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Should my child move up a grade?

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By Debra Collins, Family therapist

Question:

My daughter is in first grade. She complains daily about being bored. She is a great reader, spells way beyond first-grade level, and the same goes for math. She is a December baby and missed starting kindergarten by two days. I was OK with this at the time, thinking she would be more prepared for the challenge if she was older. Now I'm not sure that was a good call.

I have worked with her teacher and the principal to get her harder homework and more of a challenge on a daily basis. I do not think it is working. I have thought about moving her up a grade, but I'm not sure how that would be for her, being the youngest and especially a few years from now. Any suggestions?

Answer:

Grade acceleration (skipping a grade) is as serious a concern for parents as grade retention (repeating a grade) but often doesn't get as much attention. I am curious to know what is not working about the solution her teacher and principal proposed to address your concerns. If it is based only on the fact that your daughter is complaining about being bored, that probably isn't sufficient to guide your decision. Children of all skill levels use the phrase "I'm bored" because they don't know how else to explain what they are having difficulty with. Sometimes "bored" means they are having trouble with interpersonal skills, not academics.

You may want to consult with your principal and teacher about their acceleration policy. Find out how your daughter is performing academically across all subject areas. Some schools won't consider acceleration if a child is not performing in the 95th percentile or greater in all areas. Ask if your school provides comprehensive psycho-educational testing. If not, you may want to seek out a licensed psychologist in your area who provides academic, psychological, and developmental tests — to see how your daughter might cope with skipping and to see if it is even an appropriate option.

Once you have determined where your daughter is developmentally, socially, and educationally, you will have more information to guide your decision. Knowing what types of enrichment programs your school offers can help guide you as well. Some programs allow children to stay in their grade, but your daughter may receive additional challenges with other classes or activities. As to your child's specific needs, you can assess not only the acceleration issue but also what schools in your area best support her strengths.


Debra Collins is a licensed marriage and family therapist and has worked in both primary and middle schools as a school counselor. She gives workshops to teachers and students and offers parenting classes in the San Francisco Bay Area. To learn more, visit her website.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

