Wednesday, November 11, 2015

When to skip a grade, when not to (plus DITD program info)

I had a conversation with a father recently whose highly gifted son had needed more challenge. The school recommended accelerating him a grade. The family didn't want to do that, and wound up putting him in a private school where they thought he could get more individual attention and flexible grouping (there were smaller, multi-grade classes).

Obviously, any situation has its own particular complications. But it got me thinking about when skipping a grade is the right choice, and when it might not be.

My first thought was that this boy's school was pretty rare. Educators in general do not have a positive view of full-grade acceleration. This is why it is a massively under-utilized option, compared to the situations in which it would be useful. Acceleration does not cost anything. It may save taxpayers money! It can be done in different doses (one grade, two grades, etc.) People are often worried about social outcomes, but the A Nation Deceived report addressed those pretty well. There aren't many to worry about. In any case, a quick view around a 6th grade class will show that people mature at incredibly different rates anyway.

That said, it's not perfect for every situation. A child who has extreme gifts in one subject (e.g. math), but is more toward grade level in everything else, would not be made whole by a whole grade acceleration. That child needs an individualized study in math -- perhaps the ability to take college classes early -- and could likely be accommodated in his/her age-grade the rest of the time.

A child who is highly-attuned to fitting in and being like everyone else may rebel at the idea of a whole grade acceleration within the same school. Parents have to make the ultimate decision, but the child's thoughts and feelings need some consideration too. A grade skip may be better done when people would be switching schools anyway, or moving.

Finally, the question is what the other options are. If there is an alternative school available -- a gifted magnet school, perhaps, or a feasible private school that could offer individual attention -- then those options can be thrown into the mix alongside whole grade acceleration.

When do you think skipping a grade is a good option, and when not?

In other news: The Davidson Institute, which sponsors this blog, has several programs with deadlines coming up. Please see below.

2016 Davidson Fellows $50,000, $25,000 and $10,000 Scholarships

The Davidson Institute for Talent Development offers high-achieving young people across the country the opportunity to be named a 2016 Davidson Fellow, an honor accompanied by a $50,000, $25,000 or $10,000 scholarship in recognition of a significant piece of work in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Music, Literature, Philosophy or Outside the Box. Applicants must submit an original piece of work that is recognized as significant by experts in the field and that has the potential to make a positive contribution to society. The scholarship may be used at any accredited college or university. The deadline to apply is Feb. 10, 2016. For additional information, please visit

2016 THINK Summer Institute – Three-Week Academic Residential Program

The Davidson Institute is seeking gifted teens to attend the 2016 THINK Summer Institute. THINK is a three-week residential summer program on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno where students can earn up to six college credits by completing two university courses. The 2016 THINK Summer Institute will run from July 9 through July 30. Tuition is $3,500 and covers course credits, books and materials, room and board, and the cost of planned activities. Need-based scholarships are available. To qualify, students must be 13 to 16 years old during THINK and must submit a SAT or an ACT score report. The application deadline is April 1, 2016. To learn more about THINK, please visit

Davidson Young Scholars Application Available

The national Davidson Young Scholars program provides FREE support, information and resources to families of profoundly gifted students. Through an online community and annual event, Young Scholars have the opportunity to meet others with similar interests and abilities, and utilize their talents to maximize their educational potential and make a difference in the lives of others. Parents collaborate with a team of knowledgeable Family Consultants who provide individualized services based on each family’s unique needs, including educational advocacy and planning, social and emotional development, and enrichment opportunities. Once enrolled, Davidson Young Scholars can access exclusive opportunities such as online courses and a summer camp for 8 to 12 year olds. The Davidson Young Scholars application deadline is the first of each month. Please visit the website to learn more:

The Davidson Academy of Nevada - Apply for 2016-2017 School Year

The Davidson Academy of Nevada, a free public day school for profoundly gifted pupils located on the University of Nevada, Reno campus, is now accepting applications for the 2016-2017 school year. Classes at the Academy are not grouped by age-based grades, but by ability level, providing profoundly gifted young people an educational opportunity matched to their abilities, strengths and interests. To attend the Davidson Academy, students must be at the middle or high school level across all subject areas and score in the 99.9th percentile on IQ or college entrance tests, such as the SAT or ACT. For admission details, please visit Applications are reviewed on a monthly basis with a final application deadline of April 1, 2016. Interested families can meet current students and parents, faculty and staff, network with others and ask questions at Academy tours. For upcoming tour dates and to RSVP, visit .


nicoleandmaggie said...

