Thursday, September 17, 2009

Grade Skipping-Slip Sliding Away?

The Templeton National Report on Acceleration, states “Acceleration is an intervention that moves students through an educational program at rates faster, or at younger ages, than typical. It means matching the level, complexity, and pace of the curriculum to the readiness and motivation of the student. Examples of acceleration include early entrance to school, grade-skipping, moving ahead in one subject area, or Advanced Placement (AP). Acceleration is educationally effective, inexpensive, and can help level the playing field between students from rich schools and poor schools.”

Many gifted students don’t find friends among age-peers. They tend to be more emotionally and socially mature than their age-mates. Their ideas of friendship are different. Bright students may be looking for a true friend to share thoughts and feelings, at an age when most kids see a friend as someone to play with. Parents of bright students often notice that their children seem to gravitate naturally to neighborhood children of various ages with similar academic or intellectual interests. The games they enjoy and the books they read are more like those of older children. And the older children happily accept them. So for gifted students, moving up a grade may not be a matter of leaving friends behind but of moving to a place where friends are waiting for them.”

… almost all bright students who are screened carefully and allowed to enter school early are as socially well-adjusted as their older classmates. In short, younger students do make friends. In fact, they are happier with older students who share their interests than they are with age-peers. The other side of that statistic may explain some of the scare stories. Children who are not specifically chosen to start school early, but somehow end up being younger—such as kids with a summer birthday—do tend to show more signs of immaturity than older classmates. That’s because age is only one indicator of readiness. But age plus advanced skills and maturity is a different equation.

In High-Achieving Students in the Era of NCLB, a report by the Fordham Institute, we read, “To hear teachers report it, grade acceleration—or skipping a grade—rarely occurs these days. Approximately one in four teachers (27%) reports that their schools allow students to skip a grade, while a plurality (46%) says they do not. Teachers in high school (48%), middle school (45%), and elementary school (46%) are almost equally likely to report that their schools do not allow grade skipping. The fact that such a large proportion of teachers overall (27%) is unsure what their school’s policy is may also indicate that grade acceleration rarely occurs.”

Three-quarters (76%) of teachers overall would like to see the nation “relying more on homogeneous classes for advanced students so that they learn faster and in greater depth.” More than eight in ten teachers (85%) also favor more reliance on “subject acceleration,” i.e., moving students faster when they have proven their capacity to learn at a quicker pace. But 63% oppose “encouraging advanced students to skip grades when appropriate.”

Advocating for gifted kids is an uphill battle that faces entrenched social norms and beliefs. This is precisely why I strongly believe that MCPS needs competent, qualified, leadership experienced in G/T, with the knowledge and courage to lead the debate.

1 comment:

  1. Some useful links about grade skipping. It's a gray area that needs input from the student, parents, and the school system. I like the note about a trial period. Parents who got their kid to skip a grade should monitor and be honest about the possibility of asking to return to their age grade level.


If your comment does not appear in 24 hours, please send your comment directly to our e-mail address at