The Risks of Repeating a Grade
When children perform below average in school, educators and parents may believe the best course is for them to repeat a grade. Research, however, indicates that this choice is often a mistake.
A study conducted by the University of Georgia, involving over 11,000 students, concluded that repeating a year had a negative effect on performance. In fact, students tended to fall further behind during their second year in the same grade. Studies on children held back for reasons such as immaturity have shown similar results.
Held-back children are 20 to 30 percent more likely to drop out of school when compared to low achievers who are allowed to move to the next grade level. The National Association of School Psychologists' 1991 position on this subject states, "Retention can negatively affect achievement and social/emotional adjustment."Weighing the options
In recent years, the President, governors, and business leaders have come out strongly against "social promotion," the practice of passing students on to the next grade whether or not they are ready. Certainly it doesn't seem right to expect a child to move to harder material before he or she has mastered basics. But because of the evidence indicating many children will continue to fail if held back, parents must weigh all the options carefully and be very involved in the decision.
If a teacher suggests that your child be retained, ask for concrete reasons. What are the problem areas: gross or fine motor skills? Social interactions? Emotional behaviors? Test scores? Are these skills likely to improve by repeating a grade?
Request an evaluation of your child. Many children who have other difficulties, such as a visual or hearing impairment, a learning disability, an emotional problem, or a stressful home environment, would benefit from special services, not retention.
Know your rights. In your school district, who makes the final decision -- you or the school? If the school, what is the appeal process if you disagree?
Finally, support your child at home. Consider alternatives. Would a tutor make a difference, or a stress-releaser -- such as sports, painting, or a children's club? Talk together about school problems. Involving your child in solutions can create the best chance for success.
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