Failing in School: Should Your Child Repeat a Grade?

As we begin to think about the next school year, some of you with struggling students may be facing the prospect of “holding back” your child, repeating a grade because they weren’t successful at grasping all of the concepts taught this past year. Some schools might make grade retention mandatory, but in many, the parents have a choice. So what’s best for your child?

Consider the research
Automatic grade promotion, the concept of advancing students to the next grade in spite of academic struggles, has recently been put in the spotlight by those who believe educators pass students without thinking about the consequences. They say kids can’t succeed until they have mastered all the skills taught at a particular grade level, and they shouldn’t move on until they accomplish this.

The research, however, does not support grade retention without intervention. Students who repeat a grade may initially show improvement, but the gains decline after two or three years. In addition, these students tend to show more behavior problems, and grade retention is the most powerful predictors of high school dropouts. In one long-term study, students who were retained at some point in their education earned less money and had lower employment status.

Consider the social effects
When students are held back a grade, other students might single them out as “failures.” Many parents are concerned that if their child repeats a grade, they will be teased or ostracized by his peers. Students who are retained must adjust to new classmates and deal with the social consequences of seeing their original classmates move on. Their self-esteem may take a hit.

Consider getting extra help
While grade retention certainly has its negative points, struggling students won’t benefit by moving on before they’ve mastered the skills they need at each grade level. To meet this challenge, experts say the key to improvement is individualized assessment and targeted attention.

The first step, then, is to seek a comprehensive, professional evaluation of your child’s existing strengths and weaknesses, academic, organizational and social. It’s possible that your student could have a learning disability, and you’ll want those deficiencies diagnosed by the proper expert. Perhaps it is a challenge related to executive function skills such as organization and time management. Or it simply might be a comprehension issue. Whatever the case talk to your child’s teacher, school counselor, principal, and even your pediatrician for recommendations.

Then, find a learning environment that will suit your child – summer school, a private tutor, or classes at a learning center. Whatever strategy you choose, the curriculum should take a targeted approach to boost learning where your child needs it most. Follow your child’s progress and support the educator by helping your child find a place and time to study that is conducive to learning.

Ultimately, grade retention may be the best option for some students, but it needs to be accompanied by additional interventions that strengthen your children’s skills.

If your child struggles with schoolwork, it may be an organization problem! Through The Organizing Tutor, Kathy offers classes and one-on-one tutoring just for students who need to learn better organizational and study skills to boost their potential for academic success. Review our course schedule.

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  1. Tiffany Mock Says: May 14, 2016 at 3:46 am

    I have issues with the way virginia schools pass children based on social worries my son has been passsed even though he struggles even with extra help and he knows and has stated “oh well, they will send me to summer school and i will pass anyway” despite his grades lack of work and behavior the teachers find excuses for him because he is on medication for ADHD he has learned to blame it on that and lie to get his way in school he needs to be accountable and i want him to understand the work and earn passing not base his life on social things people have to cope with life in anyway it comes and that can be dealt with in other ways such as therapist and strong foundation and family life not the schools opinion if a fifth grader can’t multiply or doesn’t read easily or turn in any work that shows nothing academically achieved yet it is the schools choice… I personally feel that takes away from parental rights!!!

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