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The Benefits of Skipping a Grade

The Benefits of Skipping a GradeWe already learned about the concept of the traditional factory school and why that model will always result in underachieving children; because it is designed to create identical results regardless of potential or capacity. We also learned that skipping a grade has scientifically proven benefits even though some people argue that it creates social or self-esteem issues or places undue stress on children. Let's talk more about the benefits.

As I mentioned in the previous article: Evidence shows that children who skip grades achieve more than the children they left behind, and surpisingly, even more than the older children they join. Of children who have the same IQ and same age before the skip, those who do skip dominate in achievement tests over those who don't -- a permanent increase in IQ, which is normally thought to be fixed. Students who skip also rate better socially and emotionally than those who don't and have higher self-esteem.

What causes these benefits? Here are five causes.

  1. They gain ambition and motivation. Children who skip grades are much more likely to join advanced programs in later school years and pursue higher education, along with all the increased earnings and career benefits. Most importantly for their character, they realize that success is not easy. Studies show that children who earn good grades with relative ease become conditioned to success. They slip into a mindset that can last a lifetime; a mindset of doubt in their real-world abilities to solve problems they haven't seen before. People with this afflication play-it-safe, avoiding challenge and learning opportunities, preferring to stick to their stengths and guaranteed success but living a fearful and stagnant life at the same time (Dweck 2000, 2006, 2012). 

  2. They stop wasting time. If your child is getting straight A's with minimal effort then they are wasting practically all their time every day. They are learning nothing. Nothing, that is, except that they should expect to get outstanding results without effort, which causes those huge mindset problems later on. Consider that if your child skips a grade then they literally get an extra year of life. In the meantime, they spend all those other years learning more.

    Consider also, that the child is learning to slow themselves down and procrastinate. When they get a boring sheet of math problems or other make-work assignment that's due at the end of class but takes only a few minutes to complete then the child settles into some other activity. I'm lucky because my child reads or draws, but he could just as easily become a disruption as his idle brain struggles to entertain itself. However, even though my child reads which is a good thing and gives him enjoyment, he is now optimizing his fun by creating more reading time. As a result, he doesn't check his work or even take any pride in it. He either rushes through beforehand or reads first and them leaves himself just enough time to slam down answers. The silly case of the smart kid performing worse!

  3. They actually get smarter. IQ is thought to be an objective measure of intelligence that doesn’t change. It's scaled to the age of the child. As a simple example: If the average child only learns to add at age 5, but your child knows this at age 4, then your child has an IQ of at least 125 (5 is 1.25 of 4) in adding.

    Studies show that children who skip a grade quickly fill in all their knowledge gaps as they adapt into the new grade. On IQ tests they score at least as well, and often higher, than others in their new grade. This is a permanent increase in IQ as if the child were one year older than they are. This effect is not seen when children are not skipped because the factory school model whittles away potential rather than realizing it (Wells 2009).

  4. They benefit from the Pygmalion and Halo effects. One famous early study by Roesnthal and Jacobsen included an experiment in which teachers were told that a group of randomly selected individuals were smarter than average when they were not. After the school year finished, IQ testing determined that those previously average children had indeed gained in IQ as a result of subconcious teacher expectations improving the interactions (Rosenthal, 1964, 1973). Halo effect is another bias in which people subconciously apply information to other areas, such as percieving children who they expect to be smart as being better behaved even if there is no difference in actual behavior.

    Both of these effects confer real advantages to students that teachers know have skipped grades. Get your child those advantages.

  5. They benefit socially and have higher self-esteem. The most common objection to skipping grades is the worry that the child is not ready to engage with older children or won't be able to handle the stress of the new grade. In reality none of it matters. By the time they become adults children who skip and those who don't are both equally happy and well adjusted. When asked if they regretted skipping a grade most regretted not skipping more. It does make a difference at the time though. Children who have just skipped do indeed experience some stress as they adapt into the new grade, but improved self esteem quickly replaces stress because the child has proven to themselves that they are more capable than their peers.

Most articles that talk about grade skipping say it's for "gifted" kids. I don't believe it. First of all, I believe that any young child can easily be coached into testing at a gifted level by caring parents. Second I think that skipping grades is so beneficial that any “average” child should try it. See the next article for my plan on how to do it.


Dweck, Carolyn.  Mindset:  The New Psychology of Success (2007) or Self-theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development (Essays in Social Psychology) (2000)

Wells, Ryan.  What Factors Are Associated With Grade Acceleration? (2009)

Rosenthal, Pygmalion in the classroom: teacher expectation and pupils’ intellectual development. (1964, 1992 update)  [A brief and update].


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There are some interesting

korinthia's picture

There are some interesting points here, but I'm uncomfortable with the impression that it's good across the board.  You don't really address the social aspects of school, and this is important.  My children are fortunate to be in a public Montessori school that teaches to individuals rather than to the level of the group, so my son who is starting full day kindergarten but is already reading and doing math at a third grade level is doing work appropriate to his skills while still remaining with his peer group.  Academically I know my son will excel regardless of where he is, but school is more than that.  All three of my kids are on the older end of the age cutoff for when they could start school, and I debated getting them tested to start early, but the more people and teachers I talked to made me decide against it.  It's hard being younger than most of the people in your class, particularly when down the line smaller size, maturaty, and age affects athletics, dating, and driving.  Younger kids in a class had more social struggles, which can also in turn affect academic achievement as well.

Oh, I understand that our

korinthia 's picture

Oh, I understand that our situation deviates from the norm, but I felt it was important to mention, plus even in a Montessori environment people have asked me if I have considered moving my son up a grade or two.  But it is that "School is more than that" question that I ponder a lot, too.  I suppose I don't see school entirely in terms of academics.  If my kids were scoring off the charts because information had been pounded into them, but they had no joy in learning, then that's not a good education in my opinion.  My brothers and I attended public schools near Detroit.  From a strictly academic standpoint we were not handed the best opportunities but we all went on to do well in college (my brothers to ivy league schools and they are both associate professors today, and I am a luthier who runs my own business).  Real success in education happens more often based on what happens at home.  My kids will learn because their parents love to learn and want to share things with them.  The benefit of going to school to learn things there is that they get to interact with more people on their own and figure out how to navigate the world without my guiding everything.  They get perspectives they wouldn't get from me.  They form bonds that may last a lifetime, and memories that belong to them that I don't have a part in.  I think those things are underrated as part of the decision to send kids to school.  In terms of the anecdotal evidence about fitting in, it was all firsthand from people who were young in their class and found it hard to be picked last for teams because they were a year smaller, or the last one in their peer group to drive or get into certain movies.  I know it's not scientific data, but some things are also hard to measure.  I just think you still have to make the call based on the individual child, despite evidence or data of any kind.  One for whom academic success is the greatest motivation should certainly be in the best place available for it.  But another child may be okay to supplement learning elsewhere in exchange for remaining with a peer group that makes him or her happy.

But I know I'm probably not typical.  I expect school to be safe, enjoyable, and inspiring.  Beyond that I believe the academics will sort themselves out.

Not too strong at all!  I

korinthia 's picture

Not too strong at all!  I love a good discussion, that's why I enjoy your site.

I think if I were sending my kids into any environment where I felt I needed to rush them out of it, it's not the right environment to begin with.  I agonized about where to send my kids and feel lucky they are where they are, but if at any point I felt their spirits were being crushed I would pull them out in a heartbeat.  

My dearest friends are all still the same ones from high school, and I even keep in touch with people I met in kindergarten, so maybe my perspective is different on that point.  I had an excellent chemistry teacher but I can't tell you anything I learned in that class.  I can tell you how much fun it was writing notes to a boy at my desk there, though.  When you ask people about formative experiences in school they are seldom academic in nature.  It's a first kiss or a mean kid or moment that made them laugh until they couldn't breathe.  The science teacher who most inspired one of my brothers (who is now a neuroscientist) did so by helping him with a project for a competition after school even though it meant missing a trip to Hawaii with his family.  The science was important, but the act of generosity from that man was even more so.

I think I am officially rambling, so I will stop now!  Anyway, as usual, I think your children are lucky to have such a thoughtful parent.  Thanks for giving me some new angles to consider.

My brother was given the

Christa's picture

My brother was given the opportunity to skip a grade in elementary school, but my mom declined the offer. I always wondered what would have happend if my brother had skipped a grade. He was definitely smart enough to be a doctor, but he was never challenged in his classes and therefore never had the drive needed to pursue a medical career.

In any case, I completely agree that skipping a grade can be beneficial, especially when you factor in the study mentioned, which indicated that teachers favor the students that they already think are smart. Fascinating stuff!

I think you bring up some

Jennifer Fink's picture

I think you bring up some very good points. A couple questions: What about uneven achievement? Some kids are way ahead in reading, but at or behind grade level in math, or vice versa. In that situation, do you think it's best to skip up all together, or do skip up for some subjects and not others?

Also -- what kind of feedback/response have you gotten from your kids' school re skipping grades? Some schools seem open to the idea. Others (and some specific teachers and principals) seem to object.

What about the social factor -- if your kid really very strongly wants to stay with the kids in his class? While I def. agree that there can be social benefits to skipping ahead, I think it depends on the kid, the environment, and how far ahead.

You know I'm a fan of homeschooling, and one of the things I like most about it is that you can tailor learning to the kid. If they're ready to fly in one subject, they can fly. If they need more time on another concept, they can take their time. And socialization can occur with people of all ages and stages. Plus, you don't have to fight with/go through the levels of bureaucracy that are often required to tweak your kids' education in school.