Deciding whether a child should skip a year of public school is not easy. The school and the parents, who make this decision jointly, must weigh the risks of skipping versus not skipping.

The Pros of Skipping a Grade

A very bright child who is being taught material that she already has mastered may become turned off to school and start to underachieve. Even if she does the work, it may be in a perfunctory manner, with little real learning taking place. She needs more of a challenge.

The Cons of Skipping a Grade

A child who breezed through work previously may suddenly be faced with academic pressures for which she is unprepared. In addition, a child who is moved ahead may be able to keep pace in the classroom, yet feel out of place with her new classmates.

Compare the Variables

If your child is performing above grade level in all academic areas, that doesn’t mean she’s necessarily a candidate for skipping. If you suspect your child isn’t being sufficiently challenged, contact the teacher to see what changes can be made in the classroom. You might also talk with the principal to find out what programs are available outside the classroom, including gifted and talented programs.

After reviewing these school alternatives, you may still believe your child should be considered for skipping. If so, it’s important to compare her to children in the next grade on a range of variables, including these:

  • Learning aptitude: Your assessment of your child’s reasoning skills should draw from the teacher’s observations as well as testing results.
  • Academic skills: To evaluate these skills, review your child’s report cards, work samples, and standardized test results.
  • Work habits: Does your child work well independently? Can he concentrate for a sustained period? Can he prepare for tests effectively? Does he do his homework consistently?
  • Ability to tolerate academic pressure: How will she cope with an increased workload? Will it upset her to no longer be the star of the class? How will she respond if she struggles in some subjects?
  • Enjoyment of learning: Does he enjoy learning new things? Will he pursue topics of interest on his own?
  • Social maturity: Does she relate well to other children? Is she confident in social situations?
  • Physical stature: A child who is short, especially a boy, may have difficulty with skipping a grade because his height difference will be even greater.

Also give weight to your child’s views. If she’s anxious at the prospect of skipping, she may not feel ready and may not be ready. If your child remains motivated in her present grade, is uncomplaining about the work, is comfortable with her classmates, and is uninterested in advancing a grade, think twice about having her skip a grade.

Dr. Kenneth Shore is a school and family psychologist in NJ, and a part-time instructor at Rutgers in New Jersey.