Grade-skipping or grade-acceleration is one of the most well-researched academic interventions available to high performing children. In some parts of Asia it is practiced without fanfare and known as “double-promotion,” by virtue of the fact that you get promoted by twice the grades (for related articles please see here and here).
However, it is essential to emphasize that grade-skipping is not an intervention for every child. It should be implemented cautiously, with careful consideration of all the appropriate factors-academic, social, and emotional.
A recent opinion piece in The New York Times Sunday Review further bolsters the case for this venerable educational option. Sam Wang, an associate professor of molecular biology and neuroscience at Princeton, and Sandra Aamodt, a former editor in chief of Nature Neuroscience, assert that “The benefits of being younger are even greater for those who skip a grade, an option available to many high-achieving children. Compared with nonskippers of similar talent and motivation, these youngsters pursue advanced degrees and enter professional school more often. Acceleration is a powerful intervention, with effects on achievement that are twice as large as programs for the gifted. Grade-skippers even report more positive social and emotional feelings.”
In 2009, Wells, Lohman, and Marron published a paper titled What Factors Are Associated With Grade Acceleration? An Analysis and Comparison of Two U.S. Databases. After examining data from two national longitudinal data sets, specifically, the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS) and the Educational Longitudinal Study (ELS), they conclude that “accelerated students do not just keep up with their older classmates, they actually perform better.” However, the positive effects of academic acceleration have been well-established. They assert that “Families of [academically] gifted children tend to exhibit a number of positive characteristics, which include a focus on children, a generally enriched family environment, and parents who model hard work and high achievement.” The NELS data also supported the conclusion that “children with parents who more often discuss academic matters with them may be more likely to have been accelerated.” However, the ELS data did not apparently support such a conclusion.
Needless to say, grade-acceleration still receives a jaundiced view from educators. The primary reason, one could argue, is the lack of familiarity with the research and evidence in favor of acceleration. Equally important is the personal belief that it is detrimental to the child’s social well-being. However, it is undeniable that acceleration does provide social benefits to the child well suited for this intervention.
Schools must seriously consider this cost effective academic intervention as a viable option for academic high-flyers. For the child suited for this option, with the verifiable family support structure, the effects on achievement may be better than programs for the gifted.