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Son Wants to Be Retained

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: I have a nine-year-old son who has always struggled in school. He had to go to summer school in the second grade to be able to pass, now in fourth grade his teachers want to retain him. I've had him tested for LD, but they said he had none. This year has been the toughest so far, and I'm afraid it will just get worse. He agrees with me that he should be retained. What do you think?

A: Most children do not "catch up" when held back. Retention will probably not turn your struggling son into a successful student unless the reasons for his continuing struggles are addressed. He may do better at first if he repeats fourth grade; however, the basic skills that he didn't pick up in the first three grades are likely to still cause him problems.

Children learn basic math and reading skills in the first three grades. Not as much time is spent on building these skills in the fourth-grade classroom as students begin to spend considerable time in the content areas, especially social studies and science. Therefore, repeating fourth grade is not likely to help your son improve his basic skills.

First and foremost, you must find out why your son keeps struggling in school. Schedule a meeting with his teacher, school counselor, and the individual(s) who tested him for learning disabilities. Before the meeting, ask that everyone come to the meeting prepared to discuss why you son is continuing to struggle in school and what can be done to turn things around for him. The school needs to present you with a solid plan on how your son can be helped. It is not enough to say that retention is the solution. Ask also about how you personally can help your child with his academics.

Please be aware that there are alternatives to retention. Summer vacation is rapidly approaching. This time should be used to resolve some of your son's learning problems. He needs individualized instruction from a tutor or learning center. Depending on the progress that he makes, you can evaluate whether or not repeating fourth grade would be beneficial to your son.

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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com 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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