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Education Mom » Education » Should I Hold My Child Back a Grade (aka Retention, Flunking, Repeating a Grade)

Should I Hold My Child Back a Grade (aka Retention, Flunking, Repeating a Grade)

One of the toughest questions that parents ask me is, “Should I hold my child back in the same grade?” As such, I’ve given this topic a lot of thought, and the various professional experiences I’ve had with students and parents/guardians helped shape my views on holding kids back a grade.

One of the books in the reading program that I used as a teacher is called The Flunking of Joshua T. Bates. At first, I wasn’t sure this was a good book to read since it was about…well…the flunking of Joshua T. Bates. Joshua is a student who finds out that he has to repeat third grade. Despite the less than happy theme of this book, it turns out to be a genuine story about the struggles of repeating a grade and the success this student finds with the help of his caring teacher.

Reminiscing about this book and the school year rapidly coming to a close got me thinking about all the decisions that have to be made towards the end of the year. Helping a parent make the final determination about whether or not to retain a student in the same grade is probably the least enjoyable responsibility as a principal.

As a principal, I keep close tabs on students who are at-risk and generally not performing up to grade level starting right in August. When new students transfer in, the first thing I look at is their cumulative file, first for their attendance record, then for their academic report cards, and then for any discipline records that may have been included. For kindergarten students, I look at any student who scored low on the kindergarten assessment. I have conversations with these students’ teachers and check in from time-to-time to see how the student is progressing. I want to ensure that the students have any additional support we can provide at school as well as any support parents can offer at home. Then by January, I ask teachers to let me know of any students who are really struggling. which eventually leads to the students who may be candidates for retention. By this time, these students receive heavy-duty intervention in every effort to prevent retention.

Let me clearly state that I am NOT a fan of retention. Whether the parent suggests the idea of retention or I/the teacher broach the possibility, I always state that up front to parents even before a conversation about retention begins so they understand that for me, it is the last resort. During my 12 year administrative career, I’ve wholeheartedly supported one retention. I’ve also strongly but unsuccessfully lobbied against retention with five or so parents.

Retention is usually brought up if a student is:
1) Immature for his/her age and needs time to develop.
2) Significantly behind in mastering grade level standards (often based on test scores and/or grades).

From my personal experience, which is admittedly completely non-scientific, I have rarely seen a positive outcome from a student retention, especially when students are retained in a higher grade level such as middle school. About 50% of the time when I had a middle school student with discipline issues, I’d find evidence of a retention in his/her file. The other problem is, the retained student doesn’t necessarily do better. Some people may believe it’s some sort of silver bullet, but the reality is, it is not.

When a decision is made to retain a student, I believe that the best grade to do that is in Kindergarten and if at all possible and it’s agreeable to the parents, have the student attend another school. One of the kindergarten students I had was able to do this with, the parent contacted me the following year and said that moving schools was a good idea.

Students who have special needs, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), or a 504 plan (often students with health and medical issues that require modifications but do not qualify for special education otherwise), are a completely different situation. In my opinion, they should almost never be held back. His/her IEP or 504 should be able to meet any modification needs for the student to be successful.

If you have concerns about your child’s success in school and are considering retention, here are some things to consider:

1. Maintain constant contact (and as early in the school year as possible) with your child’s teacher. Get a copy of the district paperwork early, and look it over carefully. (The decision-making process for retention can be lengthy as it involves many parties.)
2. Ask if your child is receiving any additional support at school (interventions) and if not, ask if s/he can.
3. Ask if your child may have a learning disability and if s/he can be tested. (The process that leads up to special education testing can be lengthy.)
4. Consider your child’s grade level. I’d strongly discourage retention past 1st grade.
5. Consider your child’s emotional state and how s/he would handle a retention. How does s/he feel about it?
6. Will your child be able to catch up academically and/or in maturity level if given an extra year?
7. Do your research and try to find a parent or two who have retained their child. While every child is different, it’s good to get input from those who have been there.
8. Would you consider moving your child to a different school? How does s/he feel about it? Is your child quick to make friends and will s/he miss her/his peers?
9. Have you exhausted every support measure at school before making a final decision to retain your child? The final decision is yours as a parent.
10. The last question to consider is: What’s worse– social promotion (passing a student along to the next grade even though they are not keeping up) OR retaining a student (and facing the social stigma of “flunking”)?

