Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Take a test, skip a grade?

It seems like a fairly straightforward proposition: each grade represents a certain quantity of knowledge. If you already have mastered that knowledge, shouldn't you be able to show this on a test, and then move on to the next level? In other words, take a test, skip a grade?

Yet very few school districts offer that option. As I learned in the exchange with the Montgomery, MD schools, even some gifted programs seem to be structured around the belief that it is far better to receive in-grade enrichment than to skip a grade. Which is why I was quite interested to see this little notice about the Taylor Independent School District in Texas. According to the Taylor Daily Press:

Taylor ISD will offer examinations for acceleration in grades Kindergarten through twelfth grade on Aug. 18, 19 and 20.

Students must score at least a 90 on such a test to be advanced to a grade level in grades first through fifth or to receive credit in grades sixth through twelfth. Criteria for Kindergarten acceleration may be obtained from the Naomi Pasemann Elementary principal. No fee is required for the examination. Any students who wish to take an examination for acceleration must register with the principal of their school no later than Aug. 9.


How straightforward! I like the idea of an "acceleration exam." I know there is already an Iowa Acceleration Scale; a standardized acceleration exam in any state would make the whole process much easier. And hopefully, more common.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

You would expect administrators to jump on this idea to cut operating budgets. Of course, this would result in headcount reductions, which the unions almost certainly would fight.

Jo in OKC said...

Texas is required to offer exams like this. Oklahoma is, too.

Now, obviously it's a little unfair that you have to score 90 on the exam (and the exam can include book specific material), but at least there's a target there that you can prepare for. (Why is 90 unfair? That's basically saying that if I spent a year in the class and come out with a B, that's okay. But if I can only test at a B level on the advancement exam, then I have to spend the whole year "learning" the material.)

Annie said...

I really like this idea. It seems logical.

I wonder, however, if some of the schools' reticence is out of concern for social maturity.

My son did the coursework to complete the state requirements for a grade ahead of his age. (We home school.) No one questioned his ability, but the school questioned whether he would be comfortable in that classroom if he had to go back to a traditional school setting. Because he was academically advanced but emotionally typical, I had to agree.

He continues to work well ahead of grade level at home, but we've left his enrollment alone. Truthfully, I hope we don't have to go back to a traditional classroom, because I can't imagine any class being a good fit.

Still, I would rather see students have the option to challenge and move on. Although I think there is more to grade advancement that simple knowledge or skills, those are truly ready should be able to go.

Laura said...

This was not our experience in Texas. They do have CBE (Credit by Exam), but last year we were told that the State of Texas would only allow whole grade acceleration for K-8. Our desire was for single subject acceleration in mathematics, but to retain placement with his age-group peers for other classes. We hoped to use the CBE to definitely prove his qualifications (even though with his mathematics scores it was pretty obvious), but we were told we would have to wait until high school to accelerate in a single subject. He would have easily qualified for whole grade acceleration, but he likes his friends and wanted to stay with them as much as possible (but he was completely on board with acceleration in math).

It was one of the most frustrating experiences ever...we got a bunch of different answers until we got this final 'no.' I don't understand how the school can happily accelerate talented kids in band, art or theatre, but refuse to do so for a demonstrated need in an academic subject.

This proves that it is possible in the state to accelerate...I just have to decide if it's worth it to go back and fight this battle again (we ended up using an online class in addition to his 6th grade work, and he found that academic math team was very fulfilling and satisfying).

Heather Hanlin said...

I agree with other commentors, this is not as great as it seems. In order to skip a grade you have to score a 90 in all four domain sections, a 90 in Language arts, a 90 in Math, a 90 in Science AND a 90 in Social Studies. If you say score a 92 in one, a 96 in another but an 84 on the third you will not be grade skipped. I put my son through this ordeal twice and he "failed" to skip twice by a thin margin. Very frustrating.

On the other hand it was much better than the experience we've had in California--and I will now be schooling at home...