06/21/2012:
"My daughter is 13 in seventh graded and is very more miture than any kid and is very smart . Loves reading , writing and excels in everything and gets along with kids better in the eigth grade. How do I move her a grade up , because her birthdays in october so she had to wait for the following year . So what should i do ? "
05/30/2012:
"My son is going into the 1st grade but his teacher said he is beyond first grade level in all subjects...I would like to skip him up to second grade (recommended by his K teacher) but my husband thinks it's a bad idea because of the age difference. You do need to consider the pros and cons....Do the pros outweigh the cons? "
09/16/2011:
"hi, i live in canada with my family and am still really new to things and not quite sure how things work, my Daughter is 6yrs and has just gone into grade 1, when she started kindergarden last year(2010) within 3 weeks she was doing grade 1 work, she reads and writes really well and her teacher last year told me that grade 1 kids were not yet upto her standard, i have asked here about school and how she is enjoying grade 1 and she tells me is ok but i have done the work already......she has always loved to lear and at home gets very frustrated and plays up if she is not working her mind, im really worried that as she has already done all the grade 1 work that she is going to get board and become disruptive and loose her love of school and learning.....what do i do? and how would i get her moved up to grade 2, can they do this? i have concidered having her tested to see what leavel she is at but again i have no idea how to go about this....please help... "
08/29/2011:
"my daughter is in kindergarten at a church based private school. she is capable of reading just about any childrens book she does even some math, has great range of vocabulary and i strongly feel she can skip kinder. i talked to her teacher and she said no, but i have not given-up. what am i to do? i heard montesori schools are prone to heed the request. any one has some ideas? i hate for my child to languish for a year. her mom did rather good teaching her the first grade book we got at costco and she is a very enthusiastic learner and grasps things rather quickly. "
12/21/2010:
"I have an extremely gifted 8 year old son. He is an October baby and old for his class. In Kindergarten his teacher did initial testing and found his map testing in math was at a 4th grade level. This prompted her to obtain some help from the gifted ed program in our school district. Normally they do not consider admittance until a child is in 3rd grade, but agreed to do an iq test on the teacher’s request. After the testing (he scored in the 99% in all categories) he was given a spot in the program. He continued to work 3 times a week with the gifted ed instructor (a 6th grade boy and a 5th grade boy were also involved). In his 1st grade year he continued to grow at extreme measures. After more testing his mathematics equivalency was at a 7th grade year. The recommendation was for us to move him up a grade. Although he is an extremely bright young man with many friends (this social behavior is rare for a gifted child) he is still a little boy. My husband and I ! did a lot of soul searching and decided on an alternate plan (our district again opened up its arm to accommodate). We decided to grade advance him in mathematics, but keep him in the 2nd grade this year. There are a couple of bright children in his class who are reading at a 5th grade level so we felt they could push one another just fine. He had no peers near his math level so moving him up was the only answer. He goes to a different grade everyday during math time. He still cruises through most of it, but with the gifted education's specifications on advanced problem solving lessons geared solely to him; we have noticed that he is definitely more challenged. Both my husband and I acknowledge that there will be more decisions in the years to come, but are very happy to have a school that is truly vested in our son’s education. Before considering moving a child up a grade or two make sure that they are not only advanced, but advanced beyond any other children in th! eir grade."
12/1/2010:
"Parents should understand the negatives as well as the positives to skipping a grade. My child skipped 7th grade and entered high school. She is currently a sophomore and with a May birthday, she is 14 attending classes with 16 year olds. You can only imagine the differences especially when it comes to boys. She's a good kid, but dealing with hormonal boys has been a challenge for her. She's also just developing, way behind most of her friends so there is the constant complaints about how shapely everyone else is. Over the summer we'll have to deal with friends with drivers licenses and if she can go out with them. The good news is she's performing well academically. An 'A' student, but that year difference is a pretty big difference."
07/19/2010:
"Here's the perspective of an 40+ mom who was accelerated in elementary school back in the late 70's. In 1st grade, a group of 7 of us where pulled out to work on our own pace in the same classroom with a different teacher. The next year, a few went back to working with the rest of the 2nd graders and 3 of us continued on an accelerated pace. By the end of 2nd grade, we completed 3 years of school and went directly to 4th grade the following year. Never once did I feel behind, always was challenged, and graduated high school and college with top honors. The only time I really noticed I was younger than my friends was when they were 16 and driving and I wasn't. If your child is bored, I highly recommend trying it out and see if they're more engaged in school with more challenging work. "
07/19/2010:
"We had the same issue with an earlier reader in kindergarten plus loving math. School was too easy for her, and we were dreading the start of lots of desk work in the first grade. A Montessori charter school has turned out to be the perfect fit for her. Each child gets their own work plan each week to guide them. It has been a tremendous blessing for us. Her class is made up of first through third graders. Most of the work she does is on the second or third grade level yet she is still treated like a 'first year'. This may be something to look into if it is an option in your area."
07/19/2010:
"I had to make this decision when the preschool my daughter attended decided that she should skip a grade and enter K a year early. I knew that would mean having to find a first grade that would accept her without meeting the cut off date for first grade. (She misses it by a month) We decided it was the right thing to do and found a private school that would accept her for first grade, knowing we would be moving to a good school district for 2nd grade and that they would have to take her into public school if she had completed a first grade. She is two weeks from finishing second grade now and she has done well. She is in the top quarter of the class and has made friends. It is a tough decision and you have to make sure that he/she is socially adjusted to the higher age level. "
07/19/2010:
"As a parent I believe the first focus should be on the well-rounded development of a total human being. If a child expresses boredom, this is a perfect opportunity to help them tap into their creative or social beings. As a human being, we have many different facets of life to tap into. School is just one of them. Rather than risk a child losing their social self by having them move forward a grade (the studies show the increase in stress and social anxiety is heavy and large) I would recommend having your child explore different interests and helping them learn more about the world of creative art expression: writing, drawing, music, etc. I am speaking from both experience and research. The studies are out that relative age plays a greater role than intelligence. When students are the youngest, they face greater social and emotional risks. Girls often fair better than boys, but why put your child through this? I think that our society needs to slow down and enjoy the time that we have with our children. "
07/19/2010:
"I agree with Debra. Our son was tested for the Gifted Program (a year ahead of his grade level) and passed. They talked to us about skipping a grade. We mulled over all the facts and decided, socially, it was not in his best interest. He has good friends in his own grade and will enter puberty at the same time as them - we didn't want to speed up that process or cause him any distress...with possible long-term consequences. The teachers do offer him more challenging work but sadly, we don't have money for Gifted funding (always seems to get cut before anything else). These are the kids who get into real trouble later on, without proper direction of their intelligence. Therefore, we place our son in sports, give him lots of outdoor time, monitor his TV & computer use, make sure he's reading daily, host play-dates, take the kids to the park and give him other outlets for learning/exploring/playing/getting his anxiety out. Furthermore, I was skipped a grade (5th) many years ago and lived to regret it. I was the youngest in my class, at all times, and always felt a bit 'behind' socially speaking. I think it would have been healthier if I'd stayed with my peers. I was always picked on and made fun of for being the 'smallest.' There's a little food for thought, anyway ;-) Best wishes to you! "
07/19/2010:
"When we were debating advancing our son, a very wise friend gave us this advice: 'What greater gift can you give your child than another year of childhood?' In the end, we decided not to take that advice, and our son is doing quite well with his new peers, both socially and academically. I wonder, however, if eight years from now we won't be wishing he were still in HS, instead of packing off to college."
07/19/2010:
"I so wish my son had been accelerated in primary school, but the system was very rigid. As it was, he ended up being moved up from 7th grade to high school when it was past obvious that it was necessary for his growth. While he handled it gracefully, an earlier move would have been far better and could have saved him years of frustration."
07/19/2010:
"Its been a while since i was in school but i was proposed to skip from 6th grade into 8th grade. I am still bothered and upset for my parents for not allowing me to do so. In school I had very few friends and simply was not that social. I do personally think that being skipped to a higher grade would have helped with my college bound career and education. Let me explain. Say for some reason I were to graduate high school at 16. I would then be too young to work most serious jobs and my main course of action would be to continue school. Instead as soon as i did graduate school, i picked up a part time job, which turned into full time, which luckily has turned into a career of 18 years in Management and IT, but I still struggle now trying to get back into and finish that groove of school/college."
07/19/2010:
"I tried to get my daughter into a St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Madison, AL one year before kindergarten started because she was already working starting second grade level books and writing in cursive. I was unsuccessful. When she got into kindergarten the next year, I asked about her going into first grade instead, and again was told no. Then, when it came time to take the assessment tests, she scored in the top 99%, but the answer was still no. Next, in 5th grade she had another assessment test and was in the top 99%, and asked the answer was still no, even though she typically makes all A's. Next, she was invited to partake in the Duke Tip program and scored an 26 on her ACT in the seventh grade, Duke TIP recommends that students that achieve 75% above of the Nations Percentile Rank (NPR) be advance a whole grade. My daughters NPR was about 94% and the school still would not advance her. This year she starts Catholic High School in Huntsville, AL, and th! ey already will not advance her. There needs to be a federal law about not keeping students at the grade of their age level in school. Instead they should be placed by what they know. At home soon my daughter will be ready for calculus."
07/19/2010:
"I am a 33 year old lawyer and Judge, who skipped the 4th grade. It was the best decision EVER for me. It helped me educationally, socially, and in every other aspect imaginable. I continued to be advanced in schooling, completing college in three years. I hated 3rd grade - after skipping 4th, school became much more pleasant. In the right situation, and for the right child, it is definitely a good choice. "
07/19/2010:
"As a parent who might consider having my daughter youngest daughter jump a grade. I would suggest just instead applying your kid to a magnet school, google: Thomas Jefferson Highschool (virginia). It seems like with AP classes down the road there will be plenty of challenges. If a child is bored, perhaps creative writing would be appropiate/encouraged, or prepping for spelling bee, or serving as a teacher's aide in their best strength. if a kid accelerates at math, learning computer programming might be beneficial "
05/11/2010:
