Smart skipping

Skipping grades benefits very smart students, researchers say. Kids do better academically and socially when they’re with their intellectual peers. Among factoids from Davidson Institute for Talent Development:

While skipping grades and other forms of acceleration are often attacked on the grounds that they may impede socialization, the research indicates that these provisions enhance both socialization and social development. (Clark, 1997; Gross, 1993; Robinson 1981)

Accelerated highly gifted students achieve significantly higher levels of social and general self-esteem than do children of equal intellectual ability who have been retained with age peers or who have been permitted only a single grade-skip. (Gross, 2000)

. . . When exceptionally gifted children who have been rejected by their age peers are removed from the inappropriate grade placement and are permitted to work and play with intellectual peers, the loneliness and social isolation disappears, and the child is accepted as a valued classmate and friend. (Gross, 1993; Hollingworth, 1942)

“Moderately gifted” students already know about half the grade-level material they’re taught, says one study. Profoundly gifted students need to skip many grades, not just one, to benefit.

Via Daryl Cobranchi.

About Joanne


  1. I agree 100%.

    Fears of removing the child from his peers are completely misguided. The people his age that he is surrounded with are not his peers, and he is extremely unlikely to socialize better with them than he would with older students that are on his academic level.

    Also, allowing skipping and early release for high performers may increase the number of high performers and improve overall academic performance among students.

  2. I skipped a grade in elementary school and I’ve often wondered whether I’d recommend it to others. Academics were no problem, but I went from being one of the older & larger kids in class to being the youngest, and very often, the smallest. For many years, it shaped my self-image in the direction of “not very athletic, but smart,” whereas before the skip, I never questioned my athletic ability.
    The situation became more profound in junior high, when my later maturing made the athletic differential even bigger, and didn’t abate until high school, when I had pretty much caught up.

  3. I skipped a grade (5th) and I guess I could say somewhat the same as Two Tone except that I never really showed signs of athletic ability (and still don’t!) So the question becomes whether school-related social / athletic / etc. concerns should outweigh intellectual development in making such decisions. To my mind, since what we’e supposed to be talking about here is _education_, the answer is a resounding “no”. We wouldn’t even be asking this question if our schools stopped overvaluing athletics and “socialization” and undervaluing learning. Or if age-grouping, which is far from inevitable or obviously desirable if you start thinking about designing schools from the ground up, were not so engrained in the system and in the thinking of those who work in it.

  4. Steve LaBonne says:

    Sorry, I forgot to fill out the “name” field in the previous comment.

  5. I too skipped a year of elementary, HS and College. As to their assertion of no negative factor socially: I can’t sign on to it from personal experience.

  6. I would say that skipping a grade in elementary and cramming high school into three years was good for me socially. I finally had friends who read the same books, wanted to talk about the same things etc. Of course, I am and was what you would define a super-geek…. It was a little difficult starting university at 16, in that I couldn’t participate in the partying in the same way most of the others did, but then I never really did value such things, and thought late nights discussing Jean Paul Sartre, or resolving the problems of the world made up for such things.

    As a grown up now, I wonder if I didn’t have rather a too serious childhood as a result, but I was happy then, and hey, maybe I’m in for some mid-life partying.

    And really, if I think of what I want for my kids, it would be along the same lines as my experience.

  7. Insufficiently Sensitive says:

    I skipped 3d grade, or rather did 3d and 4th grades the same year. But my peers were the whole school, not any particular roomful, and I think that applies to most students. So of course there were plenty of folks bigger than I was, also smaller, also smarter and dumber, and they encompassed all grades. So is ‘socialization’ of grade-skippers only a problem if the field is restricted to a small subset called a grade?

  8. Speaking as a skip-a-holic, I always did better when the other kids were *intellectual* peers, not just achievement peers.

  9. Also, allowing skipping and early release for high performers may increase the number of high performers and improve overall academic performance among students.

    A friendly jibe, Ken: “early release” makes it sound like prison. Of course, when I was in school, it sure felt like prison 🙂

  10. It should be noted that the choice to skip must be at least partly the child’s.

  11. Michelle Dulak says:

    I got skipped once or twice, depending on how you count. At the time I was due to start kindergarten, we were living in Kansas, but near the Missouri border, and Missouri had a slightly lower minimum age for first grade — different birthday cutoff, I think — so my parents said “nuts” to kindergarten and put me in a private Missouri school for a year.

    The “real” skip was seventh grade, and that was a godsend, frankly. We’d moved again at the end of my fifth-grade year, and sixth grade in the new school was very nasty as I was a made-to-order bullying victim. Going from that to eighth grade was heaven. Though part of it was doubtless that eighth grade was where tracking set in.

