SKIPPING A GRADE (ACCELERATION)
Acceleration (“skipping”) could be a good solution, but it bears some risks:
- The gifted student is separated from her age group
- Pressure to adapt/ increasing risk of being an outsider or stigmatized
- Critical moments during puberty
- Depending on the IQ value, the gifted student may catch up very fast and feel underexerted or bored again.
Chances and risks need to be estimated for the individual student. If skipping a grade seems like an adequate solution, you need to consider the following aspects:
- Do not put pressure on the student to decide whether or not to make the move
- Attitude of the teacher in the future class (best predictor of a successful acceleration)
- Social climate in the future class
- Do students, teachers and parents have a positive attitude towards acceleration? Are they willing to provide active support?
- Creating a four-week trial period
I recommend developing an individual integration concept that addresses the following topics:
- Creating realistic expectations
- Regular exchange/ counselling with the school during the integration process
- Who will be informed about the student’s giftedness and how? How will the student be introduced?
- Is there a contact person in the new class?
- How do we arrange study sessions for catching up with last year’s material?
- How do we soothe potential frustration in the beginning?
- How will the expected group dynamics be handled? You need to estimate:
- How relevant is academic performance for status in the new class?
- Will giftedness be perceived as a threat or means to dominate?
- How is the physical appearance of the new student?
- Whose role will change through the gifted student and how (e.g. the best student’s)? Especially when it is to be expected that the affected student will need to give up an attractive role or status, you need to consider how to monitor and guide group dynamics wisely.
When it comes to skipping two grades, or two times, I observe that most families whose children have done that retrospectively advise against it, even if the first time was quite positive. It is almost impossible for the child to adapt to the new class, because of the differences through puberty and age-related rights and restrictions. The child then attempts to make that upward stretch, which often leads to family conflicts. Also, through skipping twice, graduation phase is now during puberty, which can be rather inconvenient. Nevertheless, there are also families where skipping twice was positive, so you need to make an individual judgement here as well.
If you decide against skipping, these are some possible alternatives:
- Partial Acceleration: the student will only take specific classes from higher grades
- Attending a class of gifted students
- Bilingual schools/ classes
- Private or home schooling: Here, you need to consider that there are almost no appropriate teachers and that the student will be taken away from society/ peers.
- Extracurricular activities (competitions, clubs, seminars, studying or taking university classes before graduation)
- Doing an exchange year abroad
© Frauke Niehues