Can Retention Be Good for a Student?
Barbara Williamson/AED 200|
Grade retention is the act of holding a child back a grade in order for them to hopefully catch up with the other students. Sometimes a student can fall behind in their reading, writing or even math maybe they do not understand or maybe they just need a little extra time. Grade retention has been around for at least a hundred years, the question is “Is it worth it to hold a child back a grade or let them continue with the same age children?” Is it worth it to let the child struggle and never catch up or retain them with the intent that they can catch up after reviewing the material again. If a child struggles they usually develop low self-esteem and some result in dropping out of school, struggling is not the answer for any child.
School retention gives the children truly behind a chance to catch up academically, and some may need to mature a little more. It is an important decision to make regarding your children, in your heart there are several reasons that you may not want to hold them back like their age, size and friends that they have already made. However if done at the right age preferable in the early elementary stage you can see a child who was once struggling go from poor grades to on top of the class. Some children do not mature as quickly as others, especially if they did not attend a pre-k or any other social group before starting school. Having this in mind when you make your decision will help you a lot.
I have had to make this very difficult decision in my life regarding my second grader. I too struggled with this choice for many weeks because of size, age and all of his friends since kindergarten. I was afraid that he would be picked on or feel inadequate. My child is very tall and this was a big issue for me because I could see the children that would be in his second grade class next year, and they were all much smaller than him. I never wanted him to feel ashamed or not good anough because he was having a hard time reading. The teacher and I talked of many different options like summer school. However after much thought regarding that, is it fair for him to miss summer and not even have a break before school start again in the fall? I did not want him to be burned out before the school year even began and then there is the chance that the shorten summer period was not enough time for him to pick up the skills he was lacking. Next was the tutor option for the summer, however we had tried this the year before with his previous teacher and it did not work out , half way through the summer she moved away ,and we were on our own again. So here I was faced with a horrible decision regarding the love of my life.
I have found that when facing a tough decision it is best to hit the books and the Internet for some answers so that is what I did. There seems to be mixed reviews regarding this decision, some feel it is the best choice and others disagree. Studies have confirmed that when a student is retained they have outperformed the other students the next year. The best time to retain a child is found to be in the kindergarten or first grade level so that on an emotional level they will not be affected as much. However my child was already in second grade so where did that leave me. “According to best estimates, nearly 2.5 million students are retained each year in United States schools, with the highest rates found in boys.” One thing in common I had a boy, “National Research Council found that 25 percent were between the ages of 6 to 8 year olds, 30 percent of 9 to 11 year olds have been retained at least once in their life time.” This was interesting to me because my son was eight, when retained between eight and nine- year -olds did very well. They had found that at this age the child was old enough to understand that they needed to work harder to learn the material and they understand that if they did not meet the requirements they would be held back. So for some it was the push that they needed.
I knew that my son did not have any major disabilities holding him back in regards to his education so what was the problem, why was he struggling? I later came to learn that in boys they have a common trait and that is that they like to play too much, unlike girls who love to learn and know everything. A boy is just going through the day and waiting for recess, which is where my son was. It was time to make my decision believe me it was a hard one with many sleepless nights but going with my gut and the advice of his teacher whom I trusted with my child every day, (who better to understand my son). I held him back in the second grade. My husband, his teacher and I sat him down at school one day and explained the process of retaining and how it was going to help him by repeating and catching up on some material that he just wasn’t strong in. To all of our surprise he understood, and said that he was having a little trouble with reading and vowels and he did not like not knowing what all his friends knew and understood. He never once looked back or worried about his friends, he said he would make new friends and he would still see his old friends at recess. The next day he went to school and told his friends that he was going to do second grade again because he was having a little trouble, and never again was it brought it. I was shocked and glad but mostly very impressed with his level of maturity in such a hard decision. What about all the negative effects of holding a child back they were still on my mind even though he was fine with this decision.
Several, “well-designed studies show, that retaining children in kindergarten and first grade can be ineffective and harmful”. They have shown that over time children did not improve and that after repeating the same grade again they went on to the next grade only to find themselves struggling again. This worried me I did not want to see him have trouble getting out of third grade next year. Could this really happen? Children retained had low self-esteem and had a higher drop out level. Those who were retained “at least one year are five times more likely to drop out of school than those who have never been retained”. “Children retained two or more years have almost a 100 percent chance of becoming dropouts”. They find themselves never fully understanding and the peer pressure ends up pushing them to drop out. They feel that they never really fit in and that all their friends have moved on and left them behind. A fear that is very common in retained students. Knowing this how do you make a decision like retention?
First you have your child tested to make sure that there are not any disabilities that you are not aware of. Some disabilities can hinder learning skills, and it could be as simple as having their eyes checked. If all is well and you do not have any issues there, I recommand talking with your child’s teachers well in advice to the end of the school year. Have her show you were your child is struggling do not just go by her words look at the test scores go over them with the teacher and your child if you can. See if you can pin point the problem maybe reading, math or comprehension. Try doing some activities at home that could help him/her before the end of the year seek help when they are still in school. If all of these do not help you or your child in the end you must do what you think is right and every child is very different. No matter how much research people can do the only real research is what you do with your child and how you understand their needs. In the end you the parent understand your child better than anyone else ever will.
Grade retention worked for my child; he has become a very strong reader and top of his class in all subjects. His self-esteem never took a beating and if anything he has shown me that you are never too young to overcome peer pressure. If someone questioned why he was held back he told the truth and if they did not like that then he was no longer friends with them. It was very simple for him he needed to learn the basics and after he repeated the second grade he has never looked back. He has made new friends and keeps his old friends. The best part is he can read very well and with that everything else improved. It was a hard decision to make but in the end by listening to his teacher and seeing for myself the troubles he was having I feel that we made the best decision for my child. I know first-hand how hard it is to make a decision that revolves around someone’s life and there is no crystal ball to look at for the answers but I believe that if you take the time to see what is in front of you with the test scores and the homework, you will see your answer. I would never just go on just the word of a teacher alone, they are human and can make a bad decision just as you and I can work together to make the best choice. If you listen to your child you may find out that they are struggling or maybe just a little lazy, in the end all you really want is what’s best for your child. Everyone needs a great education to succeed in this world.
* Introductions to the Foundations of American Education, Thirteenth Edition, by James A. Johnson, Diann Musial, Gene E. Hall, Donna M. Gollnick, and Victor L. Dupuis. Published by Allyn and Bacon, Copyright 2005 by Pearson Education, Inc.
* School Retention, Seven Questions Concerning School Retention, by Derrick Meador, http://teaching.about.com/od/pd/a/school-retnetion.htm
* American School Board Journal, property of National School Board Association * www.susanohanian.org