  12. “A friendly jibe, Ken: “early release” makes it sound like prison. Of course, when I was in school, it sure felt like prison :)”

    School, and childhood in general, certainly share a lot of characteristics with prison. Early release from both can be a powerful incentive to perform at one’s best.

    Which brings me to yet another argument in favor of skipping. Spending an entire childhood taking classes that are too easy for you will ingrain some very bad habits. Encouraging laziness among our smartest citizens is not a very good move. Give them a reason to apply themselves, and an environment that actually requires effort to succeed in, and they’ll get in the habit of working their butts off, instead of getting in the habit of slacking off and coasting through life.

    As for socialization, these kids are not going to get very good socialization in school no matter what you do. The best thing you can do to improve their social life is to get them the hell out of school as quickly as possible.

  13. For those of you who skipped ahead, was physical size and age an issue in terms of bullying? Sometimes bullies pick on smaller/less mature kids, and I wonder about what safety issues would arise if schools started promoting the gifted kids.

    fwiw, my daughter’s school just sends the advanced kids to the next grade level for the subjects they’re talented in. If the kid is reading above all the peers in their grade, they get sent to the next grade for reading, but remain with their class for everything else.

  14. Steve LaBonne says:

    Rita, that’s the most sensible system, but few schools seem to have the flexibility to do it. My daughter’s current (middle) school approximates it by having advanced language arts and math courses that mostly incorporate curriculum from the next grade level.

  15. Wacky Hermit says:

    My 6yo daughter just “skipped” Kindergarten and went directly into 1st grade even though she wasn’t 6 before the cutoff date. She was totally ready for first grade, but because of her genetics she is destined to be forever extra-short (we’ll be lucky if she clears 5 feet adult height).

    Critics of our decision to “advance” her said that she ought not advance because she would be the shortest in her class and would never be good at sports. I countered that she is the shortest even among her “appropriate” age cohort, that somebody in the class will be the shortest no matter what anyone does (and if we routinely redshirted the shortest person, no one would go to school), and there exist sports where small size is an advantage (such as ice skating and gymnastics).

    So far, my daughter is getting mostly A’s in first grade, she loves her ice skating lessons, and she is one of the most popular girls in school. Academics? check. Sports? check. Socialization? check. Score: me 3, idiots 0.

  16. John from OK says:

    I entered school a year early and do not recommend it. Being bullied, picked last for teams, hitting puberty later, and being the last one allowed to drive made it difficult.

    I was usually a top student anyway, and this didn’t make me any friends, but most of that was because I didn’t know how to be humble.

    The grass is always greener, but I was very resentful of my parents while growing up. I wanted to play sports and fit in with the boys, while they wanted me to excel academically.

    I am now wondering, however, whether being placed ahead increases ones chances of posting to this blog.

  17. As the father of a very bright daughter who actually skipped 4 grades (all of high school) and started college at 13, I can say that in our case (I say “our” because I feel like I skipped right along with her) it was a Good Thing. The college she entered had a special program for girls like Jessie (though she was the youngest her year). It provided a special dorm, hours, and counselors, but the classes were all regular college classes. After a year there she had used up the physics and most of the math and transferred to Bryn Mawr as a 14 yr old sophomore. Although fears about “peers” are understandable, in Jessie’s case she found her peers once she entered college, and has been happy as a clam ever since — with more friends than she ever had going through her first 8 years of school. So, the obvious answer to whether skipping grades is a good idea or not, is: It Depends. In our case it worked.

  18. I’ve had a daughter in three public schools, a Waldorf school, a charter, and then another public school. The experience has taught us that there is no right way for all children, only a right way for a child. Some children will do well under any circumstances, while others need the right fit. Our daughter had issues that public schools weren’t able to handle, went to a school which provided a great deal of nurturing and arts and beauty, then attended an academic grindstone of a school, and will soon start a regular public school again. I now have a son who will probably skip grades in his life, and luckily my wife and I know to avoid the social pressure for conformity and look out for his best interests. As for our third child, he’ll just might haunt us forever by being average and liking it.

  19. Michelle Dulak says:


    As far as bullying goes, I had it much worse before I was skipped the second time. I was a new kid, introverted, nerdy, completely out of touch with popular culture (this was in the late 70s, in a lowish-middle-class suburban community maybe an hour’s drive out of NYC, and as I recall it the dominant musical tastes among my peers were Kiss and disco; I only knew classical music and my parents’ favorites, which I’d blush to mention here).

    As I say, the fact that the grade I got skipped into was the first one tracked helped a lot; I landed in honors classes with a bunch of other kids whose gut response to intelligence was respect rather than ridicule.

