Should Your Child Skip a Grade?

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If your child is excelling at school, you might be wondering if their grade is too easy for them. Should your child skip a grade, known as grade acceleration in educator parlance, to avoid boredom and stay engaged and mentally healthy? Is that a good reason to accelerate a full grade?

There is no simple answer to this question. Instead, use your knowledge of your child and look at the options available to you at your local school. In order to make this decision, consider the factors educators and researchers believe indicate that grade acceleration will be good for your child.

Signs That Acceleration May Be Indicated

It's important to remember that you are looking for an overall picture, rather than checking off a specific set of traits and skills. The more the following list matches your child, the more likely that acceleration could be a good option.  

Cognitive Traits

You may be wondering just how smart your child needs to be, or what kind of I.Q. your child ,should have to be considered for grade acceleration.

An article from the education department of Johns Hopkins University suggests that an I.Q. of 130 or higher for acceleration to be successful.

You will want to consider which types of evaluations and assessments will be useful in determining if acceleration will be helpful. Your child's school may want access to evaluations and test scores when considering acceleration.

There are several different types of cognitive assessments that attempt to measure a child's ability. These tests can vary significantly in cost and quality, with higher costs not always giving a more meaningful result. You can check with your child's school counselor or other educators in your community to find out where to get a test that will be helpful to guide you in advocating for your child's educational needs.

Physical Traits

Does your child have the motor skills in place for the next grade level? Research shows that grade acceleration is more likely to be successful when done in earlier grades. It is in the early grades that children are developing their fine motor skills.

Each of the early grades, including kindergarten, spend time developing handwriting and related skills. Children in older grades may have more advanced sports skills or developed artistic skills.

Consider your child's physical ability to participate in the grade level you are considering placing them into. You may want to go and observe the next grade level to see if your child has similar physical abilities.

As well, children who are tall for their current grade level, or appear to be physically older, are more likely to be accepted by their new peers when accelerated.

Age Compared to Peers

In some cases, children are already a year ahead of their current grade level. Perhaps you waited an extra year before enrolling your child in kindergarten, only to find that they are ready for first grade.

Another possibility is that your child was born in the first three months after the cutoff date for enrollment. Maybe you moved from one school district that had one cutoff date to a different one with a later cutoff date, and now your child is no longer with their same-age peers. 

History of Achievement

A history of school success is one indicator to watch for, according to the Acceleration Institute at The University of Iowa. If your child is already used to completing their work, they will be better prepared to meet the new challenges in the next grade level.

If your child is bright or older than their peers, yet lacks motivation, you may better off looking at alternatives to grade acceleration. When children are accelerated a full grade they often miss a few skills that are taught during the grade skipped. This leads to more than just the standard increase in work from one school year to another. There is often extra work resulting from the skipped material.

Social Considerations

Does your child naturally gravitate to children that are older than they are? Are their friends more often in the grade ahead rather than their current grade? 

Many parents who consider grade acceleration wonder if their child will fit in among their new peers. Children and teens are very aware of differences between students. While today's schools work hard to develop friendly social climates, you will want to consider how well your child will get along with new peers.

If your child naturally gravitates towards children in higher grades, you can feel confident that they will fit in well in their new grade. 

Timing of Acceleration

You may wonder if you should accelerate now or wait until your child is older. Some parents worry that accelerating their child in earlier grades will lead to their child not fitting in when they reach puberty or have growth spurts later than their peers.

The Acceleration Institute reports that earlier grade accelerations are often easier on children than accelerating later on in the academic career.

Use a Research-Based Tool to Guide Decisions

Schools divide children into age-based grade levels because educational research shows that most children learn best in a classroom with same-age peers. Within a classroom, teachers differentiation strategies to vary work according to the needs of individual students. Even if your child is bright, motivated, or one of the older students in their grade, their grade level is still likely to be developmentally appropriate fit.

It is when a child's development is significantly ahead of the timeline of their grade-level peers that full grade acceleration can be of great benefit. Using a valid instrument such as the Iowa Acceleration Scale can help provide an objective view of how well your child's development and traits match those of students who benefitted from full grade acceleration.

These tools are not like ordinary tests. They are more of a survey in which parents and teachers compare what they know about a student to factors that researchers have found relate to successful acceleration.

These tools can also provide guidance on the importance of different factors, so you will know just how important physical skills or IQ are for acceleration. The result is a score on a scale indicating how likely acceleration is to be a successful intervention for your child.

How to Skip or Accelerate a Grade

If you decide that grade acceleration is right for your child, speak with your child's school to find out what steps you will need to take. According to a 2016 review of over 100 years of research on placing children in groups by their ability, children who fit the above guidelines for acceleration do benefit from skipping a grade. But schools do not accelerate as many children as may benefit from it.

What this means is that you will want to be prepared to present and defend the reasons you believe your child will benefit from acceleration. Include both personal stories, such as information about being accepted by older peers, along with the results of any assessments, such as standardized test scores or IQ test results.

Be persistent and patient while you talk with your child's school. Again, grade acceleration is not a common practice and is likely underutilized. Your child's school may have little experience in skipping children ahead a grade.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Johns Hopkins University. Acceleration: Topical research series #1.

  2. Gross M. Exceptionally gifted children: Long-term outcomes of academic acceleration and nonacceleration. J Educ Gifted. 2006;29(4):404-429. doi:10.4219/jeg-2006-247

  3. Acceleration Institute. Question and answer.

  4. Steenbergen-Hu S, Makel M, Olszewski-Kubilius P. What one hundred years of research says about the effects of ability grouping and acceleration on K–12 students’ academic achievement: Findings of two second-order meta-analyses. Rev Educ Res. 2016;86(4):849-899. doi:10.3102/0034654316675417

By Lisa Linnell-Olsen
Lisa Linnell-Olsen has worked as a support staff educator, and is well-versed in issues of education policy and parenting issues.