Anonymous said...

just reminds me of a comment my son's second grade teacher made. We do have 1 grade level acceleration in math starting in first but my son still needed more. they pretest the kids but don't move them up more than that one year until several years later. She said she was 'glad' to see that he didn't score >90% on the end of third grade math test at the beginning of 2nd grade. Note that it had concepts our son never had seen before since we didn't teach him math at home (he did score >90% on the end of first semester of 3rd grade test at the start of 2nd grade).

fast forward 5 years and we fight underachievement as he thinks he is not good in math (but will be taking algebra in 7th) He should be flying ahead more but has never learned to appreciate his talent)

Tracy said...

The comments about Texas' law are accurate; you must score 90% in each of the four subject areas to be able to accelerate if you are choosing to grade skip. What is ironic is that if you have already taken these classes and need the CBE to simply avoid retention, only a 70% score is needed.

So, in summary, if you have NEVER taken these classes, you must score 90% to pass, but if you HAVE taken the classes, you only need 70% to pass. I leave that for all to ponder.

din819go said...

thank you! is this by subject vs total grade? i have some reading to do...

Kevin said...

"if you have NEVER taken these classes, you must score 90% to pass, but if you HAVE taken the classes, you only need 70% to pass. I leave that for all to ponder. "

That seems completely reasonable to me. If a student doesn't get it (70-90%) after a year, then repeating the same class with the same teacher is not likely to help much. If a student has a superb grasp of it going in (>90%), then there is no point to sitting through it. If a student has a so-so grasp before starting, then the class might actually be valuable (though perhaps a bit too slow paced).

Of course, I believe that students should have a chance to change what class they are in for each subject every month or two, not just once a year. see http://gasstationwithoutpumps.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/placement-by-achievement/

Anonymous said...

Contrary to claims made about Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), grade—skipping based on academic achievement is supported by existing school policies (http://www.examiner.com/x-29782-DC-Gifted-Education-Examiner~y2010m8d6-A-public-school-system-with-policies-that-support-acceleration-for-gifted-children). I speak from first-hand experience. However, it is not an intervention that must be handed out indiscriminately—it does not suit everyone. It must be noted, MCPS identifies an average of 40% of second-graders as gifted (“The Potomac River Effect”), with many a school exceeding 50% (http://www.examiner.com/x-29782-DC-Gifted-Education-Examiner~y2009m11d22-The-Montgomery-County-gifted-and-talented-identification-process-for-spring-2009 ). The serious issue seems to be the devaluation of GT identification.

atxteacher said...

Even with grade skipping via Credit By Exam required in Texas, there is great variation in how it is applied. In the scenario Heather Hanlin painted, a district is free to go ahead and accelerate the student with an 84 in one area via an appeals process. Grade skipping and single-subject acceleration is starting to be accepted in my district. It's not so much from my pushing it, but from administrators and teachers seeing a need and wanting to meet it. It's quite refreshing to be in a place that allows for that! Seems like meeting kids' needs should be the goal of all districts, but policies aren't always so kid friendly.

Vanessa/Chelsea said...

Just thought of this. Wouldn't it be nice if any given 8 year old could be going into 2nd, 3rd or 4th. NO standard! AND it would only be out of the norm and called skipping if they were in 5th. I don't know.

Anonymous said...

Another voice from Oklahoma.

My daughter tested this past summer, and succeeded at getting a full grade acceleration from first to third.

In my opinion, the 90% threshold is way, way too high.

Mine passed with a 92 / 92 / 94 / 86 (and was recommended for promotion, at the district's discretion, despite the 86), so was not hugely above the cutoffs. Three weeks later, she took the end-of-third-grade OCCT (state standardized test used for NCLB) as a pretest, along with all of her classmates. Her scores on the pretest were 30+ points higher than the class average, and ~15 points lower than the prior year's 3rd graders had gotten on the end-of-year test.

Why did we have her tested? "I just want to be in a class where I'm in the middle, Mom." And for a kid who picks up on things quickly, starting out in the middle, or even at the bottom, is better than starting out ahead and being bored from the get-go.

We're 9 weeks in, and already trying to figure out what we're going to do for next year. I suspect subject acceleration, because she was young-for-grade before the skip, and is really feeling the age gap with only one skip.

