Highly intelligent kid in OUSD

My son is finishing kindergarten at an Oakland public school, and his teacher is recommending that he skip first grade. We think skipping would be bad for him socially. He is doing well socially this year, and I think he would function ok with kids a little older than him, but we worry how he would do once he hits the teen years. I have heard so much anecdotal evidence that teen boys suffer socially when they are younger than their classmates. He is going to need a lot of maturity to deal with some of the situations he will encounter in Oakland schools as he gets older. We can’t afford to move, to send him to private school, or to homeschool, so we foresee having to deal with OUSD for many years to come. A lot of parents of gifted children seem to be focused on helping their children live up to their academic potential, but our biggest concern is that have the opportunity to learn how to deal with challenging work. He is the kind of kid who is going to learn plenty on his own, but he isn’t the kind who will push himself when something is hard. I also worry about behavioral problems emerging when he is forced to do busywork all day. How do we make school work for him academically? What should we ask the school to do to support him? (He doesn’t have any disabilities that would qualify him for an IEP or 504.) Who specifically do I ask to meet with to come up with a plan?

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RE: Highly intelligent kid in OUSD ()

I applaud your good sense when it comes to your son! I know you'll get responses from parents who believe they did the right thing in moving some "gifted" child up a grade, but you are SO right that his social group is WAY more important than academics. You can always supplement school. I know several parents who jumped a kid 1 and even 2 grades - and it has, in my experience, ALWAYS created unforeseen problems, especially with friends and sports. Some very serious sad issues that haunted kids into adulthood. If he's a 13 year old freshman in HS and people are way bigger than him (an issue for boys) and better at sports and girls, also trying drugs and alcohol - he is so much more vulnerable. Ditto for all of MS. And pushing him forward a grade means that you will have ONE YEAR LESS of him before he leaves for college. Maybe some parents will actually like that fact - but I sure wouldn't. I treasure every day with my kids and cannot imagine pushing them out a year early. If that's hard to imagine in 1st grade, just wait until MS. You will hear a clock ticking loudly for the limited time you have left with your beloved child. 

RE: Highly intelligent kid in OUSD ()

I think you’re right to be concerned about setting him up to be so much younger than his peers, especially if he is small to average for his age.  There’s no guarantee the work the year ahead will be that much more engaging either.  With bright kids, they often want an approach that opens the door to greater independence and creative problem-solving, not just opening the math book to a later page. You can push for more differentiation to suit his level, try to find stimulating activities outside of school, and generally encourage him intellectually at home.  

By the way, if you’re interested in looking at other districts, you could apply to Albany.  They are actively seeking transfers only at the HS level but may have openings in some of the younger grades for those who apply.  If not this year, keep an eye on it.   (Albany is facing budget problems and allowing more transfer would help, so I expect it to increase over the next couple of years.).  

RE: Highly intelligent kid in OUSD ()

Gifted and talented students can be designated with an IEP - because all that means is an individualized education plan and is not necessarily tied to a deficit.  Of course, since most districts, including OUSD, are underfunded in special ed, they often won't do this for you because they want to put their resources towards struggling students.  I suggest talking with the school's special ed department about this as a first step.  Also, as a secondary educator, I agree that younger students can face difficulties during this period.  I would not suggest skipping a grade, and instead figure out what enrichment activities you can involve your son in outside of school.  I would also be in regular communication with his teacher next year from the start of the year about how you can work together to provide extension activities for your son if he speeds through the material in class.

RE: Highly intelligent kid in OUSD ()

You don't give a lot of specifics about what your son's strengths are that is making his teacher recommend skipping a grade, but in our experience in the WCCUSD, the teachers are basically prohibited from suggesting skipping, so I'm thinking your son is pretty exceptional academically. The factors to weigh include your son's social skills (which are hard to say now...), his birthday relative to the year, and how much academic support you can give him at home. Our daughter ended up skipping K, and it's worked out fine so far - she is adequately challenged by the math aspects of her grade even if not the literature (her strength). Our son is super advanced in math and we have asked the teacher for additional challenge level work to no avail. They just can't meet the advanced student's need (in our experience, and we're only at 5th grade). We have supplemented for him with CTY and will be starting something online up for our daughter in the fall. I would say to carefully consider the rec to skip, but if you decide not to take the teacher's advice, be prepared to provide enrichment at home/online. They are saying they can best meet his academic needs by advancing him a grade, so if you don't do it, don't expect them to bend over backwards to provide supplemental support.

RE: Highly intelligent kid in OUSD ()

Our oldest son's teacher suggested we skip him after 1st grade though we decided not to. He is now a 9th grader and doing very well. He has tons of friends and a very active social life. We always felt that whatever he is going to learn in elementary school will be dwarfed by what he will learn in high school, and what he will learn in high school will be dwarfed by what he learns in college, so the most important thing is for him to develop his social skills.

Keeping him in his grade wasn't without problems however. In second grade he was so bored and unhappy we kept getting hurt accidentally on purpose so he wouldn't have to go to school. By third grade we got a tutor to come to the school and do math with him a few times a week since that's what he was most bored with, so he both missed the boring class and got to do something interesting to him. This didn't solve all the problems but made it better. He had a lot of anxiety because people (mostly teachers) kept telling him he was a prodigy and that he should do more to live up to his potential. So that wasn't great. We had a big push of people wanting him in calculus in 3rd grade and then again in 6th grade. And while I'm sure he could have done the math, I thought the organization and homework would kill him. We didn't let him take it until this year and while he is the youngest in the class by 2 years, he has a couple of friends and is treated nicely by his peers. And it was nice having him just take a single AP test to ease him into it.

We did have to do a lot of enrichment outside of school. He was pretty driven about learning things on his own so we took him to the library a lot, let him watch videos, and enrolled him in several Art of Problem Solving classes (aops.com or artofproblemsolving.com). The AoPS classes were excellent. (We tried other online classes that were not so good.) He did math circles. UC Berkeley has a really good math circle, but you need to apply and it might be too late for next year, though there are others around the Bay Area. We took him to science talks and had Scientific American and Science News around the house.

If you decide to skip multiple grades, I've heard the best thing to do is skip every other year, so he would do K, 2, 4,... until he is at an appropriate academic level.

Our son hit his growth spurt late and was just over 5'2" at the start of 9th grade. That was really rough on him. He is 5'8" now and going strong and feels a lot better about himself. It was very very surprising to me how much it mattered to him. It mattered a lot. A lot a lot. And he doesn't do sports at all.

Good luck with whatever you decide.