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The Best Age to Hold Back Your Child

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: My son's kindergarten teacher has let it be known that she will retain our son for another year. We are also moving out of state. Is there any testing that can be done to see if he actually does need to stay behind?

A: In most school districts, the school principal is the person who decides grade placement. Most principals, however, will not retain a child if the parents are opposed. Make sure that the school staff knows that you are planning to move out of state; unless they feel very strongly that your son is not ready for first grade, they will probably want to give him the benefit of the doubt to try first grade in another system.

Ask what testing is available to determine your son's readiness for first grade. The school should be able to give your son some achievement screening tests to determine his level of reading and math achievement. They may also have some developmental testing available (the Gesell School Readiness Test is one example) that could be given to determine your son's readiness for first grade.

Research tells us that any retention increases the likelihood that a child will drop out of school when he or she reaches the legal age to do that. If a child is to be retained, however, kindergarten and first grade are the best years for that to happen.

If you move to your new home before school is out, go to visit your son's new school. Talk with the first-grade teachers and observe in their classrooms. Even though the children will be a year older than your son, you will get an idea of the expectations that the first-grade teachers have of their students. If you aren't able to visit before the end of the school year, visit the school in the summer and talk with the principal about your son. Whether you decide on kindergarten again or first grade, you will want to ask for the best classroom placement to meet his needs.

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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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