At the end of the day, you (the parent/guardian) have the final decision, and the weight of the decision is yours to bear. A child cannot be retained without parents/guardians signing on the dotted line, which in my opinion is as it should be. As a parent, given the choice for my child, I’d choose the former, WITH targeted support in place for my child’s learning though every means possible, because I’m not convinced that every child’s story of retention turns out as well as The Flunking of Joshua T. Bates. It is after all, fiction.

Follow up post Should I Hold My Child Back A Grade Part II

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120 Responses to "Should I Hold My Child Back a Grade (aka Retention, Flunking, Repeating a Grade)"

  1. Jon says:

    As a soon to be father, My wife and I find your articles very helpful! Thank you!

  2. Alana says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful commentary. I’m wondering if you have any advice for parents of a July-birthday boy. We have the option of having him repeat kindergarten — the first year of kindergarten would be at a half-day program and the other year would be a our city and state funded public school. He is developing just fine for his age, but I am made anxious by the number of parents in our area who retain their summer birthday boys simply because of age.

    1. Educationmom says:

      That is a great question! You are correct that there are more and more parents who are holding their children back a grade or starting their children a year late all together. My understanding is that more parents do this with their boys for athletics–meaning if they’re a year older but a grade later, they’ll be bigger in size than the other boys in the same grade; thus, giving their son the edge. Academically, this could be the case as well. A July birthday is understandably a tough one. Most states cut off Kindergarten at Sept 1 (age 5 by Sept 1). So a July birthday would mean that a child would be one of the youngest in the class. The question you may want to think about is: For what benefit and/or purpose would your son need to repeat Kindergarten again? Don’t look at the parents around you and what they are doing. Assess your son and what he would gain by repeating Kindergarten vs. moving on to first grade. And do what’s in his best interest. That way, in the end, you can honestly say that your decision was in the best interest of your son, not because everyone else is doing it. I know that’s easier said than done, but a parent advocates for her own child and makes the best informed decision accordingly regardless of what everyone else is doing. I would also suggest talking with his teacher, principal, and a few other parents that you trust who know your son. They may be able to offer you insight that’s sometimes hard to see as a parent. I’m also guessing that you don’t have to make the decision right now. Take your time and make the decision when you have to. And if you do decide to have your son repeat K, you’ll have to carefully consider how you’re going to frame it for your son so that he’s set up to succeed and not feel like he failed and thus has to repeat K. I’ll be thinking of you and am here if you want to dialogue through this in more detail along the way. Best, Molly

  3. Trish says:

    I’m am tossing around the idea of having my son repeat kindergarten and found your article very interesting. Adam has no desire to learn and therefore, hasn’t advanced like other children his age. He is 5 and knows his shapes, colors and every truck invented, but has no desire to learn numbers or letters (his 3 year old sister knows more than he does). I have had him for speech therapy and as soon as he gets bored with the Therapist, he simply shuts down and doesn’t speak at school at all (although he does all the time at home). It could even be global developmental delay. I guess what I am wondering is what I can do to be a better advocate for Adam. I want him to be successful and hope that he will “catch up” eventually. Thanks so much in advance for any support you can provide.

    1. Educationmom says:

      Thanks for getting in touch! I feel for you! It is definitely too early in the school year to consider repeating a grade. It is very good that you see the issues, and it’s very good of you to seek support for Adam at school now, while there is still plenty of time to get him on track. I have a few questions for you to consider. When is Adam’s birthday? Is he a summer baby? If so, he is one of the younger ones in his class. Is he big for his age? One of the concerns with kids who are held back is that they end up being physically out of place. Does Adam see a speech therapist outside of school or just at school? He may need more support than a school can provide. Is his lack of speech at school an issue of ability (which it doesn’t sound like it since he speaks at home) or a psychological one? If it’s the latter, it may be beneficial to seek help from a counselor as there may be other issues preventing him from speaking at school. What sort of motivational carrots work with Adam? You mentioned that Adam has no desire to learn letters or numbers, but it isn’t clear to me if this is an issue of motivation or ability, although clearly Adam is plenty capable of learning since he knows his shapes, colors, and every truck invented. If it’s a matter of motivation vs. ability, I would approach it based on the root of the issue. If it’s a matter of ability, there could be a learning disability involved, which would require more support from school. Has the teacher offered any insight? Almost every school has what’s called an RTI model. RTI is Response to Intervention. This is a systematic, proactive approach to providing support for students who are not making it. Check in with your child’s teacher about this and make sure to share your concerns. If s/he doesn’t seem to be listening, check in with the principal. Sounds like Adam might be ready for some more aggressive interventions. Let me know how things go with this and please feel free to contact me as needed. I’m happy to help as best as I can. Best, Molly

  4. swatzell says:

    Thanks for the article. Very informative. Our situation is slightly different that the others that I have read. Our son was premature by 1 month and has a June birthday. We decided to let him go into kindergarten on schedule, but looking back, we believe that we made the wrong decision. He is now in 6th grade and is an A-B student, but he is way behind socially. He is having a really, really hard time adjusting to middle school and the stress of keeping up is starting to get to him.

