Monday, September 7, 2009

Skipping Grades in the LAUSD (i.e. Los Angeles)

Is it possible to skip grades in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)? The answer is yes but only within very limited constraints. It is possible because my daughter was allowed to go straight from K to 2nd grade. I am fairly certain that she will have to skip grades a few more times over the next few years. Hence, I have set out to learn how LAUSD and the California Department of Education handle radical acceleration -- defined as three or more years. My findings have been discouraging so far. The LAUSD's Board of Education enforces minimum age limits for admission to various grade levels. I summarize my findings below and will update the information when I learn more.

I have to admit that my experience so far has been much more pleasant than I expected. My daughter was recently allowed to skip first grade, but her school is one of the best in California. I believe that our school's willingness to accommodate my daughter is the result, among other things, of its administration's focus on academics and the large concentration of high-achieving students. A thorough review of my daughter's academic record, including her EPGY scores, convinced the principal and first grade teacher that skipping to second grade was optimal. Unfortunately, I fear that my daughter will only be able to skip one more year before violating LAUSD's minimum age requirements. I believe my daughter will be allowed to skip from second to fourth grade because the principal is open minded and LAUSD's rules allow one more year for somebody in my daughter's situation. Unfortunately, her school is a K through 5th grade elementary, and I fear I will not find a public middle school that will allow her to skip from 4th to 6th or 7th.

Here is a summary of the pertinent age limitations for grade skipping within LAUSD:
  • Age of Admission to K - For admission to kindergarten, during the first school month of the school year, the fifth birthday of the child must be on or before December 1 of that calendar year. (Education Code, Section 48000) For good cause, a child of proper age may be admitted to a class after the first school month.
  • Age of Admission into 1st Grade - A student who is at least five years of age and who has been lawfully admitted to a kindergarten class in the Los Angeles Unified School District may be placed in the first grade, in accordance with regulations established by the Superintendent of Schools, when the administration determines the child is ready for first grade work. For admission to first grade during the first school month of the school year, the sixth birthday of the student must be on or before December 1 of that calendar year. Verification of age shall be required as provided in Board Rule 2001. For good cause, a student of proper age may be admitted to a class after the first school month.
  • Minimum Age to Enter Middle School - The minimum age for students entering middle high school who have been accelerated because of superior mental ability is 10-9 years of age on September 1 of the school year.
  • Minimum 6th Grade Attendance Before Middle School - Students transferring from regular Los Angeles Unified School District elementary classes to middle high school must have been enrolled in grade 6 for a minimum of one semester.
  • Exceptions to Rules for Entering Middle School - If exceptions to this policy become necessary for the overage student, the elementary and the middle high school principals involved must confer prior to the transfer of the student. It is understood that the final decision relative to exceptions shall rest with the elementary school principal.
  • Minimum Age for Senior High School - The minimum age for students entering senior high school who have been accelerated because of superior mental ability is 13-9
The single biggest implication of the above rules is that It makes no difference to LAUSD if your child is the smartest, most accomplished person in the planet. Your second grader already knows pre-algebra and reads seventh-grade books. Who cares? The poor child will be forced to study addition, subtraction, and how to write the simplest of sentences.

The following list summarizes the required ages by December 2nd of each grade level:

1st grade, 6
2nd grade, 7
3rd grade, 8
4th grade, 9
5th grade, 10
6th grade, 11

Middle School
7th grade, 12
8th grade, 13
9th grade, 14

High School
10th grade, 15
11th grade, 16
12th grade, 17

LAUSD's minimum, allowed age for seventh grade is eleven, provided the birthday happens on or before December 2. This is because the student must be 10 years and 9 months old by September 1st (i.e. the start of the 7th grade school year). Under this rule, the smartest kid in the world could only accelerate one year ahead of the expected, seventh grader. As you can see from the age rules above, high school admission is regulated more or less the same way.

It is very important to understand that the California Department of Education is powerless to enforce grade skipping. In fact, the California Department of Education takes the following position.

-----------START OF CITATION ---------------------
A child who was not age-eligible for kindergarten (that is, the child turned five after December 2 in the school year) and who attended a California private school kindergarten for a year is viewed by the CDE as not legally enrolled in kindergarten, pursuant to EC Section 48000 requirements. Therefore, this child, upon enrollment in public school, is enrolled in kindergarten, assessed, and may (but is not required to) be immediately promoted to first grade if the child meets the following State Board of Education criteria, pursuant to Title 5, Section 200:
  • The child is at least five years of age.
  • The child has attended a public school kindergarten for a long enough time to enable school personnel to evaluate the child's ability.
  • The child is in the upper 5 percent of the child's age group in terms of general mental ability.
  • The physical development and social maturity of the child are consistent with the child's advanced mental ability.
  • The parent or guardian has filed a written statement with the district that approves placement in first grade.

A statement, signed by the district and parent/guardian, is placed in the official school records for these five-year-olds who have been advanced to first grade (EC Section 48011). This action prevents a subsequent audit exception for first grade placement of an age-ineligible student.


-----------END OF CITATION-------------------

The above verbiage means that it does not matter if your child has already completed K. It is entirely at the discretion of your school's administration to let your kid into first grade. The State of California does not even recognize private K as a real K for legal purposes. The California Department of Education recommends alternatives when grade skipping is not approved. For instance, individualized instruction, multi-classroom settings (i.e. moving to a higher grade for a single subject), etc. However, my research into the subject shows these alternatives are seldom if ever implemented in LAUSD.

-----------START OF CITATION----------------------------
Local districts have discretion regarding promotion and retention. According to California Code EC48070, "each school district and each county superintendent of schools shall adopt policies regarding pupil promotion and retention. A pupil shall be promoted or retained only as provided in the policies adopted pursuant to this article." EC48070 Promotion and Retention EC48070 is fairly precise about retention policies, but it is glaringly vague on acceleration.


-----------END OF CITATION--------------------------

The age limits for grade acceleration can be found at

I hope this information helps you advocate for your child. Inform yourself. It is the best tool at your disposal.

No comments: