In comments Wednesday afternoon to State Farm agents and executives, Deal also said he favors greater efforts by schools to tackle childhood obesity by serving locally grown vegetables and requiring more daily exercise.
The proposals were the first two planks of an education platform he said he will announce in full next week.
Democratic nominee Roy Barnes was invited to the forum but did not attend.
Deal said his education ideas grew out of conversations with teachers. Although he said the rest of the platform won't be revealed until he finishes processing the feedback, he offered the two proposals in response to an audience question about teacher furloughs.
The midyear promotions would combat students' boredom that leads to dropouts and allow teachers to focus more attention on struggling students, he said.
"I envision it having a blended curriculum at that point where a student who has already passed the criteria for, let's say fifth grade, could then move on into six-grade type of teaching," he said. "Generally, a child who is more advanced does not require as much hands-on supervision as a child who needs more help on a personal basis."
Deal, whose parents and wife all taught school, quotes a superintendent who observed that kindergarteners always appear to be excited about school, but only half the sixth-graders and just one-fourth of the ninth-graders are. That's because they tune out when they perceive the material to be irrelevant, he said.
Barnes sent a letter that a moderator read to the audience. In it, the former governor criticized the Republicans for what he called eight years of ethics lapses, job losses, teacher furloughs and tax breaks to special interests.
"The last thing Georgia needs right now is more of the same," Barnes wrote.
ALSO PARTICIPATING at the forum were the Republican and Democratic nominees for insurance commissioner. Both noted the importance of this year's election because it is the first time the office has been open since its creation.
Democrat Mary Squires promised to stand up to the federal government regarding health reform.
"Once we cut through all of the talk about 'Obamacare' and everything else, we have to do something to make it work, to ensure that rates do not get out of control, that the federal government does not overstep its bounds" she said. "Whether I'm a Democrat or not, I have no intention of allowing the federal government to violate the federal law that allows states to regulate insurance themselves."
Republican Ralph Hudgens told the industry audience he would use his regulatory powers sparingly if elected. For example, he favors allowing insurance companies to raise or lower rates without prior approval by the insurance commissioner, arguing that such procedures in the automobile market has led to price competition between companies.
"You need somebody in that (Insurance Department) that understands that the free market is a better regulator than some bureaucrat down in Atlanta that has no real-world experience," he said.
In November, Squires and Hudgens face Libertarian nominee Shane Bruce, who was not present at the forum.