Friday, May 15, 2015

Another Year - Repeating a Grade?

While most children are seeing that summer light at the end of the tunnel, some parents are very concerned about next year. Because of a teacher's suggestion or a parent's apprehension, repeating a grade may seem to be in your child's future. This is a  difficult decision, but there are some things to consider before making it final.

The most important question is why is your child being held back? Is she doing poorly in every subject, or just reading? Poor reading skills are the most frequent reason for holding back a child in grades K-3, but some recent research is now causing debates on retention in a grade due to reading problems.

Brain scans show that up through 5th grade children's brains are reading differently than adults. This research has questioned the age-old belief that third grade is the magical moment when children must be able to read in order to learn.

According to Dr. Shane R. Jimerson reading problems range from the inability to decode, read fluently, or comprehend. "Just repeating a grade is not going to magically solve all those problems, and it adds to the psychological consequences of being left behind."

When it is suggested a child repeat a grade due to poor reading skills, the question should be "How will the instruction be changed the second time around?" What happens in your child's school if he repeats a grade? Will he receive more remediation, more time, different instruction, or will he merely receive the same instruction (which obviously didn't work the first time) once again?

The next question should be, if a child moves to the next grade what is going to be done to remediate her reading skills?  A child should not be held back just because she has been diagnosed with dyslexia or another learning problem. The school should have a plan for remediation and modifications if needed.

If your child is doing poorly is all areas, there are other questions to ask. How young is your child compared to others in his class, and how young does he appear?  Immaturity is often the reason given for a kindergartner to repeat the grade. This may fall into the category of the child's not understanding classroom expectations. 

Depending on the size of the school, a change of classmates may be more effective than repeating  a grade. Teachers know that a group of children create their own gestalt. Some classes are full of mature, eager, talkative, academically advanced children. Others may contain a large number of children who are shy, immature, or need a slower pace of instruction. It is just luck on how well your child will fit within a class. In a larger school your child might find success with a different group of peers or with a specific teacher in the next grade.

The same holds true for a school. Some private schools promote a curriculum that is one grade level above normal. Perhaps your child and his school are not a good match at this moment in time. Remember children's needs change. The shy 8-year-old may end up the senior class president. The child having trouble with academics in first grade may end up as a successful doctor. But right now you must be realistic about your child's current needs.

Whatever you decide for your child don't forget summer is a chance to work on needed skills. There are school summer programs, but there are many other summer activities that will help the young child who is having difficulty in school.

  • Read, read, read to your child during the summer.
  • For the non-reader or poor beginning reader get some plastic letters and work on beginning reading skills.
  • Make sure you child has a library card. Check out easy books for him to read aloud to an adult,  every day.
  • Have your child practice following directions, finding page numbers, and printing or writing.
  • If you have the opportunity, enroll your child in a museum's children's science or art class. 
  • Limit the TV, and computer games. Exchange them for outside play with friends and board games with adults.
  • Chores and cooking help a child learn to follow directions, organize, plan ahead, measure, and often include some type of reading.
  • Try to insure your child has more one-to-one time with a caring adult. If a parent is not available, this time can be with a grandparent, aunt or uncle or responsible babysitter.
  • Ask your child's teachers for suggestions for summer activities and reading.
These activities should NOT mirror school. They should be short, interactive times with the emphasis on fun and appropriate behavior. They are activities for your child to get excited about learning and to acquire a better grasp of basic academic skills.

1 comment:

  1. I can appreciate this article. Schools are sometimes too quick to blame low academic development on the child. I like how you suggest to parents to make the school accountable for their part in educating the child. Having a learning disability such as dyslexia does not warrant being held back a year. Doing the same thing twice is not remediation, and the child may actually loose ground because their other "smarts" are not being developed. Too often, when that happens, they loose their self-esteem and begin to regress in all areas.