It appears that the last week of August and the first week of September have become “Ask Ginger” weeks and I love it! I’ve been receiving a lot of great questions from people who care about their kids and about education. Every once in a while, I come across one that needs to be shared. Here’s a question I received about grade-skipping. My response is below.
My son has a September birthday, which puts him right on the cusp, but he should be in Kindergarten this year by age. He can read and write pretty well in both English and Spanish, so we couldn’t see sending him to Kindergarten and have them try to teach him his letters. We decided to homeschool him this year after investigating the differentiation available at our local public school. We tested him for the curriculum we are using and they suggested starting with first grade, and skipping ahead as needed.
We have always heard not to push the kids ahead, and that was part of the reason for homeschooling. We are pretty excited about homeschooling him right now – he is a self starting learner, and very excited to dig into stuff. But if we look at switching him back to public school at some point we will face the exact same problems – I imagine he is likely to get further ahead of his age the more we homeschool him.
So I’m curious what your thoughts are on skipping, and if you know of any other resources to look into.
I get this question or a similar version of it on a regular basis and it’s a topic that is very close to my own heart. I’m a big believer in acceleration in all it’s forms — for the right kid in the right situation. And often, the situation can be modified. Rarely can the kid be modified while still meeting his/her intellectual demands.
Here’s my response that’s modified a bit from what I sent the parent:
modifications were made to protect identity and clarify some points
When we hear people talk about grade skipping, I try to remember that each decision whether to (or not to) accelerate a learner in a lesson, unit, subject, or grade level is very individualized. What one person (or a hundred people) might’ve experienced in their lives may not have much bearing on the child and situation in front of us now.
When making the decision to accelerate or not and to what degree do we need to accelerate, we want to look not only at the academic readiness of the child but also of the social readiness. Sure, he can do the work. How what are his maturity levels? Would they increase with older students? Or decrease?
We also want to look at the environment of the receiving school and teacher. Is the school/staff prepared to pick up any small missed skills in order to keep moving the child forward with the big picture? Are they prepared to see this child as academically advanced, but socially-aged appropriately?
Outside of the academic classroom, we might want to have the child regularly participating in non-academic activities with his own aged peers. Activities such as sports, music, scouts, or on another team or group of similar social peers can provide the socialization that kids of that age need. We can “feed” his academics at one level, and feed his friendships at another. But then again, depending upon the individual child, that might not be a need, due to advanced social skills too. Some bright kids find that even socializing with aged-peers is tough because they don’t enjoy the same jokes or like the same things. Grade-skipping is a radical modification that ultimately is a very individualized decision; one that should not be pushed nor should it be impeded if it is in the best interest of the child.
The best recommendation I can make is to read the book: A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students.
This book takes a look at the disparities between the research on acceleration and the actual educational beliefs and practices, which are not always in sync. You can download a free pdf here. This resource will really help you prepare for anyone who might have misinformation about the process and results of acceleration. While you’re there, take a look around that website. The Acceleration Institute at the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development is terrific!
Additionally, I have found success with the Iowa Acceleration Scale. This assessment does a great job of looking at academics, social, and family and school supports to compile a recommendation for acceleration. It does need to be administered by a qualified professional, but there are often universities who have psychologists who are licensed to do this. BUT I recommend you select someone who has some background in gifted learners and gifted education.
I’m not sure where you’re located, but you may also want to look in to your state gifted association. They should have resources and specific information about supports in your area. They may also have anecdotal (or harder) data about successful stories in districts near yours. You can find a list of state gifted and talented organizations here at the National Research Center on Gifted and Talented at the University of Connecticut website. Caution: You might look to the state organization website directly, because in looking over the information here, I can see a few state listings are not quite up to date.
I hope this helps. I’ve successfully grade-skipped students before, but I also know that it is a team effort. Be sure to find someone at the school, district, or in your area who can look beyond the “I had a sister…brother…uncle…friend…grandma who was grade skipped and it was the worst decision of his/her life.” I know there are terrible histories out there and I don’t doubt their truth. So we want to be sure we really are ready to do that sort of accommodation for your child.