Skipping Second Grade?

This summer we planned for DC2 to take the tests to skip second grade. Zie obviously knew all the English material in second grade and was constantly complaining about not learning anything last year in first.  The one problem being that hir Spanish was not yet that great and could probably use another year of immersion in dual language before having to start doing things like writing paragraphs in Spanish.  (We also determined that the Kindergarten teacher who was so deadset against us skipping first grade blatantly lied about what would be required in second grade– paragraphs in Spanish did not happen at the end of first grade or beginning of second.  Zie could have skipped first grade with no problem.)

10 people had tried to skip the previous summer and none of them passed, and we read comments online that the tests for skipping first and second were bizarre and harder than the tests for skipping later grades because for the later grades they just use something based heavily on the state exams, where as the K-2 exams are all from a private company.  This is borne out in the passing rates for the district– almost nobody skips 1st and 2nd and a higher percentage of the people who try skip later grades (5th grade skipping being most prevalent).  So we didn’t necessarily think that DC2 would pass the tests this summer, but we thought it would be good to see what happened and maybe good practice for next summer’s tests.

But then zie did pass, even the social studies test that they made people take first because it had such a low passing rate (Robert Fulton showed up on the exam– he was on the study guide as well and I’m afraid I gave DC2 a rather impassioned economic history lecture on his importance as well as the difference between invention and innovation… I have to wonder how many adults who didn’t take economic history in college hear Robert Fulton and automatically think steam engine).  Zie passed two of the tests on the first try and was borderline on the next two, so we set up to retake them a month later and zie got high passing marks the second time around (our district allows two tries).

So we set up a meeting with the school counselor and the third grade teachers.  Unlike DC2’s K teacher, hir first grade teachers and school counselor were very supportive about DC2 skipping.  They’d spent much of last year assuming zie would skip and gave hir 2nd grade’s math homework in Spanish each week with hir first grade assignments.  At the meeting with the counselor and new teachers, the counselor read off a statement from them about DC2’s grit (also hir intelligence, but the emphasis was on grit).  The third grade teachers told us to be sure to warn hir that zie might not know everything and would have to work harder in Spanish, but they seemed to have no other concerns.

We were still concerned about Spanish, and also DC2 was concerned about leaving hir little group of 3 friends.  Hir best friend, the only other GT kid going into dual-language 2nd grade in our school, was especially broken up about DC2 not being in the same class.  This wasn’t a problem when DC1 skipped a grade because the school skipped both hir and hir best friend at the same time.  But there are a few things that mitigate this concern– first, most playtime happens in after school club, where all three kids are still going (along with an inconceivably immature fourth kid in their playgroup who hates and perpetually bullies (and thankfully perpetually gets in trouble for bullying, unlike when I grew up) DC2 but has been good friends with one of the other kids in their group since preschool); second there’s no guarantee that zie would be in the same class with both hir friends anyway since there are two dual-language classes (zie would be with the other G/T kids because they cluster-group); and third… DC2’s friends are all of the opposite gender, zie never really hit it off with any of the kids hir same gender in 2nd grade, but did occasionally play in after school with older kids the same gender.  While it is possible that zie will stay friends with them throughout K-12, it’s equally possible that they’ll hit the age in which kids segregate by gender and in that case it would be helpful for DC2 to be around more kids zie enjoys being with.

Because of these concerns, we asked if we could do a one month trial in third grade to see how it worked out.

It has been working out beautifully.  DC2 comes back super happy every day, talking about things zie has learned (starting the second week, the first week no learning occurred and zie kept saying zie wanted to go back to 2nd because zie heard the teachers were nicer).  The math homework is still below hir level, but still at the stage where it is good practice rather than pointless.  In class, they independently do math packets that go through third grade work, and by the end of the first month DC2 was on #8 out of 15.  Zie is also the only kid who has gotten a speed certificate for addition so far and is 84% of the way to getting a speed certificate for subtraction according to their online testing program.  (The teachers told the class that only two kids got all four addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division by the end of the year last year.)  (They have a points system for these extra things, and each cluster of four tables combines their points in order to get prizes– the teacher moved DC2 to a table with only 2 other kids and they still have the most points because of hir math stuff– DC1 has 320 points and the other two kids at the table have 80 combined.)

