Friday, September 11, 2009

Want to Skip Grades in LAUSD, Be Nice to Your Principal and Homeroom Teacher!

Our local public school agreed to skip my daughter from K to 2nd grade. I did not push for 3rd grade because she needs a transition year for her writing to catch up to her radical acceleration in other subjects. I estimate that it would take her approximately five or six months to catch up to third grade spelling expectations. Given her perfectionist tendencies, skipping one more year now could prove counterproductive. On the other hand, I am convinced that by the end of this school year she will be ready to skip to fourth or even fifth grade. Skipping grades in one-year vs. multi-year increments gives my daughter enough time to adapt, and I get plenty of time to figure out how to navigate my district's impenetrable bureaucracy.

I met with my daughter's homeroom teacher this afternoon to discuss grade the recent grade skipping decision. To my surprise, she was very well informed about gifted education and for many years has handled clusters of gifted kids, sprinkled with the rare highly and exceptionally gifted. We reviewed my daughter's test scores, academic record from EPGY, list of books read since last year, as well as her own assessment academic readiness. I was left speechless when she argued that my daughter could be skipped to third grade and that it could be arranged if I requested it. Say what?????? Did I hear the teacher argue for the radical acceleration of my child? Is this possible in the LAUSD? I explained to the teacher that I thought it best to allow one year for my daughter's writing to rise to third grade standards. We agreed that the best course of action would be to skip over third grade next year provided that the writing proficiency goal is accomplished.

The surprises continued this afternoon after I got to my house. I received an email from the homeroom teacher following a meeting with the principal. She informed me that my daughter will be accelerated to third grade math. Logistically, this means that Paulina will leave her homeroom every day to take math in one of the third grade classrooms and then return to second grade for the remainder of the day. Moreover, my wife and I will be allowed to come to class to help proctor Paulina while she spends part of her English and math classes working on EPGY. In exchange, we have offered to help the teacher since budget cuts mean she has no teaching assistant this year.

Here is a bullet point summary of what I learned today:
  • radical acceleration is possible in the LAUSD
  • homeroom teachers and school principals make the final decision to accelerate
  • it is possible to do single-subject acceleration simultaneously with grade skipping
  • this seems to work best when the teachers and principal are well-informed
  • offer to help when the school accommodates your child
The basic fact is that my family got lucky. Our experience is uncommon. Our public school is one of the best in California. The principal is well-informed. The school has a high concentration of high-achieving students, and many of the teachers have some training in gifted education.

I am having a bit of trouble coming up with a prescription for success. I did some things right. Good luck played a big role. However, I also believe that "Chance favors the prepared mind." This implies that you can best advocate for your child by being ready:
  • Talk to parents of current students to find out how the school has handled acceleration and grade skipping in previous years
  • Learn the rules and regulations governing grade skipping and acceleration in your district
  • Document your child's talents by collecting IQ test scores, grades from prior courses, scores from standardized exams, transcripts from gifted and talented programs (i.e. Stanford's Education Program for Gifted Youth, John Hopkins' Center for Talented Youth, etc.), evaluations from former teachers, etc.
  • Enroll the help of gifted education advocates. You may want to contact the Davidson Institute. The Davidson Institute's Davidson Young Scholars offers guidance, free consulting services, and may help you communicate with local school officials.
  • Read as much research as possible on the benefits of grade skipping, acceleration, ability-based grouping, etc. Become an expert. Knowledge is the most powerful tool at your disposal.
  • Become a relentless advocate for your child's rights.
There is no magic bullet here. Prepare yourself. Look out for opportunities and seize them when they present themselves.

Hope this helps,



Anonymous said...

Pablo -
Great blog. How do you reconcile the two-year grade skip they gave your daughter with your other post on minimum age requirements? I'd be curious.

What school is this in? I'd love to know for my own children! Thanks.


Pablo A. Perez-Fernandez said...

While the LAUSD has published age limits for various grades, it turns out the districts puts the power in the hands of the principal and homeroom teacher. If they deem your kid is ready to skip, they can allow it even if it violates the age limits. An LAUSD officer explained to me that the district views these age limits as a guide more than a law. That is not the way they read to me from the board of education's documents, but that is what LAUSD has communicated to me.

- pablo

Anonymous said...

hi pablo ~

i am asking for a grade skip for my PG daughter here in eagle rock. they are resistant claiming they do not know where this is done in the LAUSD and that they don't think it is socially appropriate. can you please publish the name of your elementary school where you are so i can refer the principal?

thank you!

Pablo A. Perez-Fernandez said...

I am sorry I never replied to a few of the comments.

First, on the question of how I reconcile the two-year skip my daughter got. Actually, she was skipped only one year from K to 2nd grade. By this I mean that she finished K and then went to 2nd, skipping 1st grade. If I recall correctly, she would still be allowed to skip one more year based on her birth date.

Second, on the question of my daughter's school. She attends Hancock Park Elementary. Ms. Ashley Parker is the principal. I am aware of two kids who skipped from 1st grade this year. My daughter and one of her friends.

Email me at with your email address if you want the LAUSD Board of Education documents where the rules for grade skipping are detailed. I will even point out for you the pertinent sections.