October 22, 2018

Gifted Children, our education system, and grade skipping

I have been reading a lot on the pros and cons of grade skipping. I will admit that I had some initial bias and thought grade skipping was a bad idea. I had that opinion without giving it a lot of thought, it just seemed that most people felt that way and I had been bombarded with negative thoughts on the subject. People had told me that a grade skipped child would be too socially immature with children older than them, they would reach puberty at a different time, they would likely end up a social outcast, they would “grow up too soon,” academics isn’t everything, and if they were small in size that would make things even worse! Many of these reasons seemed to have merit and since I didn’t really have the need to dwell on the subject, I didn’t. In fact, in my line of work, I always have parents asking me advice about the exact opposite – “should I retain my child?” To that I answer, “yes,” many times! The reason for retention also has so many pro’s – especially when they are children who are as far academically behind as the ones I work with at my learning center. I know that an extra year could make them so much stronger academically so that they aren’t always struggling to keep their head above water, they could feel like they are smart, and have positive self-esteem about themselves as a learner. On top of that, they would get the benefits of being the oldest in the class, more confidence and maturity, and get to do things “first,” like getting their drivers license. So with that said, why would one want to do the opposite where the child is pushed ahead? It seemed contradictory! Or so I thought.

However, every child is different. The pros for one child to be retained will give a child so many benefits but so will the pros to skip a gifted child ahead. I was so surprised to read all the positive literature on grade skipping. I found very little (other than people who just had opinions) against grade skipping for a gifted child. Most of the research done and articles written by professionals support grade skipping. The best article that shows true prospective on this topic is A Nation Deceived.  If you want to see all the myths why people think grade skipping is bad and how grade skipping actually supports the gifted child, this is a great resource and I highly recommend it.

I think the reason that so many people are against it is that they don’t walk in those shoes.  When a friend asked me about grade skipping her son, I told her I didn’t think it was a good idea.  Why?  Well, because of all the things I heard, because I didn’t live with her child, because I didn’t know her child like she knows him, and I am not qualified to be answering that question.  If you don’t have a truly gifted child and not just one that should be in an Academically Gifted program within their grade (many families have gifted children who fall in that category) you can’t understand the perspective.  Highly gifted children do have a different maturity level than their same age peers.  Does that mean they can’t play with their peers?  Not at all, but would they fit better with someone who had a higher match of maturity?  Yes.  In fact, just one grade level may not even be a match for that.  Sometimes they are a mix of maturity as their thinking far surpasses their age but in other ways their actions match their age.  Does grade skipping mean that you are putting too much emphasis on academics?  Actually, this is not that case at all either.  Many people believe this misconception.  Grade skipping is trying to find a better fit for your child as a whole – academically, socially, and emotionally.  It isn’t just about academics.  Just as people choose to retain their children – they often don’t retain them “just” because of academics – it is, as mentioned before, because of the social and emotional benefits.  Grade skipping provides social and emotional benefits to the gifted child.

So, to all of you who are considering grade skipping – know that others may not understand but as long as you know that it is the best decision for your child as a whole, their is a lot of research to support your decision.  My school district also says it isn’t a reversible decision either – if you try it and it doesn’t seem to be working out, you can always choose to go back to your child’s same age peers.

About lynne

Apex-Math was started by Dr. Lynne Gregorio. Lynne has been working in the field of mathematics education since 1989. She received a Ph.D. in Mathematics Education from North Carolina State University in 1998. She has taught everyone from Pre-K students to doctoral students. She runs the Apex Learning Center in North Carolina where she tutors students in reading, spelling, writing, and mathematics. She has recently started developing curriculum so that she can reach a broader range of students across the nation. She is married and has 4 children. She is currently homeschooling her oldest son for his senior year of high school.