History is full of presidents, writers, scientists, and word leaders who all share a common thread: giftedness in school. For gifted students, skipping grades and early graduation are common occurrences. However, these issues are the source of many debates and disagreements.
Some parents and educators feel that children who skip grades or graduate early suffer future social and academic consequences. However, grade skipping and early graduation have a growing number of supporters who praise the positive effects.
Although there are some information gaps in most research and surveys, there is strong evidence leaning toward the potentially positive benefits children experience as a result of skipping grades or completing school early.
As a parent, if your child is showing obvious skill and knowledge beyond their age, consider the possibility of having them assessed for skipping a grade or joining an accelerated class. For parents of teenagers, you may see signs that your child is unconsciously aiming for an early graduation. Because every child is unique, take the time to consider all of the potential pros and cons surrounding these issues. Grade skipping isn’t always the best option for every child, but it is an important aspect to consider when helping your child meet his or her academic potential.
Potential Positive Benefits
- Appropriate Academic Challenges
It’s no real surprise that many gifted, amazing students often suffer unfair stigmas of being “problem children” or “troublemakers” in their classroom. This isn’t a coincidence. When gifted children are stuck in a classroom learning about concepts they’ve already mastered, natural boredom often erupts into mischievous, restless behaviors many teachers don’t appreciate. Advocates of grade skipping and advanced education programs argue that gifted children should be allowed to learn at the level they choose, not the one dictated by their grade. When gifted students transition into a more challenging grade level, boredom and many behavioral concerns often vanish.
- Increased Motivation
Gifted students often feel a continual struggle to rise to their potential. They tug and pull toward new interests and challenges that aren’t always present in their given grade. Gregory Park, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania explained in an interview that, “Grade skippers were far more likely to pursue graduate and advanced degrees.” When given room to grow beyond their grades, gifted children often become even more motivated for success and personal growth. This is especially true for gifted teenagers. Teenagers who are given the opportunity to choose AP and college level courses in high school are often far better prepared for their academic future. Skipping grades may be a positive omen that future academic success is within sight for your child.
- Greater Self-Confidence
Some gifted students unconsciously suffer from unusually quiet or reserved personalities. They may feel like social outcasts within their classrooms and peer groups simply because they learn differently or quicker than their classmates. They may stop participating in classroom discussions or projects, not because they don’t understand the work, but simply because they don’t like the teasing or bullying they get for being the “smarty pants.”
For some students, moving to a more advanced grade may help alleviate some of these social issues. The Davidson Institute reports that one of the best ways for parents to improve their child’s self-confidence is to allow them access to greater academic challenges. Gifted students often experience a great confidence boost when placed in more mature learning environments. As parents, we must strive to help our children see that being “smart” is never a bad thing, regardless of how their peers or teachers respond.
- Emotionally Unprepared
While grade skipping is potentially positive for some children, not every student thrives under this option. Even with above-average intelligence and skill, some students are not emotionally prepared to deal with older classroom environments. They may feel isolated and “babyish” compared to older peers. In an article for the New York Times teachers warned parents of the danger of allowing their children to skip grades without the proper emotional and social skills. With childhood and adolescence hard enough, skipping a grade may place far too much strain on the psyche of a child.
- Lack of Social/Academic Balance
Gifted students are often notorious over-achievers and perfectionists. They can easily become so caught up in their studies that they neglect other important aspects such as relationships and childhood fun. Although your child may greatly enjoy tougher classes, this may encourage a “workaholic” type of attitude to grow. Even if your child seems to thrive under a tough class load, always keep a watchful eye on their social skills and emotional growth.
Grade skipping and early graduation are still hot-button issues for many debates between researchers, teachers, and parents. This entire argument simply boils down to a simple desire and concern: We want what’s best for our children. Although skipping a grade may offer many positive benefits, always consider the potential negatives as well. You know your child better than anyone. Weigh the pros and cons carefully and talk with both them and their teachers when making decisions concerning their grades. A skipped grade may make all the difference in their life. For more information on gifted learning programs and preparing your child, please contact us today.