    We are now looking into the possibility of home schooling him for half year and having him start 6th grade again next year. We really don’t know which way to go, we just want to put him in the best position to succeed socially and academically (now and in the future).



    1. Educationmom says:

      Thanks for getting in touch! Hm. 6th grade is a tough one for many kids because it is typically when they begin middle school. Middle school is probably one of the toughest times in school because it is time of such change for kids–physically, emotionally, academically. Given all that, your son isn’t unusual in his being “way behind socially”. Is the adjustment difficult because of the academic workload (ie. managing it and keeping up)? If he is in accelerated or advanced classes, are those at a pace that is too hard for him? Would it help to move to regular classes? Is it because of the socially challenging situations (ie. peer pressure, difficulty making good choices, etc.)? Is it a combination of all of the above? Have you broached the possibility with him? He’s at an age now where he can articulate how he is feeling and talk through this with you. If he is 100% against it, I’d think twice before doing it. But if he is open to the idea, you could home school him and then have him start 6th grade again in the fall, but at another school. If he were to stay at the same school, it is very likely that he will be ridiculed by his peers. Unfortunately, that is the sad truth. If that were to happen, it could/would likely impede his progress. So if you were to have him start 6th grade again, I’d strongly recommend a new school, preferably where he doesn’t know anyone. Once you find a new school, ask the school counselor, registrar, assistant principal or principal to set him up with some buddies–a couple of nice kids who are in a few classes with your son. That will help him feel a bit at ease. Many middle schools also have a newcomer program for 6th graders before the school year officially begins. That gives them a chance to make some friends and feel comfortable at the school before school actually begins. It’s still fairly early in the school year, but if this is a possibility for your son, it’s important to start the conversation now and make some decisions. Feel free to email me via the “contact me” button if I can be of any other help. Best, Molly

      1. Cindy Cunningham says:

        I am so concerned for my Son. His test scores are high however is grades are very low. He is in the 6th grade and failing. I told him he will be held back and he said if so, then he won’t try at all in school. I am so upset and at the end of my rope with this. I just don’t know what to do anymore. Please help!

        1. Educationmom says:

          Hi Cindy, Generally speaking, when a student performs well on tests but isn’t performing on a day-to-day basis in school, it could be a learning disability (because there is a discrepancy in his test scores vs. what he is showing) and/or it could be a lack of effort. Has he been tested to see if he would qualify for Special Education? The first “red flag” for a student who might be one with special needs is a discrepancy in the school performance and test scores.There has to be more to his failing than meets the eye. I’d also check in with the school counselor to see if s/he could provide any insight. Middle schoolers are complex beings. They are going through a lot and sometimes learning really takes a back seat. Feel free to email me via the “contact me” button if I can be of any other help. We can maintain this conversation via email. Best, Molly

  5. Renee Chang says:

    Thank you for this information. Where I live the cutoff for kindergarten is October 1st. My son’s birthday is September 29th and he is small – very – for his age. He also has not had a lot of experience in a daycare or pre-school facility. I am torn as to whether I should put him into kindergarten in 2013 when he will be 4 turning 5 or 2014 when he will be 5 turning 6. His father and I are not together and he thinks he should be held back so that he can be the oldest as he was – having been born in October. His father however did not complete 8th grade. I was born in September like my son and was never held back but excelled in school – I was a girl and I know that is different. I would appreciate any suggestions you may have. Thank you.

    1. I’ve been a tutor for 20 years and strongly advise that you give your son the gift of being the oldest in his class. High school and college entry are both so competitive these days so you want to give your child any edge that you possibly can. My daughter is a 9/30 birthday and we made the mistake of pushing her ahead. I was in the same situation as you are since I was the youngest in my class and I was a top student. My husband was a college dropout and he really wished she was the oldest since he was. I should have listened to him.

      School is so much more difficult now with the No Child Left Behind Act increasing the standards dramatically across the board in all subjects. Having our daughter be the youngest in her class was the biggest mistake of our lives. We will now have to change schools and hold her back in middle school so she doesn’t go into high school as a young 13 year-old. In kindergarten, she had a perfect report card, but it’s in the later grades where academics become very challenging. So many younger kids really begin to struggle and lose confidence in the middle grades. As a tutor in both public and private schools, I have seen time and time again, the older kids are thriving both academically and socially. I wish you the best.

