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Positive reasons to hold a student back in middle school?


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FranktheTank February 27, 2011


I was curious about holding a student back in 8th grade. I understand the issues of a child being held back due to learning issues or personality issues. But I was wondering about(holding a student back) being able to better handle the more demanding academics in high school (such as AP courses).

If a student is a young 8th grade(turns 14 in May) and is a "fair" student. Does it make sense to hold that student back and repeat 8th grade PLUS have that student take additional advance courses(math and science) to better prepare them for the rigors of 9th grade academics.

I have seen several "very good academic" students enter into high school and the pressure of school(peers) plus the courses(AP) caused the students to suffer. These were younger than most 9th graders so their maturity was not quite there. They are now in 12th grade and unfortunately there GPA's while they are good(3.0) they are not enough for them to get into the Universities they had hoped to get into.

The parents lament that their child was to young to handle the initial pressures and they wished they had entered them into grade school at a later time so that they could have matured and handled the pressure.
So any thoughts are welcome on the subject.

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MagnetMom February 27, 2011


I've never heard of a (marginally) successful student held back in middle school in order to handle the rigor of high school. I'm not so sure schools would even allow it, since there's nothing academically wrong with the child.

For what it's worth, students who start kindergarten at 5 in September through December are the ones turning 13 at the beginning of 8th grade. A student who turns 14 in May is hardly the youngest--he's likely right in the middle of his class agewise.

AP is not the only way into highly sought after universities, students might find two years at a community college will give them time to mature while still being close to home.

Perhaps other parents can give different perspectives, but I can't imagine a child making adequate progress will be ok with being held back from his friends simply to gain a perceived edge.

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CarolLloyd March 10, 2011


It's an interesting idea. Definitely schools are eager to push all kids through the system, especially if they are not failing. There's also evidence that holding kids back in the long run doesn't actually help them academically -- that they tend to fall back to the norm of their new lower class. On the other hand, there is also research (summarized in a NY Times Mag article by Elizabeth Weil) that children who are young for their class always lag slightly behind their older classmates all the way through high school. Thus, if maturity is the issue, then being held back could help, as long as the academic challenges are there.

Your concerns also calls into question the new (perhaps misguided) phenomena that AP classes --supposedly substitutes for college classes -- are now the new norm for a certain level of college admissions. Does it make sense for kids to be scrambling to get college credit so that they can get into college?

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Bill_R March 13, 2011


Holding a good student back may result in the child hating school and resenting the parent(s) that held them back. My son was an honor roll student through the ninth grade my ex had him held back in ninth grade to help improve his grades. This resulted in him falling off the honor roll and wanting to quit school. I got him settled down and back to the honor roll before he finished 10th grade. He is now an officer in the Army and doesn't see his mom anymore. He never got over the resenting what she did to him. He treats her with respect but won't stay with her when he is home. Be careful how you handle holding him back you might be better off to hire a tutor for the AP courses.

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stayathomemom March 13, 2011


So, I'm curious to know, are you a parent or are you a principal? The way your post is worded sounds more to me like you are a principal trying to sound like a 'concerned' parent. Sorry, don't mean to sound accusatory...just wondering.

A lot of what concerns you seems to be rather jaded on the fact that you have seen several "very good academic" students enter into high school and the pressure of school, etc., etc. caused the students to suffer.

These 'very good academic' students apparently are not the 'norm', were academically not ready for high school or were made to take classes that were beyond their level of academia and should never have been placed in such classes when they were clearly not ready for such high achieving classes. Just because these students were not ready for AP classes doesn't mean that this particular 8th grader won't be ready.

I think holding an 8th grader back just because compared to others who did not succeed will only serve to damage the psyche of this student more than it would to let the child continue on to 9th grade.

Just because college prep classes are available for 9th graders doesn't mean students have to take them or take nothing but those kinds of classes when clearly they are not ready for them. Preparing your student for such classes means having them attend summer school in preparation for such high stakes classes and getting tutoring help for them once they are in the classes they are signed up for.

I say let the child continue on to 9th grade, no pressures and certainly no AP classes right away, especially if you are so concerned that this student will fail. Do everything in your power to not set up this student to fail by getting him/her the help he/she needs now instead of waiting until it's too late.

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FranktheTank March 13, 2011


I am afraid the closest I have ever been to being a Principle was when I was sent to the office(as a student) :-). Joking aside, I am a concerned parent. I pulled my child out of the local school system and we started homeschooling about 16 months ago. Since that time, my son has excelled(academically). Please do not misunderstand, he is mature and has good social skills. So I am looking at it from a perspective of giving him as many tools as is possible.