We have, unfortunately, gotten a couple of calls from the “nice” teacher about DC2 crying when asked to predict things in English Language Arts.  Zie will get the prediction correct but then would burst into tears when asked to explain why.  This is unusual for DC2, but very much the norm for DC1 who is much older and gets silent and sullen rather than crying these days when asked to have an opinion or to support an opinion, so DH doesn’t think it’s age-related.  I’m still a bit confused because this is not like DC2 at all (who is more likely to get frustrated than sad when challenged), and when questioned DC2 did not think it was anywhere near as big a deal as the teacher did.  The “strict” teacher has had no such problems with DC2, so my suspicion is that DC2 just needed some time to hirself to calm down rather than being asked about hir feelings etc.  Since they’ve moved onto inferences (which are somehow different from predictions?), apparently this poor behavior has stopped.  DH has also started working with DC2 on the ambiguity kind of stuff using the Once Upon a Time game (sponsored amazon link, though we actually have the black and white 1st edition which was a birthday gift I bought for teenage DH but he didn’t actually appreciate until some years after DC1 was born) for some Improv lessons and using a 3rd grade ELA workbook to work on predictions specifically.

We didn’t realize a month was over until 6 weeks had actually passed.  By that point, it seemed like we might as well wait another couple of weeks for the parent/teacher conferences.  The first report card came, and zie earned in the upper 90s for all the graded subjects and Meets Expectations for all the ungraded subjects.  So… we’ll see what happens.

23 Responses to “Skipping Second Grade?”

  1. Michael N Nitabach Says:

    I skipped first grade & I don’t think it did me any favors but I’m super happy w my life now so… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Anecdote ~= data. Different kids are different. You don’t know the counterfactual. ETC.

      I feel we have this conversation every time.

      • Michael N Nitabach Says:

        We do! I have strong feelings about it, but I totally agree that there is no control condition to compare to. Maybe I’m happy now BECAUSE I skipped first grade!? I mean you seem like a great parent & not ego-driven like I think my parents were.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        If DC1 hadn’t skipped grades, I am fairly sure zie would have become fused in between some chair slats out of pure boredom by now.

        If you hadn’t skipped first grade you might have lived with your parents for a full additional year.

  2. Katherine Says:

    It sounds like DC2 is thriving. Yay!

  3. SP Says:

    Glad DC2 is so happy in 3rd grade!

    Seeing the comment above, is there a lot of data on grade skipping, etc.? just curious

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah, for gifted kids (and on red-shirting for athletes). The gifted kid skipping literature is summarized in a report you can get online called “A Nation Deceived”/”A Nation Empowered”.
      (I don’t think there was an acceleration institute before the 2004 report– I think the report made up the authors’ minds rather than the other way around.)

      I know some people doing work on whether it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond, and for most middle class kids it is best to be a bigger fish in a decent but not overly large pond (there’s a very large literature about how terrible truly small ponds are for everybody and that small fish benefit from good ponds), but for highly gifted kids, the bigger pond is better.

      • SP Says:

        Thanks! Not relevant for us for many years, but I’m glad data exists!

        My kid is slated to be one of the oldest in her class based on birthday / kindergarten start age laws, but no idea if she’ll be gifted, so we so far assume things will work out. I have heard it is pretty difficult to get public schools to entertain any early starts or skips until 2nd grade.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yeah, it depends a lot on your district too. Berkeley is famous for not letting ANYBODY skip no matter what. But some of the other districts in the Bay Area are a lot more flexible.

  4. Debbie M Says:

    I love when tough decisions go well. Congratulations to DC2! And to the whole family for all the thought and work that went into this.

  5. Noemi Says:

    Skipping a grade will definitely affect her Spanish fluency as she is losing a year or Spanish Immersion instruction. But it sounds like being challenged academically is more important than learning the language. And K-5 immersion programs do not produce fluent speakers on their own (I say this as a parent with students in an immersion program and as a middle school language teacher who gets 2-3 students every year who completed K-5 immersion programs and none of them are anywhere near fluent). You have to commit to the language at higher levels anyway to reach fluency so losing the year of Spanish isn’t a great loss.

    It’s interesting to me that so many kids in your area skip grades. I don’t believe I’ve ever taught a student who skipped a grade in my 15 years teaching at my school, and I get the entire 6th grade each year, so it’s doubtful I missed them. And my district is full of highly educated, upper middle class parents who would absolutely push for that kind of thing if it were common practice. Now I’m really curious what our district’s stance is on that.

