This article was co-authored by Trudi Griffin, LPC, MS. Trudi Griffin is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Wisconsin specializing in Addictions and Mental Health. She provides therapy to people who struggle with addictions, mental health, and trauma in community health settings and private practice. She received her MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Marquette University in 2011.
There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
This article has been viewed 75,442 times.
If your child is struggling to pass his or her classes or exhibits any kind of maturity and behavioral problems, your child’s instructor may recommend repeating a grade. Having to repeat a grade (called retention) can be stressful and embarrassing for children, and it may have lasting effects on your child’s development and sense of self. If you or your child’s instructor are considering retention as an option, it’s important to have an honest conversation about the potential benefits and hazards of repeating a grade and to consider other alternatives.
Determine your child’s level of progress and development. The biggest factors to consider when deciding whether to promote or retain a child in school are the child’s academic progress and level of maturity. Many school districts have developed tests to evaluate these factors, but as a parent you may wish to consider your child’s abilities as well.
- If the child has significant struggles with mathematics, reading, or writing, he or she will struggle even more in the subsequent year’s classes.
- The child must also meet generalized performance expectations designed and implemented by the school district. These expectations may include things like test scores and class participation.
- Consider how many school days your child has missed. If your child has missed a significant number of class sessions, his or her teacher may recommend repeating the year so your child isn’t behind in the following grade.
Have your child tested for a learning disability. Depending on how much your child is struggling, you may want to consider having him or her tested to see if a learning disability might be the problem. While this may be embarrassing for your child, identifying and correcting the problem can help prevent future problems in school.
- Some classroom problems like not being able to sit still or listen during class may affect a child’s ability to learn. His or her teacher may recommend repeating a year if this resulted in a lot of missed material.
- You can have your child tested for a learning disability by speaking to a qualified mental health expert or by contacting your local chapter of the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA).
- Talk to your child’s teacher about whether or not your child may need specialized or remedial education.
Consider your child’s age. Many children who have to repeat a grade feel embarrassed to be older than their classmates. However, if your child is young for his or her grade, repeating a grade may not be as much of a problem. A child who is younger than his or her peers and struggles in school may actually end up performing better after being held back a year.
- Talk to your child’s teacher about whether repeating a grade would be helpful or hurtful at your child’s age.
Think about your child’s emotional readiness. Another factor to consider is whether your child is as emotionally developed as his or her peers. Being emotionally underdeveloped can be a major hindrance to academic progress, so talk to your child’s teacher about your child’s emotional preparedness for the upcoming grade.
- A child should be able to cope with mild frustrations and inconveniences without losing his or her temper.
- If your child has a hard time caring for his or her personal and emotional needs, you may want to talk to your child’s teacher about whether repeating a year could be helpful.
Determine your child’s social development. Some studies suggest that repeating a grade can lead to social and emotional problems like poor self-esteem and an inability to feel like part of a cohesive group.
If your child already struggles with social issues like these, or if you believe he or she may be prone to these types of problems, repeating a grade may be detrimental to your child’s sense of self.
- If a child acts immaturely or behaves too “young” for his or her age, an instructor may recommend retaining the child for another year.
- Socially-developed children should be able to collaborate with other students and work within a group dynamic.
- If you’re unsure how to gauge your child’s social development, consider talking to a school counselor, psychologist, social worker, or behavioral specialist.
Know the advantages of retention. The main advantage of retention is that the child has another year to spend working on his/her reading, writing, and math skills. If the child were advanced to the next grade, he or she would struggle and ultimately fail at that level. Because each year’s course material builds off of foundations established the previous year, a child would be even farther behind and may feel even more frustrated or embarrassed by his/her performance.
- It’s worth noting, though, that any achievement gains made by a retained student typically fade within three years. You may want to consider the negative effects before making a final decision.
- The only time retention really works is when students receive specific and detailed attention to help resolve the problems that led to poor grades. This requires increased effort on both the teacher’s part and the parents’ part.
Learn the disadvantages of retention. Being retained for a year can have a very negative effect on a young student. Students who are held back a year typically have lower levels of academic achievement, increased susceptibility to behavioral problems, diminished socio-emotional adjustment, and increased risk of premature drop out than their peers.
