People wrongly assume that children who are skipped are socially awkward for that reason, ignoring the idea that those kids are socially out of sync just because they are so different, it really doesn't matter what grade they are in. I hated school, was not skipped as the school suggested because my parents were concerned about these social aspects. Even so, I never fit in with my age peers. And because I was essentially held back, I also learned to coast through school and never learned to apply myself.

There might be negative points to accelerating children through school, but there are just as many negatives associated with holding students back.

Posted by: ATexasMom | September 24, 2010 10:42 PM | Report abuse

I skipped first grade and hated always being the youngest. It didn't make much of a difference academically considering all the trouble it was.

My 14-year-old son was recommended for four honors classes in high school - I told him he could choose three. Why? Honors (and GT) aren't taught in an accelerated manner - they are just MORE hours of work. If a general ed class assigns 50 math problems, the honors class should be assigning 20, rather than the entire 50 plus another 50 of the "enrichment" subject. After all, the honors kids learn faster, so they need less repetition, not more! Instead of evaluating a novel in a more sophisticated way, an honors English class assigns more books. Honors Science? Add 12 hrs/wk for mandatory Science Fair.

Part of the problem is the self-selection (and parent selection) aspect of honors classes. Kids and parents react to the pressure to have honors classes on the transcript. I wonder how many kids actually learn less in the honors class, being exposed to more material, than they would have in a regular class with a pace that is more appropriate for them.

I want my kids to be challenged but also to have the time to explore other things and to see learning as enjoyable, not burdensome. Honors classes should make better use of time rather than just taking up more of it.

My son is on his way to the Virginia State Fair with his band, Nocturnal Rush, which is performing tonight. He is on the road to Eagle Scout. These are experiences you can't get in a classroom or by doing an extra 100 math problems or reading half a dozen extra books.

Posted by: awrosenthl | September 26, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

I skipped second grade in the mid-50s. As is often the case with gifted students (based on my observation of my sons, both GT), teachers, counselors, and administrators expect a student who has skipped a grade to be an A student in the higher grade. If the student doesn't fulfill this expectation, regardless of the reason, it's the student's fault.
There's been talk about skipping my 11-year-old granddaughter, and I'm proud of the way my daughter stands up to the pressure. She reminds people in the school that no matter how bright Ally is, she's still a little girl. Why should she not be allowed to enjoy that instead of, as I did, having to spend a lot of time feeling out of place?

Posted by: amstphd | September 27, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

I agree with those suspect of blanket data. Data is useful for some general ideas, but especially when education is involved, individual cases need to be analyzed case by case.

I wanted to point out re: the concern of social development the fact that anecdotes aren't applicable fact. Some children, regardless of if they are skipped or not, will be socially behind no matter what you do. Which isn't to say acceleration hasn't been a factor in these cases, but do you think a child who can do coursework and think on a level several grades about their age peers are really going to fit in socially?

Skipping wasn't encouraged in my district and the one case during my schooling involved a long, bitter battle. Those of us at the top of the class, bored by classwork and taking on outside projects well above our levels for academic stimulation were just as socially awkward as one might expect. We were surrounded by children our own age, and dagnabbit, I was STILL incredibly irritated when Zachary couldn't build the darn lego castle to the diagram's specifications.

I could have been horrendously awkward and out of place 2 grades above, but at least I wouldn't have been bored and mostly wasting my time... and resented by my age peers for being advanced.

To summarize: social awkwardness, introvertedness detrimental to development, and inability to make friends easily isn't always a side effect of skipping grades. Sometimes (and probably quite often) it's a concurrent occurrence.

Posted by: giftedtaco | September 27, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Dear Jay,
Grade-skipping is simply taking a student from one grade level curriculum to the next. Meeting the needs of a gifted child is completely different. Gifted children enjoy questioning, offer numerous solutions in problem solving, synthesize information, need little if any repetition for mastery, and much more. These children thrive in a classroom where the educator is trained to provide an academic environment that lends itself to higher level and more complex thinking. Gifted children should be challenged by other gifted children. These children often have different social and emotional needs. Grade-skipping puts children into an older age group, not a better educational opportunity. It is an outdated solution to budget constraints and our unfortunate attitude towards the future of the gifted child. Think about it: Would you recommend placing students who are not performing at grade level back a year?

Posted by: wellskovich | September 28, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

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