The practice of allowing gifted children to skip grades is less common than is was a few generations ago. Many educators worry about the social and academic implications of placing a child in a grade with students a year or more older than he. Despite these concerns, the data on grade acceleration of gifted students is generally favorable if all of the factors that may impact the success of the skip have been objectively considered.
As seems to be the case with many interventions surrounding gifted education, Thompson School District seems to be more liberal in suggesting and/or allowing whole grade acceleration, another term for grade skipping, than does Poudre School District. That is not to say that whole grade acceleration does not happen in Poudre, just that other interventions are more likely to be tried before this option is considered.
Both districts utilize the Iowa Acceleration Scale (IAS) to aid in determining if this type of acceleration is warranted. There are some critical factors on the IAS that must be in place in order to even consider a child for a skip. Among these factors include a full-scale IQ or ability score in the 98th percentile or above, high achievement in all subjects, and the child being in favor of the skip. Ideally a child who skips a grade should be in the top 25 percent of the grade into which he is skipping in terms of achievement.
It has been more than two years since her school recommended that our oldest daughter skip 5th grade, and a new edition of the IAS has been released since then. The second edition of the IAS required an IQ test although Thompson School District has been known to skip children without that “critical” piece of information. I understand that the third edition of the IAS may allow the usage of a composite CogAT score in the 98th percentile or above in lieu of IQ.
Due to cost constraints, this does have some value and is certainly preferable to completely omitting an ability test. There are concerns about utilizing a group test of developed abilities in lieu of an intelligence test, however. It would still be ideal to obtain an individual IQ score when at all possible.
Intelligence is not the only factor to consider in skipping a child a grade, though. Some gifted children, even highly gifted children, may not do well with a grade skip. The IAS takes into account all of the other factors — social, emotional, motivation, and other — that may play into whether this intervention is the best one for an individual child.
If you feel strongly that this is a good option for your child, don’t let one or two items of concern stand in the way of considering it. Our daughter, for instance, was already very young for grade prior to skipping which was not a positive on the IAS. It was not a critical item, however, and she was still an excellent candidate for a skip. The Davidson Institute has, on their website, a number of stories of children who have successfully skipped one grade or more despite concerns such as twice exceptionality, young age, or maturity.
If you are the one approaching the school requesting the skip rather than having the school approach you, do be prepared to do more advocacy. If you are unsuccessful one year, also don’t let that deter you from re-approaching the issue another year if the alternate interventions suggested by the school district do not seem to be working.