    Also, the school was uncommonly accommodating (well, I do have pushy parents, but I don’t think that’s all there was to it). Even in the 6th grade they were busing me to the high school orchestra a few times a week for rehearsal — yes, one little mini-bus, to drive one student a few miles from an elementary school to a high school; now that I look back on it I find it staggering. By the eighth grade I could just walk up the hill from the middle to the high school — they were maybe a quarter mile apart. In sixth grade I and one other student had separate “independent-study” math (mostly algebra), and I had some independent study in English too.

    Best of all, in high school my parents somehow wangled me out of standard Phys. Ed. I was always a perfect klutz and hopeless at sports, and Phys. Ed. was psychological torture. But somehow I got shunted into an “alternative” PE class. The few other students were all actually physically disabled (I’m not), so I don’t quite know how it was done, but boy was I grateful.

    I imagine that the gap in physical abilities between one’s peers and oneself would be harder on boys than girls. It never bothered me, partly because I was shielded from it and partly because I’d’ve been the last picked for the kickball/softball/volleyball/whatever team whether I’d been skipped or not, and didn’t particularly care.

  20. I wasn’t skipped, and it was by far the right decision for me. (This had to do, in large part, with the people in my grade at school and the grade above me.) I didn’t realise I was bored in school because they just let me read whatever I wanted; I taught myself high school and some college math during elementary school. And I had no problems with making friends (this played another role, as my parents didn’t want to remove me from my friends). I don’t think it would have been a horrible mistake to have skipped me — but I don’t regret that I wasn’t.
    I think it depends a lot. It can be better or worse if you’re skipped — one would hope this could be made an individual decision, not some “always skip!” or “never skip!” rule.

  21. When I took my entrance exams and such for college in 1972,I was eligible to enter 3rd semester classes in Math, Biology,and Chemistry at the UW Madison.However,since I wanted to go into Pre-med,I was told that I would have to be on track with all of the other freshman.I was bored out of my mind at one of the biggest party schools in the country.Write your own conclusion.Ken has a very valid point.

  22. greeneyeshade says:

    my wife was skipped twice, started college at 15 or 16 and doesn’t recommend it.

  23. Sean Kinsell says:

    Possibly the point at which the transition is made is significant, too (I didn’t notice anything about that in the linked article, but there were a lot of quotations). My best friend through junior high and high school had skipped sixth grade to start seventh grade with us, and while everyone noticed, we were all meeting people that we hadn’t gone to grade school with, so it wasn’t a big deal. She was way more together than most of the rest of us, and she’s one of the most grounded people I know.

  24. Devilbunny says:

    I didn’t skip – it wasn’t the sort of situation where you could – but as someone still in school (nonstop! and tired of being poor!) after 25, I think that parents who worry about missing out on college, etc. socialization are missing part of the point. Imagine how much fun you could have in your 20’s if you graduated college at 18 – when everyone else is struggling to get started, you’ve got four years work experience and actually have a cash flow.

  25. The only concern would be if you skipped and went from a 4.0 GPA to a to a 3.5 in the next grade.

    Since grades are so much more important than say 25 years ago, would you lose out on scholarships, etc…?

    Just asking.

  26. Like most children, my best friends were kids a few houses away who I played with after school and on weekends. I was academically smarter than them but I used them to teach me how to play baseball better, how to make the perfect peanut butter sandwich, where the best trees are for climbing, etc. And occassionally, they asked for my help with their homework. When I skipped a grade, that relationship did not change. Children socialize within their neighbourhood and the entire school. What class they are in is not a big issue.

  27. I desparately wanted to skip as a child, but as I had a brother who struggled with school only one year ahead of me, my parents decided to keep me where I was so that he wouldn’t have to deal with his little sister passing him by.

    My own daughter, who at age 5 is reading at a 6th grade level, was not allowed to begin kindergarten because she missed the cut-off by 19 days. County and state education officials both told me that the only way to get my child an education that was appropriate to her abilities was to send her to private school. Of course, they didn’t offer her a voucher to go with their recommendations.

  28. Sadly, my mother was one of the people who believed in the ‘socialization’ myth–when the school tried to skip me, she put her foot down.

    I was not pleased.

    When the situation arose with my daughter–in her 3rd grade year she was placed, academically, with the school’s 6th graders. I asked the school to simply formalise the situation and was denied–on two counts.

    The old ‘socialization’ canard and a second one that drives me mad to this day–that her skipping would be bad for the self esteem of the other children.

    Later this reasoning was used to eliminate the AP program in the school system.