- If your child’s instructor recommends repeating a year, talk to the instructor about any concerns you have. There may be other alternatives to retention that the instructor might be willing to implement.
- If the instructor insists on retention, make sure that your child will receive specialized remedial attention to get caught up on the concepts he or she struggles with. You may also want to address the risk of any behavioral problems that could potentially develop.
Consider alternatives to retention. If your child is really struggling and his/her instructor recommends repeating another year, you may be able to discuss alternative options with that instructor. Providing additional support, both inside and outside the classroom, could help get your child back on track without having to repeat a grade.
- One-on-one or small-group tutoring sessions may help introduce new concepts to your child that aren’t clear from in-class instruction.
- Consider special education services for your child. Just make sure his/her IEP goals and benchmarks match the school’s standards to ensure your child is on the right path.
- Ask about summer school attendance, extended day classes, or extended year classes in lieu of having to repeat a grade.
- Help your child with homework. If your child refuses your help, have a sibling or an older student/tutor work with your child on assignments he or she struggles with.
- Try giving your child more social exchanges with his/her peers through extracurricular activities. Some children become more motivated to do well in school through interacting with their peers.
Decide on kindergarten promotion. Kindergarten is an important developmental stage for young children. Before being promoted to the first grade, kindergarten students must typically show a strong command of the communication arts and the math skills standard for their state.
- Communication arts skills at the kindergarten level usually involve asking and answering questions about a text, retaining important details from a text, identifying characters in a story, comparing character experiences, and engaging in group reading.
- Standard math skills at the kindergarten level typically include identifying and comparing numbers, counting in sequence, identifying shapes, and completing simple addition and subtraction problems.
- In the US, a school cannot mandate that your child repeats kindergarten. If you disagree with their decision to hold them back, you can still place them in a first grade class.
Assess first-grade progress. First-grade skills build off of the lessons learned in kindergarten. In order to be promoted to the second grade, a first-grade student must receive a passing grade (typically a C or higher, or at least a 70% where numerical grades are used) in both communication arts and mathematics.
- Communication arts skills include retelling key details of a story, describing characters/settings/events, and read prose and/or poetry that has been deemed appropriate for a first grade reader in that child’s state.
- Standard math skills include extending the sequence of counting, adding and subtracting numbers within 20, learning decimal places up to 100, recognizing and working with measurements, and building on spatial reasoning that involves geometric shapes.
Evaluate second-grade skills. Second-grade skills pick up directly where first-grade skills left off and build off of them in increasingly complex ways. A student must earn a passing grade in both communication arts and mathematics in order to advance to the third grade.
- Second-grade communication art skills include asking and answering questions about a text (specifically who/what/when/where/why/how), describing the ways in which a character responds to major events, using visual and written information to better understand a character, and read literature deemed appropriately complex for students in the second grade.
- Math skills expected of a second-grade student include adding and subtracting within 20, developing a simple understanding of multiplication, learning decimal places up to 1000, working with time and money, and developing a more advanced spatial reasoning.
Determine third-grade progress. Third-grade progress is once again determined by a passing grade in both communication arts and mathematics. If a student in third grade is not progressing at the expected level, though, the third grade is the level at which teachers may put into place a conditional promotion with a mandatory improvement plan instead of recommending a retention year.
- Communication art skills include recognizing the meaning of words and phrases, referring to the various parts of a story, describing how illustrations and words work together to tell a story, comparing/contrasting two or more texts, and reading literature deemed appropriate for third-grade students.
- Third grade math skills include multiplication and division within 100, using the four operations, explaining mathematical patterns, and understanding fractions.
- The third grade reading improvement plan (for students who advance to the fourth grade with poor grades) typically includes at least 30 hours of additional reading lessons during the fourth grade year. The teacher may also mandate summer school in addition to those reading lessons.
Assess fourth-grade progress. Fourth-grade progress requires not just a passing grade in communication arts, but also a passing grade on a grade-level reading assessment in some states. Any student who reads below a fourth-grade level is required to repeat the fourth grade, attend at least 30 hours of reading lessons during the repeated fourth-grade year, and must attend summer school classes with at least 40 hours of reading instruction.