    My son went to TK (because I didn’t want to pay $20K for another year of preschool) and is reading and doing math solidly at a 1st grade level this year. He’s also VERY TALL (as tall as most of the 2nd and 3rs graders in his after school program). But he doesn’t seem like a kid who will want to push himself academically and he doesn’t seem frustrated by the level of work yet so he’ll probably stay where he is. My husband skipped from 1st to 2nd in the middle of the school year and is very ambivalent about it. He doesn’t think it would be a good move for our son.

  6. xykademiqz Says:

    Smurf is bored out of his wits. I should’ve had him skip 3rd grade. He says he hates school because it’s too boring and they don’t learn anything. He’s been reading at middle-school level for ages and is excellent at math.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Can you talk with the teacher/school? They might be able to do something even without a skip.

      • xykademiqz Says:

        They supposedly do something; we get all this paperwork indicating he has Advanced Learning Needs in several subjects (most recent addition is art) and the Resource Specialists will do their best to support his needs, but other than capitalizing certain words in memos, I don’t think anyone really does anything. We’re in a state with good public schools, so he’s probably getting a decent education, I just wish he didn’t say he hated school because it’s so boring. His middle brother, now in 7th grade, is perhaps even worse, one of those bright kids who might end up being an underachiever because he’s been utterly bored his whole life, with too many people forcing him to do busy work or at least the work whose point or usefulness was never articulated. My eldest wasn’t like that; he could cope with boredom because he was focused on pleasing those with authority. But Middle Boy does not care; if something isn’t important or interesting to him, he’s not going to do it to please parents or anyone else; the only way to get him to do stuff that he doesn’t find interesting is to convince him it is necessary for something else he values (punishments, like taking away privileges, also don’t work with him; the kid will ride out the punishment, as long as it takes, and go back to doing exactly what he wants).

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        That’s all really hard. :/ My sympathies. Maybe skipping is in youngest’s future? (I didn’t know that advanced learning needs in Art was even a thing!)

        My mom had a (middle kid) brother like your middle– fortunately he valued being a pilot (so was able to be convinced to do math and some science) AND he ended up in love with a woman who told him she wouldn’t marry him if he didn’t stop slacking and finish college.

  7. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    Now I want to hear your lecture on Robert Fulton and the difference between invention and innovation. I have zero memory of learning anything about Robert Fulton.

    I’m so glad that the 3rd grade shift is working out for DC2!

    I’m sorry that kindergarten teacher lied, what a waste of a year that DC2 could have been learning. JB’s bestie is already having this problem with starting the school year having already reached the end of the year goals with reading and math and their parents are struggling with what to do because they aren’t socially ready for skipping but the academic boredom is intense (per the parents) so this topic has been on my mind. I don’t think we’ll have a problem with giftedness with JB but zir preschool is pretty academically strong so ze may be academically ahead of the other kids when ze starts kinder. I’m not sure ze is a self motivated learner though and may not care about not being challenged.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Americans say Robert Fulton invented the steam engine or the steam boat, but actually he took already existing technology from England over to the states and adapted the steam engine to a commercially viable steam boat. He gets the credit because he was a commercial success– innovation is very important.

      DC2 enjoyed first grade, so I don’t think we have any regrets. But by the end of the grade zie was definitely way ahead of hir classmates for the individual learning activities, and it was pretty clear that 2nd grade math would be a waste of time. Third is providing nice review and different ways of doing things zie already knows how to do (we haven’t been doing as much with number lines or place value at home). It’s kind of nice because their lessons seem to be neither traditional math nor Singapore math, but something closer to Singapore but still different. So even though DC2 has understood multiplication since preschool (Montessori!) and has had most of hir times tables memorized since this summer, zie is still getting some new perspectives on the topic.

      • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

        Thanks! :)

        Oh that’s good that DC2 enjoyed 1st grade after all. I was just thinking on JB’s bestie’s situation where it is not currently so positive.

        I’m trying not to pre-worry about how things will shake out for JB next year now (or feeling like ze is behind because ze really doesn’t have much basic math yet).

  8. First Gen American Says:

    For us with the older one the social stuff was the hardest thing to tackle. I am most impressed your kid can fit in socially with such a big age difference. My older one is one of the youngest in his class and the maturity issues were/are huge. I couldn’t imagine him staying out another year because he was so ready/bored academically. Not sure how to get it all right.

  9. Ask the grumpies: What acceleration to prioritize and what about when they return to school? | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] going to be a grade skip, we push on anything that is not on level for the next year (like memorizing facts about who “invented” the steamboat in the US).  If one of the kids is behind on something (like spelling or grammar or Spanish or handwriting […]

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