Repeating a grade: The pros and cons
Page 2 of 2
By Colleen Stump, Ph.D.
Factors to consider
So, the big question is how you decide if retention is right for your child. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- In what area(s) is your child struggling the most — reading, writing, math, science, social studies, social skills or others? Is it just one subject or most of them?
- What have you and the teachers done this year to help your child develop necessary skills?
- What has worked and helped your child learn? What hasn't worked this year?
- If your child were to spend another year in the same grade, what type of instruction would she receive in the areas she finds most difficult? Would a new teaching approach or new materials be used, or would the teacher do the same thing as last year? How do you know that "doing it over again" would make a difference?
- What level of performance would you set for your child to achieve if she were retained? What changes would you need to see to be satisfied that retention was effective?
- Realistically, will your child be able to meet the required standards to be promoted next year? What kind of change are you expecting in one year? Is that enough to make the retention worthwhile?
- Is behavior a concern?
- How will your child feel about being retained? Will she be more motivated to learn and try, or will she be embarrassed and further withdraw from learning?
- What will happen to your child's peer supports and friendships? How will they be affected by retention?
Alternatives to retention
The National Association of School Psychologists favors "promotion plus" interventions designed to address the specific factors that place students at risk for school failure. With that in mind, here are questions to ask yourself about alternatives to grade retention:
- Have you worked with your child's teacher to identify accommodations that could increase her success in the classroom? If interventions are working, will they be continued?
- Is your child receiving extra support? Does she get one-on-one or small group help to understand new ideas and complete work?
- If your child receives special education services, are her IEP goals and objectives/benchmarks related to the standards established by the school? If not, the IEP Team may need to revise them to focus on outcomes leading to promotion to the next grade.
- What type of curriculum materials and instructional strategies does the teacher use? How effective are they with your child?
- Could your child benefit from one-on-one tutoring or counseling?
- Are options such summer school, extended day or extended year available?
- Does your child resist your help with schoolwork? If so, find alternatives — have a sister or brother help with homework, get help from a high school or college student.
- Does your child participate in the school's homework club or other school programs that provide support?
- Would your child's participation in extracurricular activities, such as soccer, dance, scouts or choir, help her make friends and become more motivated to do better in school?
The big picture
Before retaining your child, carefully consider your responses to the above questions. Read some of the literature on retention, and talk with your child and other family members. Speak to the teacher and other school staff who know your child. Talk to the principal about state law and district policy on retention to discover who makes the final decision and what the appeal process is. If your child receives special education services, be sure the IEP team is involved.
Whatever is decided, carefully monitor your child's academic and behavioral performance during the next year. Be sure to work closely with her teachers to ensure that you and the school are giving her the support she needs.