Faster please

Skipping super-smart students by a year or more is making a comeback in Ohio, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer.

“People have been trying to determine for years whether accelerating a student is academically, socially and emotionally harmful,” (Miami University Professor Tom) Southern said. “There’s been no documented harm, academically. Kids who are accelerated tend to operate at the head of their new placement. There’s also no documentation that shows harm, socially and emotionally.”

In fact, Southern said, research shows that kids who are accelerated do much better, academically, in terms of achievement.

It’s a lot cheaper to skip little Albert a few grades than to create a special program for gifted students.

“For very bright kids, the notion that peer has to mean age peer is not the case,” (parent Tara) Smith said. “Their intellectual peers are going to be older. They may have one group that’s great for playing with, but it’s not the group they need to be with to learn.”

My daughter’s half-sister is taking two college classes this year, while also taking eighth-grade classes. One of her professors said her mid-term was the best he’d read in his years of teaching. Another told her not to worry about her future career. “You’re one of us,” he said. Next year, she’ll attend college full-time. It works for her.

About Joanne


  1. There are, however, other reasons for being cautious about accelerating kids. For example, I know of a very bright 1st grader who was tested and placed at an 8th grade reading level. So the school arranged for this child to sit in on fifth grade language arts. It was a disaster.

    The child did not have enough background knowledge to understand the books, even though she had no trouble reading them all. Plus, it was a social nightmare, to have a six year old with ten and eleven year olds.

    Much literature on G&T suggests that students need to be with peers who share similar interests/abilities, but that doesn’t mean that having elementary aged kids in HS classes is a good thing.

  2. Such is America in our age!

  3. wayne martin says:

    At the time I was in Grad school, New York City was supposedly kicking kids out of high school who could pass the exit Reagents Exam. The City claimed that they couldn’t afford to keep them in school, since they couldn’t teach them anything more.

    I remember seeing one 14 year-old in the undergrad dorms who was keeping up with his peers academically, but who could not compete socially. Weekends were really difficult for these kids, because they were not old enough to drive, to drink, or in some cases, stay out late. The campus had a crime problem too, it was pretty isolated in places, so these kids were pretty much stayed in the dorms, isolated from group activities on/off campus.

    I don’t know if NYC is still booting their brightest kids out or not. Have never seen any articles on how these kids fared academically, or what their graduation rates might have been.

  4. When I was a kid I was skipped half a grade — not because I was super-smart (though I am pretty smart), but because of changing districts from one that started twice a year to one that started only once a year. I did fine in the higher grade, and even though it meant I was one of the youngest in the class for the rest of elementary and high school, I don’t think it hurt me in the least. On the other hand, my kids — both of whom ARE super-smart (measured IQs of 150 ) never skipped grades; both of them were able to take advantage of the wonderful highly-gifted magnet schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District and both were extremely successful, and well-challenged, in elementary and high school. I suspect it depends largely on the kid him- or herself, as is the case in so many areas.

  5. Tom Galloway says:

    On the other hand, an acquaintance, then an MIT student, once told me that when she’d wanted to get skipped a grade or three, she was told by school officials that she wouldn’t have any friends in the upper grade. Her response was that she didn’t have any friends in her current grade, and if skipped she’d at least be learning something and probably wouldn’t be beaten up on the playground.

  6. I know that the following examples are just a few among many gifted children, but has anyone heard of Brandenn Bremmer? He was a fourteen-year-old prodigy who graduated from college at the age of 10 and ended up committing suicide four years later. A lot of people think that he might have had some sort of crisis when he started community college and realized that he wasn’t as prepared for higher level work than he thought he was (for instance, he had no idea how to write a correctly formatted term paper).

    And there’s Adragon De Mello, who was pushed by his father into graduating college at 11 or 12 (I think). Some sort of meltdown and police stand-off involving the police and his father happened afterwards, Adragon was sent to live with his mother, and ended up going back to junior high so that he could finally have a childhood.

    I know that those are extreme cases, but at least it should serve as a warning to people who want to push G&T children far, far, far ahead.

    To be fair, I’ll also mention Sho Yano, who seems to be doing quite well as a 15-year-old in medical school (hi there, Doogie Howser!). But I think people really should consider what can happen when a kid is pushed forward too quickly. Intellectually ready does not mean emotionally ready. Nothing like standing in line for lunch at the dorm cafeteria, and then hearing a ten-year-old cry out, “Hey, no cuts!”

  7. The Ohio Association for Gifted Children,, was established over 50 years ago, and constructively engages at the state level. In addition to the acceleration policy, Ohio also has an exemplary HS/college dual enrollment program (PSEO) and is incorporating value-added assessment as part of the state’s NCLB compliance. These accomplishments reflect the tireless advocacy of OAGC.

  8. From my own experience (being way ahead of others, not being skipped;I had several friends later who either started school early, or skipped a grade or two; having taught kids highly gifted in math), skipping doesn’t work for the really, really smart, for two reasons.

    The first reason is that the smart kid can learn faster than the “normal” kids at the higher grade. I don’t think above commenters mentioned that.

    The second reason is the lack of common knowledge that can occur (as mentioned above).

    I think part of the problem is that people think of curriculum in a linear sense. You just finished algebra I at age 8? On to geometry next!

    In my own case, yes, I generally knew the stuff they were trying to teach in class already, but I was in good odor with the teachers and could convince them to let me do what I wanted. So rather than shoot forward in the linear curriculum (something my parents weren’t keen on — they actually forbade me from taking math classes at Johns Hopkins’ CTY program because they thought I was already too far ahead), I went broad and just started reading whatever I could get my hands on. So instead of teaching myself algebra, then geometry, then trig, etc., I read Godel, Escher, Bach, books by Martin Gardner, Raymond Smullyan, Isaac Asimov, and on and on. I learned stuff that is never covered in high school or even undergrad. It gave me a lot of perspective on math as a whole.

    Anyway, I give this as anecdata for those who have really smart kids and don’t know what to do with them. I don’t think pushing them up some grades will help, even if you focus it to a single subject (like math). This is a great opportunity for them to get a much deeper grounding in their favorite subjects.

  9. My daughter was a very gifted child,but I never let her skip grades. I wanted her to be as normal as possible and it worked out. 🙂

  10. Charles R. Williams says:

    I teach math in an Ohio public university. In general, I have no problem with accelerating kids. However, the standards for the growing Post-Secondary Option are too low. Some of these students have maturity problems and some of them are getting in based on inflated high school grades. It is a mystery to me why an “advanced” high school student would be taking a high school level course like precalculus at a university.

    My typical university student will have done poorly in math in high school and aspire to some kind of technical/science degree that requires math skills. The pace of classroom instruction – roughly three times the pace of high school instruction – and the low quality of the students makes it impossible to do any kind of work with proofs or enrichment with projects. About 3/4 of these students, I would guess, drop their plans.