Skipping a grade may give bright students the challenge they can’t get in their assigned classroom, but take away their comfort of being with kids their own age and size.
Parents, teachers, and students have lots of questions about the pros and cons of skipping a grade. Skipping a grade was a much more common solution 50 years ago for a child who already knew how to do the work being assigned. Teachers often made the decision and second-graders were sent to third grade. Extremely bright people have graduated from high school at a young age and go on to finish college well under the normal four years. But more recently, schools opt for keeping gifted children in their age-appropriate class, citing social concerns and fear of pressuring students as their reasons for doing so.
Should students skip a grade? Who should make the decision? What information should be considered? What are the pros and cons of students skipping a grade?
Authors of the report, “A National Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students,” explain that they did not choose the word “deceived” in the title lightly — these educators believe that America “ignores excellence,” and not accelerating bright students “deceives ourselves, our students, and the nation.” Skipping a grade is only one form of acceleration, or moving through the usual school curriculum faster than normal, and students can also be challenged by starting school early or taking advanced courses. It is difficult to find any research or studies that show skipping a grade, or some other form of acceleration, isn’t good academically for high achieving students. A University of Iowa report titled “A Nation Empowered” states that years of research supports the positive impact of accelerating bright students, but Joseph Cardillo, Ph.D., believes that skipping a grade could be devastating to a child easily frustrated or upset by failure.
Sara Rivera, author of “The Ins and Outs of Skipping a Grade,” warns that because students who skip a grade are younger than the others in their class, they may not be friends with the more mature, popular kids. Another warning given by Linda Powers Leviton, a psychotherapist who specializes in the needs of the gifted, is that there may be added peer pressure to fit in with older students and to do things that they aren’t ready for such as driving or dating. A different viewpoint from the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development at the University of Iowa is that gifted students can benefit socially because they can socialize with older students who share their interests and are of the same intellectual level. “For some children,” this study states, “acceleration may finally provide the opportunity to make a friend.”
If your child is a gifted athlete as well as a gifted student, skipping a grade can create a problem. A long and successful high school athletic career can be the forerunner to a college scholarship or professional sports career. A child who completes high school at an accelerated pace may not have the opportunity to explore extra-curricular activities and gain the experience to excel at a sport.
Funding and staffing for gifted programs are often problems for public schools and skipping a grade may be a cost effective way of challenging and rewarding bright, intelligent students. Other options can include starting kindergarten early, options for accelerated classes in specific subjects at all grade levels, or fast-tracking to college through advanced placement classes. The report, “A National Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students,” doesn’t leave any room for doubt as it states: “The key question for educators is not whether to accelerate a gifted learner, but rather how.” Parents, educators, and students must together to determine whether skipping a grade is the right answer.