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Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: My daughter is the youngest in her first-grade class. Academically she is doing fine, but my wife and I think that she is emotionally younger than the other girls, who tend to tease her and are quite rough. Her teacher says there is no academic problem and that it's up to us to retain her. Do you think she could benefit from repeating first grade?

A: If she moves on with her classmates, she will be with the same children --and she'll still be younger than most of them. As the curriculum becomes harder, your daughter may have more difficulty keeping up with the others.

On the other hand, research has shown that retention increases the likelihood that a child will drop out of school when she reaches the legal age to do so. You don't want to set your daughter up for failure.

Talk with the school counselor. He may be able to observe your daughter in the classroom and give you an objective opinion of her readiness to move on. The counselor can also tell you about any screening tests that the school can give to determine your daughter's readiness for second grade.

You may also want to talk with some of the second-grade teachers. Describe your daughter to them and ask what their experience has been with children in similar situations. Observe their classrooms; even though the children there now are a year older than your daughter, you can get a good idea of what is expected of second-graders and whether or not your daughter is ready for that.

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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.


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