Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Grade Skipping AKA Grade Acceleration, Part I

I'm reading: Grade Skipping AKA Grade Acceleration, Part ITweet this!

What used to be called grade skipping is now called acceleration. And it doesn't necessarily mean moving ahead to a new grade. A Nation Deceived, a 2004 report, highlights research and practices on acceleration, in addition to demonstrating the bias many educators have about acceleration. If you click over to the site, check out the downloadable PDF on the right hand sidebar.

The report outlines a variety of acceleration options from skipping an entire grade to skipping two or more grades (radical acceleration) to simply moving ahead in a single topic.

Smartypants, now ten, started accelerated math classes late in his kindergarten year. The school offered to do achievement and IQ testing, something DH and I hemmed and hawed over at first. Did we really want to do this?

Between our delays and the school's delays, a process that began with a conversation in late November didn't conclude until I met with the principal to discuss my son's results in March.

During the weeks I was awaiting his results, I'd convinced myself that my son wasn't that bright, he just seemed that way because we were in a low-performing district. So you could have knocked me over with a feather when I looked down to a score sheet full of 99% marks (yet an average score for processing speed on WPSI; I'll cover that another time) and the school psychologist advised, "We don't recommend skipping him a grade because...."

I was in a fog for the rest of the meeting. As I recall it, the principal, the man who ran the school, the man who'd been sitting on these scores for weeks, looked up at me and asked, "What should we do?"

What should we do? Shouldn't he have thought about that before our meeting?!

Perhaps it's worth mentioning that the principal was also the man who resigned the next year and took some time out of education for a job at Trader Joe's.

Knowing that my nephew had been accelerated in math and also feeling that we could enrich Smartypants in language arts at home, I suggested that my boy start attending first grade math. Around Spring Break, he finally did.

He still attends a math class one year above grade level, though it took a few conversations with the teachers and administration at the new school in order to get the placement made. It's understandable given that we're new to the school.

Due to some weak areas in his 5th grade math skills, not to mention a huge scheduling issue, Smartypants now attends two math classes a day- 5th grade and 6th grade.

When report cards came home recently, I wasn't surprised to see he earned an A (okay A-) in the 6th grade class. Nor was I surprised to see he only earned a B in the 5th grade class. Ugh. Gifted kids.

Stay tuned for Part II: Pikachu and out-of-level testing.
Read more of my posts on gifted education.


Kristina said...

You should ask the school how they explain the grade difference between 5th and 6th grade math.

I didn't know grade skipping is now called acceleration.

Good post.

Kim Moldofsky said...

The school wants to see that he "demonstrates proficiency" in 5th grade, so I think overall they see that discrepancy a bit differently than I do. We haven't has any formal discussions on it, though. The 6th grade math teacher says he is doing well academically and fitting in socially- that's my main concern right now.

Kim Moldofsky said...

Alas, I lack my child's intellectual gifts and leave typos all over the internet like so many breadcrumbs.

Carrie said...

thank you so much for writing about all this. with kindergarten looming on the horizon, i am scarfing up every detail you serve up.

ChaosRu said...

As a parent of a one of these unusual children, I also appreciate any information! Our first child was blissfully normal! Our daughter began to speak, in two languages, at 4 months and reading on her own at age 2 (terrifying).

Our district seeks to "normalize" gifted kids, saying "all of our children are bright." They give them tests with low ceilings to show parents that they are perfectly mainstream. Private testing told us what we needed to know, we were also afraid to test. The school would have placed her in kindergarten and asked that teacher to decide where she belonged, accelerating her part way through the semester.

Real life Julia said...

My daughter was skipped or accelerated a grade during Kindergarten -an experience which she enjoyed and my husband and I found to be sort of anxiety producing.

I think our school did a nice job handling it - they (the kindergarten and 1st grade teachers) really looked at the whole kid -socially, emotionally, intellectually and physically. It taught me a lot about why her brother (who is more traditionally school smart)wasn't a good candidate for acceleration (average/below average social maturity, on the average/small side physically, sort of anxious personality)

We talked to a lot of people who had been skipped as children about their experiences before hand and what I figured was that it seems better to do it earlier than later - girls (at least) don't want to skip a grade much later than 3rd grade because of the social stuff. I don't know about boys - they might care less.

While many people were supportive and helpful about the experience I was surprised at how many people/friends really weren't and said weird backhanded stuff to us or told us their third hand horror story. It wasn't more than a handful and I am sure I am being much too sensitive about the whole thing (which was years ago) but it did leave a mark - at least on me.

I am of two minds about using acceleration as a tool of keeping kids engaged or whatever. On the one hand, it took a lot of work on our and my daughter's parts to catch her up that second half of first grade -work that lasted through the first half of second grade. Then, because she wasn't the best reader in the class, there was that challenge to keep her occupied for a while. Luckily her class has lots of kids who were ahead in it and her teacher was up for task of engaging them. Third grade hasn't been as engaging but I have hopes for fourth grade which has a tough teacher. Eventually the work just gets harder/multi-levelled and school gets more demanding. At least that is what I've seen with my son. That's the hope anyway.

valmg said...

As someone who skipped two grades entirely, 2nd and 7th, I can tell you it can be very rough socially and I'm against skipping. I think the idea of 2 classes is much better.

FishyGirl said...

I wish my school district would skip my daughter ahead. We held her back when starting kindergarten because of social reasons, and now it's biting us in the keister. She's accelerated in both math and reading (and frankly the school doesn't do much else, but that's another issue) a full grade and has been tested for the system's gifted and talented program, where she'll go to another school entirely for 4th and 5th grade. But the system has decided that they don't like the gifted label and are considering throwing out target GT instruction entirely, insisting that the label makes kids who don't have it feel bad and perform poorly and that they can meet the needs of GT students in traditional mainstream classrooms. I don't know what to do with her if that happens - we can't afford private school, and this is Montgomery County MD so we make too much for scholarships. As for the not skipping because of social issues, my parents chose to not skip me back in 4th grade because of social issues but frankly, I didn't fit in in either grade, but had a better time with kids I was matched with intellectually. I can already see similar issues in my daughter. She's the weird freaky smart kid in her own grade, and she's the weird freaky smart kid in the grade ahead, but at least there, she can have a conversation without having to explain what she's saying.