As a middle school teacher, I would overhear discussions on skipping grades from time to time.
“I skipped first grade. I was too advanced.”
“I skipped kindergarten. My mom said I didn’t need it.”
“My birthday’s in October, but I’m only turning 11. My parents put me in school early.”
In my class, skipping grades was a badge of honor for my students. But whether or not skipping grades actually benefited a student was a little more nuanced based on a variety of factors.
I had students who had skipped grades and were just fine. But I also had sixth graders who couldn’t fit in socially because their interests and maturity levels were clearly better matched with the fourth graders who were their same age. I had seventh graders who struggled with emotional regulation far more than their older peers. I had eighth graders who were fine academically and socially but lamented being the youngest in their class (“I’m going to be the last to do everything in high school!”). Clearly, it’s a mixed bag.
We polled our WeAreTeachers audience to hear what they think of students skipping grades.
Some teachers reported positive experiences with these students:
“I’ve had two over the last 20 years … both girls and both skipped first grade.”
“I think their academic and social success was due to them having older siblings and supportive/involved (but not helicopter) parents.”
“I had one and she was an awesome student.”
“She could have skipped two grades, but it was decided that was too much on an emotional level for her to jump.”
However, teachers who reported exclusively positive experiences were definitely in the minority. Most responses indicated that skipping grades helped in some ways but hurt in others.
“Almost always some social awkwardness or immaturity compared to older classmates, but they could all keep up intellectually.”
“Academically did great but struggled socially the following year.”
“Parents ended up giving her a ‘gap year’ of homeschooling and put her back in with her age peers.”
“Academically … just fine, and in lower grades (skipped first), emotionally was OK.”
“However, by about fifth grade, we started to notice a lack of emotional maturity, which has been a challenge for the kiddo. But they are learning and adjusting.”
“I had a second grader who had been in kindergarten for first semester and first grade for second semester the year before. It was a disaster.”
“She was smaller than the regular kindergarten kids, very immature, and had no people skills. She was an only child who was being pushed by her parents in very unhealthy ways. Her mother constantly lied about her abilities and when I tested her on the second grade reading standards was furious that I had ‘done it wrong.’ The child was above average for a kindergarten student but way over her head in every way in second grade. She should have stayed in the correct grade.”
“My oldest son has a late September birthday, which made him 4 when school started. He never skipped a grade but was always one of the youngest in his class. He was very tall for his age and pretty mature, so he never had any issues. But it all depends on the child and the motivation behind it.”
“Math was the biggest obstacle.”
“Mine was mature enough, but that lost math year made for major anxiety in math.”
A few teachers responded that they’d only seen grade-skipping as a net loss for students.
“I have personally known four who have, and in all cases it never worked out.”
“Terrible. He skipped as a toddler and was always academically and socially behind his classmates.”
“He needed a lot of extra help and his family relied on the fact that his struggles were due to his age. He always felt ‘less intelligent’ than his classmates because of his struggles.”
However, the teachers responding with exclusively negative experiences seemed to be few and far between. It would seem that most teachers, myself included, have seen some students excel and thrive in a higher grade, while others struggle. According to our audience of teachers who weighed in, the success rate often boils down to social-emotional readiness, maturity, and whether the student wants to skip a grade.
Here’s some more food for thought:
“I never had a parent tell me that they were not satisfied with their decision to hold back a child for a year.”
“I have had parents that regret not holding them back.”
“We mistakenly think of progress in school as strictly an academic measurement, and it isn’t.”
“It’s a journey, not a race.”
And perhaps the comment that sums up the whole issue of grade-skipping best:
“Totally depends on the child.”