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Is Retention the Answer?

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

Q: Help! My son's third-grade teacher wants to retain him this year. She says he is immature and way behind everyone else. I have searched the Internet looking for information on grade retention and have found nothing but negative feedback. I don't know if this is the best thing for him now. I am also having him tested for learning disabilities.

A: Retention does not usually work because it produces far too many negative consequences. Furthermore, it rarely offers ways to improve the skills that caused the child to be retained in the first place.

You need to find out why your son does not have the skills to pass third grade. If he actually has a learning disability, the school will work closely with you to develop an Individual Education Plan (IEP) to meet his needs.

In any case, you need to be working right now on ways to improve your son's academic skills. A good place to start is by having the third-grade teacher identify your child's weakest academic skill. Then focus on working with the teacher to improve that skill. Find out what you personally can do. Tutors are a good source of help. They can monitor your son's progress and share the results with his teacher.

You have almost six months to improve your son's skills so that he can handle fourth grade. Ask your school for this time period before a final decision on retention is made. Find out about different learning programs offered in your area that can help him. Your local university, library, museum, and a learning center are some good places to help you begin your search. Consider summer school. There are even summer camps that incorporate academic learning into their camp programs.

Besides focusing on your son's academic problems, try to help him become more mature through assuming certain responsibilities. He needs to have specific chores that he must complete around the house.

More on: Expert Advice

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 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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