  6. Kristy b. says:

    My special needs third grader is being requested to start anew school off in first grade because of his cognitive delay. I’m wondering if putting him back two years and having him attend school at his younger sister’s age level is an appropriate way to go.

  7. koloradokyd says:

    “I have rarely seen a positive outcome from a student retention”

    The other side of that coin is to ask if promotion in spite of not meeting grade level standards is a better solution?

    1. Educationmom says:

      Hi Doug, Thanks for the comment! It’s been a while since I heard from you! You’re “other side of the coin” question is the age old counter question to my “I have rarely seen a positive outcome from a student retention”. I guess for me ultimately the question is how often does holding a student back because they didn’t meet grade level standards then help them to meet them? In other words, I haven’t seen students who were held back, necessarily do better and they won’t unless serious, rigorous, deliberate interventions are put into place. Is social promotion the answer? No. But without very good interventions, neither is retention.

    2. Shari says:

      Thank you for this comment. I am new to this site and I don’t understand the idea of NEVER retaining a child. An individual circumstance may warrant it.

      1. Educationmom says:

        Hi Shari, welcome! And thank you for the comment. I do not believe in “NEVER” retaining a child. Each child should be considered individually, case by case. What I am saying is that from my experience, in general, I’m not convinced of the benefits. Hind sight is always 20/20, but we don’t have that luxury when dealing with kids. So parents together with the support of educators make the best decision possible at the time given all the information they have. I wish there was a perfect way to know if retention is the way to go.

  8. Jennifer K says:

    Hi- I am a mother of a 6th grader and she has some cognitive delays with reading comprehension and speech. She was born with Pierre Robin Syndrome which caused the delays. She has received services from the state since 1 year old, and then through the school. While she is improving we recently moved in July from NY to Colorado so she is at a new school. Her grades so far are at partially proficent for reading /writing concepts as she struggles with the comprehension piece. This also effects other areas such as Math. Her social skills are quite a bit behind as she relates more to kids a year to two years younger. She hasnt yet caught up maturity wise mentally to kids her age. I see the trouble with her communication with other girls her age and they leave her out of everything. When she is with the girls a grade behind her she seems to blossom. Her dad and I have been discussing the idea of having her repeat 6th grade next year instead of moving on to the middle school where I fear she will be outcast and continue to struggle. I have discussed this with her and she is fine with it. The school on the other hand I feel are going to give issue to this and a meeting is scheduled. One thing I learned today is her teacher and special ed teacher have been discussing this with her behind my back and in front of other children in her class, that it is ultimately the principles decision not her mom and dads. This upsets me because they should not be discussing with her and especially in front of other children as this could hurt her self esteem and make her feel bad. Also it is second guessing her parents in front of her. The principle doesnt even know my daughter as she has not been active in her education. I guess I would like to get some insight/opinions. I just want my daughter to be able to gain in maturity and ability to communicate with others so she will have friends and also be able to grasp comprehension better so she will be able to move on with more complex school work in middle school without struggling to the point it breaks her as she gets very frustrated easily.

    1. Educationmom says:

      Hi there, thanks for getting in touch! I feel for you in your situation and for your daughter. You are right to consider the retention now before she goes into middle school. The caveat there is that if she is retained and her peers find out, there’s always the possibility (esp in middle school) that she will be made fun of because some people choose to be mean. I’d like to address the issue of her teachers discussing anything with her “behind your back”. It’s good of them to approach her about this decision, but it’s not ok for them to do so in the manner you described without your knowledge. This isn’t a decision for your daughter to make. It’s one that you as a family need to make together. I would encourage you to approach the teachers and assume their best intentions–that they too want the best for your child. Something like, “I heard from my daughter that you have been discussing the possibility of retention with her. I appreciate your care and concern so I’d like to keep the lines of communication open so that we are all on the same page.” Then go on and have a targeted discussion as to why you and your husband feel this is the best decision for your child. In a technical sense, the principal does have the “final decision” but not without your signature on the dotted line. I think it’s a huge disservice to the child when the adults are not on the same page so I, as a principal, would try to come to a consensus. If you can take a step back and see if giving her more time to mature will ultimately help her to be successful, then make that point. Colorado (depending on where you live) also has a thriving charter school culture so you might be able to find a school within that type of system that may be more flexible. Or perhaps another school in the district. I know she has only been at that school since the start of the school year, but I think it can potentially be hard on a kid (esp older ones) to deal with retention when they remain at the same school. Just something to think about. Also, what will happen differently if she repeats 6th grade? What sort of support systems will be in place for her? I would also recommend support of a counselor for any social issues she may encounter. Best to you and feel free to be in touch again if you have any other thoughts as things progress.