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

"30+ points higher than the class average, and ~15 points lower than the prior year's 3rd graders had gotten on the end-of-year test."

Sounds like her placement is about right then. Another year forward might have been too much. It is generally better to skip in slightly too small increments rather than slightly too large ones, as it is less painful to skip again than to undo a skip

Anonymous said...

Would anyone know where to find these Texas acceleration laws that everyone is talking about? I am a soon to be Texas educator and can't even find them on the TEA website. Thanks!

Davidson Institute Staff said...

Hello Anonymous,

You might be able to find some useful acceleration information on this site: http://www.accelerationinstitute.org/Resources/Policy/By_State/Default.aspx. The Davidson Institute's Gifted State Policy page (www.davidsongifted.org/policy) also provides some useful info.

Huynh said...

I'm the aunt of a niece . She has been great in school . And all the teachings in her current grade is 7th, are all too easy for her . Yet the principle won't allow her to skip, because of her 6th grade star testing's score . It was a 5 & a 4, but she had some low score in them . But then over the summer she took a college class, which invited her in . So now she knows 7th & 8th grade things, yet they won't allow her to prove it... I was wondering if she moves to this specific school , that i know a friend of her had skip before .. Will let, if for her last quarter(fourth) she will have a 4.0 + her advance score in all subject in her Star testing + a 4.0 in the first quarter of 8th grade. Will they allow her to skip, after the process?

Anonymous said...

VK:
My son took the Texas credit by exam for skipping grade 2 and got 92, 92, 93 and 88. School will not let him skip grade since rules are 90% in each subject. Any suggestions. My son is heart broken. I am concerned that going to grade 2 will not be challenging and 1 year wasted.

Anonymous said...

The Texas eduction code (http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/rules/tac/chapter074/ch074c.html) requires Districts to allow kids to accelerate who meet the 90 required on all 4 tests, have a recommendation from the school, and parent permission. The wording is permissive, so that Districts can accelerate additional kids at their discretion. That "prior learning" requires only a 70 is not spelled out for K-5, only 6-12. Unfortunately, our school is taking the position that they will only accelerate our child with 4 90s, and the principal has refused to even meet with me to discuss my son's "prior learning". Acceleration has not been handled consistently within our school or even across our District. I was hesitant to continue the battle because my son is very social and asked me to let him stay with his friends. Two weeks into second grade and he's now asking me when he can start studying to skip third grade. Second grade is a "review and consolidation" year, if you're even thinking about having your kid skipped, it's the ideal year to do it!

Selena Gomez said...

This is true. My child did good on the test,although she did not get to raise her grade.But she did get to go inthe Gifted And Talented Program and now she is the smartest person in class!(her teacher told me.)
:D

Anonymous said...

I am concerned about my daughter whose birthday is Sept. 14. She currently goes to a private school for 1st grade. The school does a grade level ahead in reading and she and a few of her classmates have been given 3rd grade math.

Is there ANY way to get a waiver for her to get into the 3rd grade next year in Texas (since she JUST missed the Sept. 1 cut off)??

I don't want to put her through the hassles of FOUR separate tests, esp. since she probably might not get 90s in math and science (which is totally bogus as they re-learn the same things but just more thoroughly in the next grade levels -- i know this as she has an older brother).

I was a "bored" student while in elementary school and became a gross underachiever in later years.

HELP!!!

Anonymous said...

Hello anonymous(Aug 4, 2011).. my child is going to take grade 2 cbe in Texas in two weeks. Any pointers in preparing and also any lessons learned. You could reply here or send me a message to hellohi06@yahoo.com.
Thanks for your reply in advance.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. I understand they want children to "know" the information they're testing on. I mean if you score low then you obviously didn't know they information. But for the students who did and only scored in a B average it's not fair. They tried hard but couldn't make the cut. Then they would have to spend the whole year just going over the material. I say this cause I'm testing out and I'm nervous. I might not pass with an above 90 grade. Thos would tip me off.

Anonymous said...

can you skip 6th grade and move into middle school in the deer valley school district if you already attend school in a different district