At the end of 6th grade he went on a tour of 5 Colleges with his cousin who was in 11th Grade. When he came back he had a greater understanding of the value of academics. I thought that keeping him home schooled through high school would be perfect but the public school system does not allow for him to play sports unless he attends the high school.

I appreciate the comments and thoughts made here and it has been beneficial in looking at what we should do.

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stayathomemom March 13, 2011


FranktheTank - thanks for not misunderstanding my opening question. Instead of putting your son back into the public school system, what about checking into your local area to see if there aren't sports your son can participate in through the city? There are many wonderful programs available through your city that don't cost much, and being a resident you can always get them for less than what a non-resident would pay. Also, if there is a local "Y" - or Boys and Girls Club.

I'm glad to hear that you want your son to have all the tools necessary to do well in high school, but I don't see how putting him back into public school would do him any good.

I pulled my 8 year old from the local school system and placed her in a local charter school. So far it has been the best move I have made in her early education. There is no way (at least not right now) that I will be putting her back in the public school system. There are too many factors, and, as she gets older, her academics is becoming more and more important. But, this is about you and your son, not me and my daughter - LOL.

Look long and hard at the high schools in your area. Check to see if there isn't 'open enrollment' outside your particular boundaries. This website is a great source of finding out more about the schools in your area. Also, talking to parents who have children already enrolled there are other great sources of finding out what it is really like to be there.

Hope these other little tips help!

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jevery March 14, 2011


Another option would be continuing homeschool for a little while yet before throwing him back into public school. I have a dear friend who switched to homeschool for 2 years and included some (easy) community college classes in his education. Then when he returned to high school, he had more concrete personal goals for his education (as a result of meeting older students at community college) as well as personal maturity. He had also learned more at his own pace than he would have in public school, so he was definitely prepared to excel in high school as he finished his early education.

That said, I have personal feelings against AP classes because although they offer college credit, I do not think they supply a college-level education, and I think that the modern trend toward having all advanced high school students aiming to get college credit "out of the way" is overrated. I wanted more from high school, so I took several AP courses, but I did not take the exams because I fully intended to take the actual college courses. I did, and it was a vastly improved education from what I would have been left with if I had relied on those AP classes. I think high school is for high school and college is completely different. And you can definitely get into good colleges without AP credits.

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caligirl123 March 23, 2011


Holding a child back seems foreign in some states. Where we live it is very common. Parents not only hold kids back in 8th but also in 5th, all for sports. We are considering holding our son back. He is in 8th grade and 6'2" and is growing so fast that he is averaging 1/2" a month in height. Our nephew is 6'8". He grew 8" in one year in high school and was not able to play sports that year as he had severe growing pains. We have talked to our son for 2 years about the possibility of repeating a grade before he begins high school and always told him that it is up to him, not us. We have told him the pros and cons of going thru 8th grade again, basically letting his body grow and mature are the pros, but the cons are missing out with friends in 9th grade.. Academically he is doing very well, but another year of 8th grade English and Math would be great for him. I think the entire key to holding a child back is making sure they know this is their decision. Our son was totally against being held back, so we were planning on high school next year, but then he talked to his cousin recently and heard how he grew so fast that he was out of high school sports for an entire year of high school. Suddenly our son came to us and told us he wanted to be held back. We were shocked but impressed. He has thought this thru and has the teachers picked out for next year and alot of his friends are in 7th right now and will be there with him next year. All any of us wants is the best for our kids, but just make sure to involve them in the decision process.

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dvine0722 March 29, 2011


sounds like your going backwards.. if your concerned about how well a student will do in math then try enrolling the student in math preparatory classes over the summer, hire a tutor, and or purchase math workbooks.. If the child isn't ready for AP classes than don't force it..

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SMS_Parent June 26, 2011


Holding a child back, does not guarantee that the student will ever be ready for Advanced placement or AP classes. Some students will never be ready for that , simply because they lack interest of learning to that degree. Moreover, sometimes when you hold them back, and they should not have been held back you are hurting the student. Being in a class with students that are not of the same maturity level or learning capability, can be boring , causing the student to just loose interest all together. Parents need to forget about this notion that they can somehow scientificallly calculate success for their kids. The focus should be on the student developing their confidence and self worth, so that their can find a way to be successfull.



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