What to do When Your Student is Held Back

Written By: Rachel Strong
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Kids develop at different speeds, and everyone has different skills and abilities. School is easy for some and extremely difficult for others. So what should we do when school becomes too difficult for our kids?

Some students need to repeat grades because they have to. When students miss too much school (the number of days depends on the state) due to sickness, a grade may need to be repeated simply due to falling behind. However, this can easily be remedied through summer school or tutors.

In the early grades (usually kindergarten through second grade), parents and teachers can decide together to hold back a student because of poor academics or social immaturity. This is usually done in kindergarten, when being a year older isn’t the social stigma it is in ninth grade.

But is being “held back” in any situation really the best thing for your child?

Until recently, a policy called “social promotion” was the norm. Social promotion is just as it sounds-promoting a student to the next grade regardless of test scores. With the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, however, social promotion is becoming less popular as test scores are becoming more important.

A 1997 report from the American Federation of Teachers also says that social promotion tricks students into believing that they have what they need to be successful. However, because of this way of thinking, a majority of ninth grade students cannot read at grade level (something the NCLB Act was created to fix).

Repeating a grade also has its downsides, and perhaps even worse consequences than social promotion. Research has come back showing that retention is ineffective. Students do tend to do better at the beginning of the year, but soon fall behind again. Students who repeat a grade begin to dislike school even more and eventually fall further behind than if they had not been held back.

So what should a parent do when facing the possibility of his or her child being held back?

First, get the reason for retention in writing from your student’s teacher. Whether poor grades, emotional developmental problems, or even a poor grasp of the English language, get the reason in writing.

When you have the reason, you may be able to do something about it. If you student is struggling in one or two areas, you should get a tutor over the summer to help him or her catch up. There is no reason for you student to repeat all of fifth grade when all he needs is some help in Math.

If your student is being held back because of emotional issues, there are still things you can do. Again, start with getting all the information and specifics you can. If seeing a professional will help, do what you can to help your child.

If nothing works, be sure to support your child at home. Your student will feel bad enough about having to repeat a grade, do not make it worse for your student-he already feels stupid, worthless, and anything else he may hear from you.

Even if your student has to repeat a grade, don’t despair. Remember-Albert Einstein didn’t even talk until he was three years old and “Wendy’s” founder Dave Thomas didn’t get his GED until long after he was a millionaire!

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