Should My Gifted Child Skip a Grade? - Institute for Educational Advancement
gifted child skip a grade

Should My Gifted Child Skip a Grade?

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.

Pros

Academic Satisfaction
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.

Cons

Emotional Unpreparedness
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.

Unexpected Challenges
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
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!

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10 Comments
  • Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
    Posted at 15:21h, 01 October Reply

    Great points. I especially appreciate the last line. Parents are the experts and it helps when a school truly listens.

    • Nicole LaChance
      Posted at 09:08h, 04 October Reply

      Thanks, Caitlin!

  • Genealogy Jen
    Posted at 23:13h, 03 October Reply

    Thank you for presenting a balanced perspective on grade acceleration. I think that it can be easy to focus on just the positive or negative aspects rather than painting a clear picture.

    • Nicole LaChance
      Posted at 09:08h, 04 October Reply

      Thanks, Jen!

  • Ro Hill
    Posted at 20:48h, 02 December Reply

    Just been reading for a literature review. Its great to read that pros and cons and it is critical that schools listen to the parents.

  • philip partridge
    Posted at 16:19h, 23 October Reply

    can you speak at all to the down side of not accelerating a child if a child is consistently under challenged what sorts of out comes are likely. considering that the school system has them for most of the week meaning that the time left over is limited to work with.

  • John Smith
    Posted at 09:35h, 22 January Reply

    Having been grade skipped, I think it is a horrible idea. I would never do it to a child. It’s a great way to destroy self esteem and leadership opportunities.

    • Another John Smith
      Posted at 15:24h, 21 November Reply

      I’m 33 now. My birthday is in late May, and I was skipped from the middle of 2nd grade into the middle of 3rd on the advice of teachers and administrators. This meant I was 16 years old for 95% of my senior year of high school, and it was awful. I passed AP Calculus at 16, and that’s something to brag about or whatever, but no matter what you think you’re accomplishing by bumping your child up, the social drawbacks of being 1-2 years younger than all of your friends and classmates are absolutely awful. Please for the love of god, let your children be children for a normal length of time. The most important stuff taught at school happens between classes.

  • Drevik
    Posted at 17:38h, 10 April Reply

    My son was not allowed to start school in our state because he was not 5 by Sept 30. So, his early October birthday kept him out of school, even though he could read and answer comprehension questions at 2. Also, he would lose his mind if he missed a question or because he could not write font perfect. (Yes at 2! I told him even adults can’t write font perfect.) In fact, my son as a toddler thought that I was stupid because he thought that I did not know answers to question that I would ask him like “What’s the capitol of California or New Jersey?” I had to play a video game of Trivial Pursuit to prove this to him. We did Time4Learning.com up to third grade work at age three. His writing abilities were not keeping up with his mind though. Because we believed that he was autistic (more like an aspie), he was in preschool for a couple years. Then, he attended kindergarten and started getting trouble regularly, especially for blurting. I also had to clarify to him that the teachers are also not stupid, when they ask questions of the students. To challenge him, I started doing book reports with him and sent them to the school but the teachers did not want to read them. I told them, “You don’t have to read them, as I read them. Just tell him ‘Good Job!’ ” He was tested at the university for autism and they said that he wasn’t but just extremely gifted. He is very much like Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory.” Because of our night schedule, we switched to virtual school. They offered to skip him ahead a grade but instead we opted to do two grades in one year. It was a lot of work but we did first and second. However for third, we wanted to focus more on trying to get his hands caught up to his brains. He prefers to dictate over typing or handwriting. His Map testing has him scoring average for an 11th grader (236 in reading and math), Now as we look towards fourth grade, I don’t know what to do. 1)They have offered to get him in the gifted and talented but it requires more live lessons which he finds boring and frustrating. They would be taught on a sixth grade level. 2) We could do multiple grades in a school year but that is a HUGE amount of “busy” work. The teacher is afraid that he will be in middle school before he is ready for it. Plus, his handwriting is horribly bad. 3) We could let him coast and get lazy. I could continue to teach him bonus material on my own. 4) We could push to get him tested for Davidson’s Academy by the time he enters 6th, but again he may not cope well with live lessons and his handwriting is poor. He is socially bad think Sheldon Cooper but we have him attend gymnastic classes with other kids for three hours a week. The neighborhood kids come over to use his Xbox but they are more friends with his device than with him. I have no idea what is best. What would you do with a Sheldon Cooper?

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