When children are moved ahead into classes appropriate to their level of understanding and abilities, it is called grade acceleration. It can include early entry to kindergarten or first grade and skipping grades. Gifted students benefit from skipping a grade in a variety of ways, ranging from increased self-esteem to higher achievement scores. Before a student skips a grade, however, certain factors should be taken into consideration.
Gifted children from higher-income families tend to skip grades more often than elementary students from low-income families, according to a report in the "Journal of Advanced Academics." They also tend to be more successful when they are moved up past their age-mates. While wealth does not play a role in producing a gifted intellect, it often determines whether children will succeed at a higher grade level and the family support structure should be considered before moving the child up a grade.
Anecdotal stories about how well a child reads or writes or how easily children comprehend new ideas or solve complicated problems are not sufficient fodder for grade-skipping consideration. Instead, according to the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, parents and advocacy teachers should rely on recognized test scores when making a plea for skipping a grade. In addition to classic aptitude and achievement tests, teachers and parents can rely on the Iowa Acceleration Scale, which provides a list of points that are then rated to affirm or negate the request to move a student to a higher grade.
Students who have skipped a grade most often later report that they are glad they did. In addition to being more challenged educationally, they appreciate the time they saved making it through elementary and high school. On the other hand, the move may not prove to be beneficial when children find they’re smaller than their peers and not developing at the same rate. Intellectually superior children may not be able to interact well socially with the older children in their new classes, and the older children, in their turn, may not accept the younger student socially. Educators should consider what’s best holistically for children and possibly find alternative methods to challenge gifted children who aren’t ready emotionally to move ahead.
Children who are gifted may become easily bored with age-appropriate classes. The boredom may show up in socially unacceptable ways such as creating distractions in classes, fighting with other students and generally attracting negative attention from the teachers. It’s this negative behavior that often makes children ill-prepared for grade skipping. They may benefit more from alternatives that challenge them, such as the GATE, or gifted and talented education program offered in some schools. GATE allows teachers to give advanced math and science instruction to gifted children while keeping them in their current grade. Advanced curriculum can be provided during the regular class or in after-school programs, with or without a formal GATE program.
- Journal of Advanced Academics: What Factors Are Associated with Grade Acceleration?
- Davidson Institute for Talent Development: Acceleration for Students in 8th Grade and Younger
- Davidson Institute for Talent Development: Iowa Acceleration Scale
- New York Times: Against Accelerating the Gifted Child
- Morgan Hill Unified School District: GATE Program
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