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Should my student skip a grade?

If your student has been identified as academically gifted by her school or teacher, you may eventually face the dilemma of whether or not to allow her to skip a grade. Our society views grade acceleration as a mark of brilliance or genius, but as you might expect, the reality is slightly more complicated.

Skipping a grade is not for every child, no matter how intelligent she is. You have to consider a number of factors, including your child’s attitude toward, her socioemotional maturity and the availability of alternate options.

Does your student possess the necessary socioemotional maturity?

While the criteria for skipping a grade varies from school to school, it is typically grounded in intellectual ability. In other words, if your child easily masters her current coursework, and has the ability to achieve at the next level, she may be a candidate for grade acceleration. Socioemotional maturity is often a secondary concern, but this can be detrimental to your student. Learning is a social process, and children who skip a grade are roughly 12 months younger than their peers. This occasionally complicates tasks involving group work or tasks that draw on skills that develop over an extended period of time (i.e. fine or gross motor skills) — especially when a student is not ready to skip a grade.

Is your child willing to skip a grade?

Your student may be academically, emotionally and socially prepared for grade acceleration, but these factors in themselves do not guarantee a smooth transition or continued success in school. Your child must want to skip grades. Consider, for instance, whether she is closer to children in her own grade, or in the year above. Is she fearless or timid when faced with the prospect of making new friends? Would grade acceleration reignite her motivation in the classroom? Are there extenuating circumstances — such as participation in a grade-specific sports team or hesitance over missing graduation or orientation events — that would call for or against skipping grades?

Are other options available?

For some families, grade acceleration may be the only option for their gifted students. And for many, it’s ultimately an option that works very well. However, before you commit to this path, ask whether your child’s school can accommodate her in other ways. Is there an honors program, or can she take her best subjects with students who are a grade or two ahead of her? This may be an especially promising option in middle school, when subjects are divided into distinct classes.

If your child is in elementary school, speak with her teacher about supplementing her day-to-day routine with a self-paced curriculum. While her teacher will not have limitless time to devote to your child, there’s a possiblity to challenge her more deeply.

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