- Communication art skills for fourth graders include citing details from a text, identifying the theme of a text, recognizing the meaning of words in a text, differentiating between different types of texts, and reading literature deemed appropriate for fourth-grade students.
- Math skills for fourth graders include developing an understanding of factors and multiples, using the four operations more extensively, building and ordering fractions, and converting across units of measurement.
- Fourth graders are also required to receive passing grades in science or social studies in order to advance to the fifth grade.
Evaluate fifth-grade progress. Fifth-grade progress is determined by passing grades in communication arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. Some school districts also impose ongoing assessments to ensure students can read proficiently at the fifth-grade level.
- Fifth-grade students must be able to quote from a text, compare/contrast two or more characters, identify and understand figurative language, recognize how chapters or scenes work together to form the plot structure of the larger story, discuss how a narrator’s point of view influences the description of events, and read at a fifth-grade level.
- Fifth-grade math skills include analyzing patterns, performing operations with decimals to the hundredths, multiplying and dividing fractions, and graphing points on a plane.
- Science abilities in the fifth grade include understanding simple machines, classifying plants and animals, understanding the water cycle, and learning about the solar system.
- Social studies skills in the fifth grade include differentiating between the powers of various branches of government and understanding the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
Know what’s expected of middle school students. From grades six through eight, students are expected to receive passing grades in communication arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. Other than increasing expectations with each subsequent grade level, there are no changes in evaluation or testing requirements during this time.
Try to trust the teacher’s assessment. If you’re unsure about your child repeating a grade, you should certainly raise your concerns and have a respectful conversation with the instructor. However, the teacher has the ultimate say. Remember that a trained educator is more qualified to objectively assess a child’s growth and abilities than a parent. You may not like the choice, but you have to accept the teacher’s decision and trust his/her abilities.
- Blaming the teacher may make your child feel like he or she doesn’t have to work harder the second time around. If you tell your child that it’s the teacher’s fault, it may make your child feel “off the hook” for his/her own responsibilities.
Talk to your child about the decision. Telling your child that he or she needs to repeat a grade is never easy. It’s best to have this conversation in a private, comfortable space that is free from distractions and any other siblings or friends.
- Remind your child that he or she will be the oldest in the class, and therefore will be a better athlete and academic achiever. Tell your child about other perks of being older, like being the first one in the class to drive.
- Point out all the good work your child has done in school. Let him or her know that you’re proud, and highlight specific accomplishments to make your child feel better about the previous year’s work.
Be sensitive to your child’s feelings. If you’ve made the decision to hold your child back a year, your child may have strong feelings about your choice. He or she may feel angry, frightened, or otherwise concerned with having to repeat a grade with younger students. Take the time to talk to your child and work through his or her feelings before the school year starts.
- Don’t be dismissive if your child feels scared or embarrassed. Instead, meet each negative feeling with reassurance that child will have more fun and do better the second time around.
- If your child is really struggling with accepting your decision, you may want to consider having your child talk to a teacher, principal, or child therapist. This may help your child work through his or her concerns and learn new coping skills.
Prepare your child for the new school year. Embarrassment may be one of the worst things for a child repeating a grade. Your child may fear that other kids at school will make fun of him or her. This may have even happened already. While you can’t prevent other kids from being mean, you can teach your child how to brush off insults and maintain his/her confidence.
- Try to help your child make friends with other kids who will be in his/her class this year. Set up play dates over the summer, or encourage them to meet and spend time together so your child has at least a few friends right from the start of the school year.
- Help your child figure out what to say to mean kids. For example, your child might dismiss insults by saying something like, “I just needed to get better at some things. It doesn’t bother me.”
- Don’t let any siblings or other family members tease your child. It may be best to let other relatives know in private and then ask that they not bring it up to your child so he or she doesn’t feel self conscious.
- Emphasize to your child that you still have nothing but love and pride for him or her. This type of reassurance can go a long way towards boosting your child’s self esteem.