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How to Skip a Grade Level: Deciding What’s Best for Your Child

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When we think about our years in school, we often remember our favorite teachers or the best moments from a particular grade. If you’re thinking about your child skipping a grade, it’s normal to worry that they’ll miss out on something. Every year of school helped shape you in some way. 

But even though it’s not that common, skipping a year may be what’s best for your child. 

Skipping a grade, or grade acceleration, is an option for students who aren’t being challenged academically. Like many other countries, the American school system groups students into grades based on age rather than development or skill level. So students performing above or below grade level is a common problem.

If grade skipping can feel like a huge decision, we get it! We’re here to help you ease your fears and decide the best course for your child. 

Read on to find out what it means to skip a grade, who should skip a grade and what to think about before making your decision. Plus, learn how to start the grade-skipping process.

Skipping a grade: what does it mean and who should do it?

Skipping a grade is a solution for academically-gifted students who feel unchallenged by their current grade level’s curriculum. Many times they’ve already mastered the skills and concepts other students are just beginning to grasp. 

Students most often skip only one grade. For example, you may choose for your child to skip first grade and go straight from kindergarten to second. It’s also common for a child to skip second grade, moving from first into third. 

This single-year skipping keeps the student from feeling too distanced from their peers. Plus, they’re more challenged by the curriculum without feeling overwhelmed. 

If a student is still not academically challenged after skipping a grade, a different alternative needs to be explored.

Students ready to skip a grade will often finish their classroom work quickly, leaving them feeling bored at school. This boredom can sometimes translate into disruptive behavior as they’re waiting for others to catch up. Or even worse, boredom in the classroom can cause a lack of excitement for learning.

Did you know?

Our online math game for kids, Prodigy Math, features a grade override tool.

This tool lets parents choose what grade level they want their child to practice math at – all while they have fun building math skills in our engaging game!

See how it works

What to consider before skipping a grade

If you feel your child is bored in their current classroom, skipping a grade may be a good choice. But even if your child is advancing ahead of other kids in their class, you may want to think about the following factors before you make the jump.

Motor skill development

In the early years of your child’s education (namely kindergarten, first grade, and second grade), motor skills play a huge role in their day. Students are learning handwriting, drawing, cutting, running, throwing, and catching. And many of these skills are more age-dependent than basic reading and math skills.

It’s best for a grade-skipping student to have the same motor skills as the kids in their new grade. Your child will need to be able to cut out shapes and draw pictures at grade level, as well as go to the bathroom independently and dress themselves. They’ll also need to keep up in physical education classes and after-school sports with their slightly older peers. 

Adequate motor skills ensure they don’t fall behind in their new classroom. But equally important — being able to participate in art and outdoor activities with the older kids will help them not feel left out socially.

Children practicing motor skills with math manipulatives.

The emotional and social impact

There are significant social and emotional challenges when trying to make friends with a whole new class. Students who skip a grade may feel ostracized or intimidated trying to befriend their new (and older) classmates. And they may simply miss their old friends. 

Developmental differences are starker in younger students, meaning a missed year of social and emotional maturation is more obvious. Your younger child may be less equipped to handle tense social situations or read social cues. 

For some kids, this emotional challenge outweighs the academic benefits of skipping a grade. In this case, it may be better to find other ways your child can be challenged in their current grade. Or try seeking out advanced academic opportunities outside of the classroom. 

Is skipping a grade bad for kids? Here's what one study found.

While some parents and educators are concerned about the psychological risks of having kids skip a grade, they may not need to worry.

One 35-year-long study monitored more than 1,000 students who had their education accelerated and investigated if it had an impact on their mental and emotional state. They found no relationship between accelerating a child's education and their long-term psychological well-being.

Effect on free time

If your child was easily coasting through school before, the extra homework and studying in their new grade can be shocking. 

While it’s totally possible to adjust, it may mean rearranging your family’s schedule so your child has more time to complete their homework and test prep. 

For instance, your child might have to cut back on extra-curricular activities or time spent hanging out with friends. For younger ages, this is less of a concern. But in older grade levels, this can be hard and make them feel isolated.

And remember — it’s still important to find balance. Your child needs time to relax, especially with the added stress of skipping a grade. So be careful to not overschedule their day. Try to focus on prioritizing their mental and physical health during this transition. And before long they’ll be not only adjusted, but thriving.