"my daughter is now 11 y/o, finishing seventh grade with straight A's. We accelerated her from first grade to third. she completed all the first and second grade work in the first grade and we (including all the teachers involved) saw no reason to have her basically repeat the second grade. And having been sent a grade up for a couple of hours every day since the kindergarten, she knew the students and had made friends with them. After asking her and having the SST - which she attended - we went ahead with it. So far, no major problem in any area. (knock on wood!!!) Good luck to all with the decision, it's a hard one for a parent to make."
05/20/2009:
"Thank you for the article! Last year my son's kindergarten teacher wanted to move him up a grade and we did not think it was the right choice at the time. We were very concerned about the social aspects. This year when his 1st grade teacher had mentioned if we thought about skipping a grade, we knew it was something we needed to research. My son does not complain about being bored, but breezes through all his work and rarely makes mistakes. He is performing well above average in all subjects, which is a wonderful thing, and he loves reading and math! He has an older brother and would rather do his brother's 3rd grade homework, so when he asks me for challenging work, I Google websites for math sheets and puzzles. We are blessed that his teacher has provided the necessary resources. His teacher suggested on having an SST (Student Study Team) meeting, so we have gone through all the channels; including the psychological testing, and we are glad to hear that we are on t! he right track. We have also involved our son in the decision making process (never underestimate a child's decision). :-) A very important note: With our permission, my son's 1st grade teacher has been sending him to a second grade class for math and a higher reading class as well, and my son has now established some friendships with 2nd graders. He wasn't sure at the beginning if this is something he wanted to do, so his 1st grade teacher sent him on a couple of errands to deliver a note to the second grade math teacher, and asked him if he had seen any friends in the 2nd grade class...he said that he did recognize a few faces and was ready to give 2nd grade math a try. He is very happy to be part of the second grade math class. I've explained to my son, that if he skips a grade next year, he will not be in the same room with his 1st grade buddies. His response was that he will be able to play with them during recess, lunch time, and invite them over for play dates. One afternoon while driving home, I had asked him how his day went and he said that he 'LOVED his second grade math class, because it's not too eas! y and not too hard!' I think we found our answer...Wish us luck! "
01/28/2009:
"I am the proud father of a 5 year old, kindergarten, girl. Over the past couple of years, my wife and I have noticed that she was learning at an accelerated rate. Socially she always seems drawn to the older kids, but sometimes she still just wants to be 5. Now halfway through kindergarten, her school teacher and principal have approached us about grade skipping. We have moved her to 1st grade math, and she is doing well in all areas. The K teacher (who was a 2nd grade teacher for several years) has been pushing her academically for several months, and her latest round of testing puts her in the 95 percentile for exiting 1st grade math, and her reading and comprehension (in non-fiction) are at a middle 2nd grade level. The plan forward is to have her evaluated by the district Psychologist, and measure her on the Iowa Acceleration Scale. Our concerns are not that she will be unable to handle the work (now or ever). It is the social issues that may arise later in her teen years when she is, sometimes, 2 years younger than her classmates. I suppose this wasn't feedback, or necessaraly a question. Just the concerns of a father looking for some professional and social guidence. We think we are taking all of the right steps, but you just never know. Thank you for your time."
08/5/2008:
"I am the mother of a 6year old who will be entering the 1st grade,as other parents I considered grade accelleration,My child will be entering the 1st grade reading level 4 books and beginning multiplication,he ,like not even many adults can,say his abc backwards(fast)by teaching himself because I do not know where he heard it.He has been in 3 schools. He learned most of the kindergarten curricullum when he was in pre k 3 so he only heard boring repetition for k4 and kindergarten. I was trying to get him to get into second grade instead of first but when he took a stanford test in private school,he did not do too well in science. I thought about it & started to think when i was in elementary. Most children who were more outgoing and friendly were the older,smarter kids,the younger ones were most of the time left out .Eventhough my son is very smart,his high self esteem is due to this.He knows he can do it. If he skips a grade his high self esteem might go down.God only kno! ws why he gave him an october birthday. I'll just leave him alone to succeed on his own. "
07/2/2008:
"I'm starting 9th grade this fall, & i completely believe i should be moved up to 10th. I'm a December baby, so i'm old for my grade anyway. I excel in all of my subjects, & feel like i'm not living up to my full potential. Maybe you should try your daughter out in a grade ahead, & hold her back if she isn't doing well. I think you & your daughter will regret that in latter years if you don't try it."
04/24/2008:
"My son is in Pre-K and we are thinking about advancing him to 1st grade next year. We have talked to the principal and super and they have done tests on him. He is higher than the 95% and right in the middle of the 1st grade level of academics already. They are concerned about him adjusting to 'all day' school since he only goes for 1/2 a day now. Won't he have to adjust to this soon enough anyway. He is 5 years old and of corse being a little boy, sitting is not his favorite skill, but he will do things if he is told to do them. Especially if the rest of the class is doing it too. They have never had a problem with his participation skills. What do you think would be the best solution? His teacher now asks questions to the class and says 'OK, everyone, but ????(my son) what is the answer?' He doesn't like this because he wants to answer and he feels like he is being left out. What would be a solution for this?"
04/11/2008:
"my child started 1st grade in mexico bt when we moved back to nebraska they put him back in kindergarten only because of his age wat can i do?"
03/24/2008:
"Our daughter too was born in late December and she read early and has always been more mature than her other counterparts. She started 1st grade in Fall 2007 and after just 1 1/2 months her teacher placed our daughter in the 2nd grade for reading since she was far beyond the other 1st graders. By Novemeber we felt it was a good idea to move her to 2nd grader for all subjects. I met with the principal, and both 1st and 2nd grade teachers. It was apparent to us all that our daughter should move to 2nd grader for all subjects. She has done great in 2nd grade, it helped she already knew the 2nd grade class and so it was an easy move. Her 2nd grade teacher is great and accomodated our daughter. Acouple test scores in math have been abit behind the class but our daughter has caught up and is doing work to grade level with the rest of her 2nd grade class. Her teacher gave us a report card last week stating she has seen great growth in her progress. Our daughter is an only child, has always been very outgoing and sociable and still is very sociable and outgoing and has many friends both in 1st and 2nd grade and afew in 3rd grade. A couple people at the school have told me that our daughter might find it hard to socialize when she is the younger student while in middle school, but we know our daughter and she does not have any problems playing and speaking with anyone, young or old. She is exposed to both younger and older children and does well. Why does someone feel the need to express this concern when they do not know our daughter as we do? If we thought socialization or academic success would be a concern or a problem down the road we would not have agreed to have her moved up a grade."
06/25/2007:
"My daughter has a 4.5 reading level and reads 132 wpm. Her teacher says that she is the perfect student. She used to love school but she is now complaining about school. I am wondering if she is getting bored and might need to be challenged."
08/28/2006:
"My daughter also has a Dec birthday and after 2 years of preschool, went to a parochial kindergarten to be let in early. Public schools then tested her for admission into 1st grade and agreed she shouldn't go and repeat K just because of her age. She is now entering 5th grade and has no problems at all. She has consistently been at the top of her class and in the gifted and talented programs. Math is her weakness but we do supplement her at home and she is at grade level skills in that area. Socially she fits in with the kids also. I would say if they are younger - kindergarten age, not as much of an impact. Driving age - 16, others want their kids to match that milestone. I was also young for my grade, it was a bit difficult, but nothing traumatizing. Social, skill level, maturity and personality all are factors I would recommend to consider."
08/22/2006:
"All 3 of my daughters are smart. I could of had all 3 of them skipped but I didn't. I waited until my youngest daughter to do it. I saw the outcome of not skipping my oldest two and they turned out fine. But since I had an opportunity to skip my youngest, I did it. I did it with her because the owner of the pre-school I had her attending suggested it, after she noticed my daughter always helping the other kids with their homework whenever she was finish with her own. She had just turned 4 yeaars old. She was skipped to Kindergarten where she didn't have any problems adjusting. She's always been a child yearning to learn. Her biggest accomplishment to her was when she learned how to read. Even though she passed Kindergarten I discovered later when she was in the first grade, she wasn't reading as well as she should of been. Luckily, she had teachers who took the time out to work with her, both in the lst and 2nd grade, where she learned to master the skill. The last time she was tested, she was reading above her normal level by 2 grades. Now, she just turned 8 years old and she's going into the 4th grade. Every year, I ask her if she wants to be put back in her right grade but she tells me no. She's still good at reading and she's good in math, but she doesn't enjoy writing and her spelling could be better if she'd take the time out and start using a dictionary, but I'm not pushing her. Eventually she was going to come across something she wasn't that great at or didn't like. All I can do is encourage her and help her to try and do better. So far, I haven't regretted my decision to have her skipped. She knows anytime it gets to overwhelming for her, she can ask to be put back into her original grade."
08/21/2006:
"My son was moved up a grade with scores 95%. He was watched from kinder - 4th grade and moved up a grade from kinder. He remained in the upper % until we moved. In 4th, after our move we moved him back with his age. This caused problems, repeating (board, talking, finishing work with complaints). We moved him back up a grade. Problems came when he went to 7th grade middle school as the youngest boy. Things were better in the 8th but the pack mentality grew. He is a larger boy and loves sports. The coordination was not at the same level as his peers, the interest were not the same as many of the boys were even held back and two years older than he. At this age, the social differences is magnified. We struggled through these years with concerns as to hold him back when it was time to enter high-school where he would be 13 and classed with boys average 14 - 19. He has matured; however, the social concerns of boys persist. He insisted that he would not be as affecte! d but has grown up with his class and did not want to be held back. Difficult decision. If I could go back, I would not move him up a grade but keep him with his age, I would find tutors or special projects to enhance his learning progression, and foster his relationships with peers his own age as well as those he developed in his academic progression."
08/15/2006:
"I am going through a similar thing with my daughter who is in the 3rd grade this year. 'I'm bored!' was all I got out of her for most of last year. We have the same concerns as you for skipping a grade level. We decided to wait until the testing they do in Oct has been comleted (last years testing had our daughter reading at a 6th grade level) and see from there. I am more worried about her socially then academically, but I also want what is best for her in the long haul. I think the advice handed out here is good advice. Last year we simply worked at challenging her more. The testing talked about here would be a great help and I will now seek out the same type of testing in my area to help with my decision.Good luck to you and your child."
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