Wednesday, December 17, 2003

To skip or not to skip? 

Joanne Jacobs links to the Davidson Institute's research on whether or not to skip grades with talented or gifted children. We have a daughter who has skipped first grade, now in fifth. The concerns over emotional and social development for her are a constant source of debate -- friendly but spirited -- between my wife and me, with her contemplating unskipping. Jacobs suggests that
"Moderately gifted" students already know about half the grade-level material they're taught, says one study. Profoundly gifted students need to skip many grades, not just one, to benefit.
That might well be; there's no question our child reads books adults read. It's also true that her decisions on playmates tends to take her to younger children -- the best argument, my wife says, for unskipping. But children may develop interest in play at different rates than they develop interest in learning; I coach a scholastic chess team with some younger players much better and more interested than the older ones. My games of choice by the time I was ten were the Avalon-Hill strategic war games -- another kid and I had whole weekends devoted to campaigns of Gettysburg, Stalingrad and later Panzer Blitz, as well as chess, while the other kids my age were all playing Monopoly or Life. I'm not sold that the choice of younger playmates is a marker of a child who should be unskipped, anymore than my choice to play war sims at ten years old was a marker that I should have been (I was not.)

I'd be interested in links to other stories on this aspect of the skipping-unskipping question.