    Not having the ability to place her in a private school we are forced to augment her learning at home. But it has taken its’ toll. To be forced to sit and endlessly repeat work one already knows is stultifying.

    It has horrible consequences. She is still the smart, vibrant girl she always was, but a mind that could have been trained to such great heights has been forced to shackle itself, to slow to a crawl, to be adequately ‘socialized’ with people who will never be her peers.

  29. I’ve tutored several students who have skipped early grades – at 6 or 8 or 10 years of age, these kids were deemed ready to skip ahead, but by the time they’d hit 15 or 16, they were lagging behind their peers, at least in the subject I tutor (math). I’m certainly not arguing against skipping, but I am wondering what the general procedures are for identifying which kids will benefit from skipping – and which kids are just temporarily ahead of their peers. Right now I’m working with a sixteen year old who’s about to finish high school – and she’s doing math at maybe eighth-grade level. I get the impression that she tested well in reading comprehension and language skills when she was skipped, and never really showed any above-average ability in math. Is this typical in the United States, or do skipped kids have to show above-average ability in all subject areas?

  30. Then a question, Brenda: I’ve posted about my daughter who skipped first. My wife now thinks she should be “unskipped.” Do you see that as beneficial? Why or why not?

  31. Brenda raises a good point, and that girl could have been mine, had she been skipped. She’s a shooting star in language-related classes, but math is a different story. She tests very well in math but classwork and homework are a struggle (as they should be, or you’re not learning.) I think there’s a brain maturity thing that has to happen for math, and it has nothing to do with how smart a kid is; and it’s a mistake to think that a bright kid can skip over the step-by-step grade school stuff just because she’s bright. Some can and some can’t.

    We actually never considered skipping our kid because she was always very small for her age anyway, and usually made friends with younger kids. Her elementary school had small classes and all the teachers in the school knew her and knew how smart she was, so she had a good experience. The magnet school she’s now in is full of very high-IQ kids and they know what to do for them.

  32. Laura — there is a “brain maturity thing” for math — the capacity for abstract thought usually happens around middle school. I’ve tested a bunch of kids right around that age, and it’s fun to see it happen. Sorta like the mirror test you can do on infants. One day they don’t have it; the next day they do.

  33. kb – I followed the link to your post, but to be honest, I’m really not qualified to offer much of an opinion on the matter – I’m a math grad student, with little knowledge about childhood education aside from my own limited experience. Best of luck, though.

    Laura – I agree, and another thing about math is, there are several little tricks that will get people through math up to a point. For instance, a student who’s half-listening to a lesson on fractions might figure out that adding numerators is the way to add fractions. It works just fine adding 3/7 and 2/7, but falls apart when a student has to add 1/10 and 2/5. These sorts of tricks (I’ve seen kids learning algebra use some pretty sophisticated ones, which all but mask their lack of understanding of the subject) are no substitute for actual mathematical understanding – but the right ones will get a clever second-grader through a test designed to diagnose whether the kid should be in third grade.

  34. Brenda, that’s very interesting.

    I had to re-teach my daughter how to add fractions in the seventh grade, by drawing pictures of half-cup measures of M&Ms and asking her to think about whether 1/2 + 1/2 = 2/2 or 2/4. She learned how to add fractions in elementary school, but what was really happening just escaped her. I didn’t think they were spending enough time on stuff, but the teachers assured me that you don’t have to “drill” like they used to think you did. Oh well.

    In fact, during 7th grade we spent quite some time at home going over fractions and such so she could keep up with her pre-algebra class and know what was going on. That must have been when the abstract thought ability Rita mentioned kicked in, because we went through a lot of stuff pretty fast, and she *got* it.

  35. OK, now we’re really off the original topic 😉 – but in my years of teaching and tutoring math, I’ve often thought that if every single student’s mom or dad took out a bunch of measuring cups, 90% of kids’ problems with fractions would just disappear. Honestly, it bewilders me that kids are taught fractions without ever experimenting with actual measurements; the sort of intuition to be gained from that sort of activity is worth two weeks’ worth of lessons, if not more. Let a six- or seven-year old participate in baking cookies just once, and they’ll never make the mistake of thinking that 1/3+1/3=2/6 (a misconception that I am always horrified to see some of my CALCULUS students hold).

  36. Eric Jablow says:


    We call that the “Distributive law for freshmen.” In my teaching days, I had too many cases where a student panicked trying to solve
    int frac{dx}{sqrt{1+x^2}
    and replaced $sqrt[1+x^2}$ with $1+x$.

    [Sorry for the TeX-ish notation, but how am I going to describe mathematics here?]