DC1 is skipped two grades in a private school. When all his friends left for kindergarten and the preschool had run out of things for him to do because he was working at 3rd grade level in reading and math, we decided it was time to start him in school. Then the school had him do K-1 at the same time and he skipped first with his best friend. We're on leave for a year in a city and he's going to a fancy public school. He hasn't made any friends (other than the highly gifted daughter of our highly gifted friends who also live out here), but he's not being shunned either. When he goes back he says he wants to go back to private school even though public will offer more for him academically when he's in 6th grade.

Our daughter is loving it out here socially but seems to be sticking to kids closer to her age. They want to push her to the 4-6 year room in Spring, even though she's already mastered all the 2-3 year old material now, but still well before her Summer birthday. At her recent conference, the teacher said she doesn't want to test our daughter's limits because she doesn't want to make the other children feel bad that they can't do as well... so they're only counting up to 10 and so on, which DC2 has been doing since well before she was 2. It doesn't seem very Montessori of them (in fact, every other Montessori we've been to has 3-6 yr rooms), but so far our daughter is happy, and she likes the kids in her room better than the kids in the next room up. When we get back next year, she'll be four and we'll have to decide if we want to keep her in preschool or try to push her into K. And we'll also have to think about whether or not we want to try to get her into the bilingual program or do private school etc. etc. etc.

It's all very hard. They have such different personalities. And her birthday is right before the cutoff, whereas his is a few months after.

Oh, btw, you might be interested in this policy brief:

ARC said...

I think you're so right that it depends on the personality of the kid. I skipped K and 4th and have a lot of regrets about it (all social) but that was the best option considering my parents couldn't afford the fancy private school in town. Even with that, school was WAY too easy and I didn't figure out how to study until college. (And man, was that rough.)

Given that, and the fact that my daughter is generally happiest with peers her own age or younger, we didn't even try to have her tested to start school early. We've had her in Montessori since she was 2.5 and they've been fantastic at providing her with challenging work all along. (Though she is probably SO tired of "letter of the week" by now.) We're about to enroll her in a Montessori elementary near us so she can continue at her own pace. We'll need to figure out what to do with her in 4th grade.

lgm said...

Skipping a grade saves the taxpayers money if all of the per pupil money designated for the skipped child goes to his needs. My district doesnt fund that way...quite typical to use some of that funding for special needs. A skipped child then costs the district funding, as that is a year less that he is in the district, and his per pupil when he is not attending isnt available to be split among the rest of the school. For 12th, you will see schools like this schedule students for 5.5 study halls, telling them to go over to the CC if they want appropriate course work. Their per pupil will not be used to provide classes such as Calc...thats all pay the DE fee to play.

Jo in OKC said...

My daughter skipped 1st grade in the context of a combined 1st-2nd grade class. The (private) school didn't propose it at first, but when I asked what subjects she would be doing with the 1st graders, they did come to the realization on their own (In K, she did math with the 1st graders, so she was obviously doing 2nd grade math. She also read as well or better than all the 2nd graders. The class was doing the same social studies/science for both grades.)

She obviously had math acceleration in K (when she told me that they didn't do math at school because K math was so simple that she didn't even think it was math) and then again beginning in 3rd grade. Her teachers helped her work self-paced through the standard school math books in 3rd & 4th grades and she did 3rd-7th grade math. In 5th grade, she did Algebra and continued a straight and fairly normal sequence after that.

She had language arts acceleration in 6th grade. She used the 7th grade book but in the 6th grade class.

In 7th and 8th we homeschooled and she did all high school level work.

I think grade skipping work when the student is prepared to work on that level AT A MINIMUM in all subjects. My daughter was probably a bit below level in her skipped-to grade in hand writing, but not to the point where she couldn't handle the work load. I think it also (unfortunately) depends on the receiving teacher and students. If you're in a small school, then you can get a sense of the kids in a grade and know whether they'd be a bunch that would be good to skip into. Grade skipping is also good when the student is tired of being "different" because they're subject accelerated.