How to start the process for skipping a grade level

While many parents share similar reasons for having their child skip a grade, how the process happens will be unique to your child’s situation. This is because each school district has its own procedures and steps that need to be completed. 

Here is how skipping a grade generally works in schools across the US:

1. You send in a written request

Most schools require a written request or form with your child’s name, grade, and information on why they want to skip a particular grade.

2. You meet with professionals

You’ll find yourself speaking with guidance counselors, teachers, or school psychologists — someone who has worked with your child and is aware of their needs. They’ll help compile reports on your child’s academic, social, and emotional states of readiness for skipping a grade. 

3. There is a review of your child's academic achievement or test scores

Your child's grades and test scores will likely be reviewed during this process. You can also highlight academic activities they practice in and out of the classroom.

4. Educators meet with your child

Skipping a grade is a big change. Most school districts will want to speak directly with your child to make sure they understand what’s happening and that they’re on board with the plan. 

5. Officials evaluate your child’s emotional and social readiness

As discussed above, academics aren’t the only factor to consider when skipping a grade. School officials will want to know that you and a professional have evaluated your child for the emotional and social readiness needed at the higher grade level. 

6. You discuss reasons why their current grade is holding them back

School professionals need to know the reasons why your child’s current grade is holding them back. This may include boredom, lack of excitement to learn, or disruptive behavior due to a lack of academic challenge.

7. The school gives their recommendation on skipping a grade

Once all the evaluations and meetings are complete, the school’s professionals will share their recommendations. If they don’t recommend skipping a grade, no worries. Read on for other options that may be a better fit for your child.

When is the best time to skip a grade?

The absolute best time for your child to skip a grade depends on their unique development. 

In general, the earlier a child skips a grade, the better. Skipping kindergarten or a grade in elementary school is typically less difficult socially than skipping a grade in middle school or high school.

In terms of the time of year, it’s much easier for the child to skip a grade before a school year begins rather than in the middle of the year. This way they don’t feel lost jumping into the middle of a new class’s curriculum and can naturally start out in a new class without feeling like ‘the new kid’.

Alternatives to skipping a grade level

If the school administrators deny your request, or you decide that skipping a grade is not the best choice, don’t worry! Your child can still get the academic challenges they need elsewhere. 

Try out some these alternatives to skipping a grade level:

Advanced classes 

Especially in later grades, like middle and high school, advanced classes are a great option. These classes have more challenging curriculum taught at a faster pace. You can even look for dual-enrollment programs that allow high schoolers to take college classes for credit. 

Gifted programs

Gifted programs are educational programs that group together a small number of academically advanced students. This group, taught by a special teacher, learns with a much more rigorous academic curriculum. And individualized attention can make a huge difference in school satisfaction.

Ability grouping

Ability grouping is the practice of splitting an entire class, or even a full grade, into groups based on their academic abilities. This is often done based on reading levels so instructors can provide more specific instruction and feedback.

Subject-matter acceleration

If your child really excels in one or two subjects, subject-matter acceleration can be a great option. With this practice, a student will move to a higher-grade classroom for just specific subjects, such as science or math. 

Homeschooling

Homeschooling provides an opportunity to uniquely cater each subject to your child’s ability level and interests. It allows you to push hard when your child excels and slow down when they need more help. It also opens up more time to individual pursuits, such as coding or arts.

Want to challenge your child, try this!

Use Prodigy Math's fun online game to help your child master more math skills in their grade and beyond. Here's how it works:

  1. Get a Prodigy parent account
  2. Adjust the grade level (optional, for that extra challenge)
  3. Have them play Prodigy Math
  4. Follow their progress in your parent dashboard
  5. Set goals and rewards to inspire more growth

Prepare your child for any challenge with extra help from Prodigy

Whether you decide it’s best for your child to skip a grade or not, you can find the extra support you need with Prodigy’s game-based learning platforms.

Our most popular game, Prodigy Math, uses a powerful algorithm to help kids build key math skills they’re learning at school. They’ll practice curriculum-aligned skills from grades 1 to 8 and have fun in an engaging fantasy world filled with adventure. 

And for those that want to practice literacy, our newest addition, Prodigy English, lets your child build reading and literacy skills – all while they have fun building their own world.

And with a parent account, you’ll know exactly where their math and English skills are at and what they need to work on.

Get your parent account
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