by Nicole LaChance, Marketing & Communications Coordinator
It’s a question almost every parent of a gifted child struggles with at some point: should my child skip a grade (or more)? For many gifted children, grade acceleration is beneficial. Students are placed in classes where they are truly challenged and with peers more on their intellectual level. But, for some children, skipping a grade can be harmful to their social and emotional development. Being away from age group peers and automatically viewed as the “whiz kid” has the potential to lead to bullying or other emotional damage.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. (Frustrating, I know.) However, there are some common pros and cons to guide you as you make the decision.
Several studies have shown that children who accelerate do not suffer academically. In fact, their grades are often higher than their peers who did not accelerate and on par with older students in their grade-level, according to SENG. Accelerated students also report increased interest in and enthusiasm for school, leading to a higher rate of academic satisfaction.
Community of Intellectual Peers
Several studies have noted that, when students are among intellectual peers, they feel better socially and perform better academically. Allowing a child to skip ahead places them in learning environments with students who, while not their age, are on par with them intellectually. This community is invaluable for all children, but can be particularly meaningful for gifted students who have never before experienced it.
Reduced Behavior Problems
Behavior teachers see as trouble-making is often boredom for the gifted student. These students spend up to 50% of their class time waiting for other students to catch up and grasp the material. As a result, they engage in activities to occupy their downtime, which can include distracting other students and disrupting lessons. However, when students feel challenged by academic material, they are less likely to cause problems in the classroom. Additionally, being appropriately challenged can help behavior later in life by building appropriate coping skills for encountering obstacles.
Since gifted children sometimes experience asynchronous development, they may be academically advanced but emotionally immature. If a child is already lagging behind their peers emotionally and socially, acceleration into an older age group could intensify the problem, especially if there are not many other accelerated students. While certainly not an issue for all gifted children, it’s important for parents to consider their child’s temperament and if they can handle the pressures of being the young kid in class.
Gifted kids who are being considered for acceleration are often used to being at the top of the class. When moving up, this may change and can present frustration for some students. Parents should prepare students for this ahead of time, support them as they adjust to the new environment and ensure them they are not a failure if other students are above them or the arrangement doesn’t work out.
Bullying is an unfortunate reality in the modern school system, most notably for any child perceived as “different.” Ken Newman, who skipped a grade in elementary school and went on to attend Cornell University at age 15, recounts being bullied in high school for being smaller and younger-looking than his classmates. This can be especially prevalent in middle school, where the differences of gifted kids are most likely to be noticed. Luckily, incidents like Newman’s are more outliers than the norm, but they still happen on occasion.
If skipping an entire grade isn’t ideal for your gifted student, there are other options.
“Skipping a grade isn’t the answer for every gifted student,” said Maureen Marron of the Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. “Acceleration means matching the curriculum to a student’s abilities. For one student, that may mean grade skipping; for another, it may mean acceleration in a single subject, like math; for other students, enrichment-based activities in the classroom are all they need.” Other acceleration options include starting kindergarten early, enrolling in high school AP courses or advancing to college.
At IEA, we believe every child has a unique set of needs, and whether or not grade acceleration is the right choice depends on the needs and personality of your child. And no one knows your child like you.
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This post is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop Grade Acceleration. Please click the image below to keep on hopping!