    I too skipped many grades; I read my first word before i was 2, started doing 1st grade workbooks when I was 3, started learning algebra at 7, and started with calculus at 8. Eventually, through Dr. julian Stanley’s SMPY program at Johns Hopkins University [referred to on the Davidson link], I started Brooklyn College when I was 11.

    I was essentially a normal student. They let me take certain courses out of order; they felt that I should take the English courses when i had more things to say. My studies were heavily weighted towards mathematics. However, I fulfilled all the distribution requirements. I took the required arts and humanities courses. I graduated when I was 15, went to graduate school, and earned my PhD when i was 20.

    However, my adult career was not as successful. I suffered and suffer from problems with depression, and my research career was derailed. I perished, because I did not publish enough, and the academic job market in 1990 was dead. I now am a computer programmer, and not a particularly happy adult. I guess that for every success story like Charlie Fefferman, there’s someone like me.

    I don’t know whether I should have skipped so many grades. Were there resources available to me in 1973 that would have let me challenge myself academically, but let me grow up with people my age, I would have done it. The NYC public school system in 1973 had no such resources. Even private schools could not really help me. People did not homeschool in 1973.

    I had and have no self-confidence socially; I guess I never really grew up. I would recommend that anyone considering this step find a situation where the student is not the only one his or her age in school. Think of it this way—who does a 17-year-old graduate student date? I loved college and graduate school, but I was not prepared for life afterwards. Try to find a solution that works both academically and socially; I didn’t.

    Sadly, at no time during my college education was I hurt by my not having gone to high school. It makes me wonder if high schools should even exist.

    Eric Jablow

  37. blkkl;kjblkl;;;blk;bp’k;’buoip esrt

  38. Thanks!

  39. Should educate kids with severity and all will be fine.

  40. Our situation is we have 5 1/2 year old twins (boy/girl) in their 2nd year of Montessori school and birthday 2 days past the cutoff for kindergarten…i.e. technically should start kindergarten next year. Their Montessori teachers think they should be skipped ahead to 1st grade (our daughter is reading on a 4th grade level and our son on a 3rd grade level, she is learning multiplication, he has done mult. tables and is now doing division with remainders.) Both are mature for their age (he a little more than she actually). We don’t want their first experience in “traditional” school to be utter boredom. They both are fairly small for their age as well. We can’t decide what to do!! Thoughts from other parents who’ve been through this dilemma greatly appreciated!

  41. Each child is an individual of course so differing methods of meeting needs must be used IMHO. Often a single grade skip is the hardest socially from what I have observed through a variety of ppl who have allowed their children to skip. My own 10 yo DD is 5-6 years advanced, depending on subject, from age-mates but has only skipped once, this school year. Prior to that we home schooled using compacted curriculum which allowed her to advance at her own speed. The home schooling allowed her many more social opportunities than being in school would have so we haven’t yet run in to any social problems. The real world is a better option there by far from our experience. We have run into no difficulties with Math, through Algebra, so not sure what is meant by the comments made by Brenda. Friends of my DD are stronger in Math than she, currently doing CB Calculus with no difficulties. Does this mean that these children will have even stronger math skills once they hit what would normally be Middle School age?

    I myself was never permitted to skip and I still harbor a great deal of anger for the boredom and social wasteland I was forced to deal with throughout my school years. I don’t think there really is a “good” social fit in schools for the higher gifted ranges but there are better options than being left to rot.

  42. number1triad says:

    I am a current 8th grader, i skipped 3rd grade but had no social, mental or physical problems. i this this was greatly based on the fact that i was equal of size to the 4th and 5th graders. the only problems i encounterd at all was when i was in 6th grade. i recived a few HAHA your only 11, but with the help of a friend in the cool crowd it was overran. I was quite shocked though when i saw my best friend in the 2nd grade. he was jsut like i left him, typical nerd… then i look in the mirror and my friends, and can tell it was the right choice. now i am in gifted classes, but remain at the maturity of a 12 year old. i am thinking about the 3 year highschool graduation program florida offers, it is rellativly new, so not many people have done it, i just want some comment on the 18 credit graduation.

  43. Homeschool Mom says:

    If you truly listen to yourself you can find your answers. We are all “gifted”. Do you enjoy each day? You may want to look into yourself and see what your goals in life are. You must enjoy your journey or you will not end up where you were going. Achieve and be happy in your everyday life. Everything stands between you and your dreams but only if you let it. Everyone thinks “I do not want to be different” but we all are!!! So take what you have, believe in yourself and you will make a huge difference in our world!!!!!


  1. says:

    Too much too soon

    Joanne Jacobs turned up this report by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, which gives its collective thumbs up to the acceleration of gifted students. This quote jumped out at…