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Grade Skipping and Gifted Child

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: My daughter, Ashley, aged 9 has just completed the Terra Nova test and scored: Sequences 99, Analogies 95, Quantitative Reasoning 89, Verbal Reasoning-Words and Context 99. Terra Nova Battery: Reading 96, Language 96, Math 98, Science 95, Social Studies 97
TOTAL - 96 Stanine 9.

She is in 4th grade and her birthday is Sept 14th so she is already the
youngest in her class. She is currently in a school gifted program and the teacher has recommended that she skip 5th grade and go to 6th. We have only known the teacher for 1 year and want other advice. I am worried about her overall growth, i.e. maturity level now and in the near future, namely when she is in 9th grade but only 13 while her classmates are 15.

Academically she is probably ready but what about emotionally. She is an avid reader and a bit of an introvert but still socializes well. She has requested to attend summer school because she enjoys school. She does not study but still gets all "A's". She is proud of her grades and expects to get "A's".

I'm worried about the extra pressure, not what I would put on her, but what she would put on herself, to try to maintain her OWN high standards even if she skipped to the grade. I just want to do what is right for my child. What are the pros and cons, I have got the basic ones figured out but what others - expert opinion ones might I not be aware of? And what are the statistics, percentages, successes, failures, pros and cons, and the like on children who skip a grade? How about age- does it matter when the skipped grade occurs; 4th to 6th, 5 to 7th, 2nd to 4th, etc.? Thanks in advance. From a concerned parent of a military child.

A: Your daughter's scores are indeed above average, in fact in the highest stanine, hence her placement in the gifted program. There has been a lot of debate on the benefits of acceleration.

On a positive note, numerous researches on acceleration consistently document positive effects (academically and socially) for children who have accelerated. However, educators and parents have doubts on the practically, especially on the emotional aspect. There are no doubt common fears about social and emotional development problems for these children. Academically, grade skipping appears to do a lot of good to the gifted child who needs a challenging learning process. As for emotionally and socially, there has been a lot of concerns.

This really depends on the child. For example, a child under consideration for acceleration who may be emotionally immature and pushed into the process by adults would surely not adapt well to the skipping and eventually get frustrated leading to failure or mediocrity. S/he may be ridiculed by peers and have low self-esteem (no longer the best in class). However, if the child is emotionally matured with sufficient social skills, things may be seen in a different perspective. Furthermore, a school that accelerates students routinely may have better adjusted students as they may not stand out too much amongst the older students and perhaps have their age mates in class. This would increase the chances for an easier adjustment process. As for age, I believe younger children mingle and make friends more easily, then again, this depend on the personality of that very child.

Parents, on the other hand can do their part by preparing the child to be amongst older students and understanding that their child may not be the "best" in class as they (and the child) have been used to. It is of utmost importance that parents be supportive, never put undue pressure on the child to perform, especially during the early adjustment period.

The decision to academically accelerate a child may be reversed at any time if it appears not to be working out for the child academically, socially, or emotionally. Adults should help children in this situation understand that the change is not a failure.

The way I see it, ideally the decision to accelerate should be mutual, the child, parents, and school officials all agreeing that it would serve the child well. Talk to daughter and see how she feels. If you know of other parents whose child has accelerated, you may want to have a chat and perhaps get your daughter to speak with someone with such experience. Explain that being the "best" is not everything (though this may be hard for a gifted child to understand) and that doing ones best is all that is required. Show her that she has your full support regardless of the decision she makes. Best wishes.


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