  9. jennifer says:

    Thank you so much for your feedback and insight. I have a meeting today with the school so hoping for the best:)

  10. carrie skripac says:

    I just had a meeting with my daughter’s teacher. She is in 2nd grade and the teacher has recommended retention because she is not up to the required reading level. I am on the fence about this. She is one level behind. The teacher believes that holding her back one more year will make her a stronger reader and more ready for 3rd grade. I believe that by continuing to work with her at home and getting a summer tutor to keep up will benefit her more than holding her back. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. Educationmom says:

      Hi Keri,

      Thanks for getting in touch! Is this the first time you’re hearing that your child is not at grade level reading? Have you heard this in previous years? What interventions have been put into place this year to help her? What sort of support have you provided outside of school (ie. Kumon or some sort of learning center or additional support at home)? What interventions will be put into place if she is kept in 2nd grade an additional year? Often times, when students repeat a grade, there’s nothing different. If you do something twice, exactly the same way, why would one expect different results? Second grade is a more complicated when considering a retention for many reasons. By this age, kids are very aware of what’s going on and peer pressure begins to grow stronger. If you do decide to retain her, moving schools would be a good idea–if even to another school in the district, if your district is large enough. Have you discussed retention with your daughter? What are her thoughts and feelings? It is a good thing that your child’s teacher brought this up now because you still have a few months of school left to work with your daughter to make some progress. Ask your child’s teacher exactly what her deficiencies are. The teacher should be able to provide you with some data to show where she is behind. Then you can focus on those areas.

      Feel free to contact me again if you have any follow up questions.


      1. Carrie says:

        Thanks for getting back to me! My daughter has not been a strong reader since kindergarten. I went to the 1st and 2nd grade teachers at the beginning of the school year to let them know I was willing to provide whatever my daughter needed in the form of extra help. Her 1st grade teacher gave her individual reading assignments and one on one help. The 2nd grade teacher has her in a small reading group that does extra practice on skills. Her main problem is comprehension. She can read the passage but does not remember what it was about. The school is using a new testing system this year that measures accuracy, wpm, and comprehension. They must pass all 3 requirements to move on to the next level. She can pass everything except the comprehension questions. If she is retained she will start the year off 2 reading levels ahead of the requirement for 2nd grade. The teacher said she believes she needs another year to become a “stronger” reader. They are required to take the IREAD in 3rd grade and the teacher said she probably will not pass. The test is given in March so she essentially has a whole year to prepare. All of her other grades are not bad. My daughter was devastated when we told her the teacher’s thoughts. We don’t feel it is necessary to hold her back and feel like they should at least give her a chance in 3rd grade. it looks bad on the school if she fails the IREAD in 3rd grade so I feel that is why they are pushing to retain her. I have purchased some workbooks that help with comprehension and have increased her at home reading time. I am also in the process of arranging a summer tutor. She has made great progress in the last 2 months according to her testing scores. Do you have any other suggestions for helping with comprehension? Thanks!

  11. Allison says:

    I am very seriously considering having my 10 year old son repeat the 5th grade. He is extremely bright and gets things that some adults don’t understand but he is over-the-top immature and not making good grades (Cs and Ds). He will be going to a private school next year anyway which has a harder curriculum than the public school he has been attending. He is on medicine for ADHD but still has behavior issues (always singing, clapping, tapping) and was suspended last week for talking excessively. We have changed his meds several times over the years. My biggest concern is that he is not growing appropriately and we are in the process of seeing doctors to figure out what to do. He has leaky gut and he is not absorbing vitamins from his food or supplements. He is the size of a 6 year old and will be 11 in May. I think since he is changing schools anyway, this would be the time to let him mature some and repeat 5th grade. I just worry that if we get his stomach right and he starts growing, will we regret holding him back? What if his brain isn’t developing properly since he isn’t absorbing what he needs? No one can answer that question. He used to excel academically but now it seems like he doesn’t understand anything. He knew his whole alphabet at 18 months and read on a 5th grade level at the end of 1st grade. I don’t want to waste a year by making him repeat but I don’t want him to be lost in 6th grade in a much harder school. I would love an opinion from someone that isn’t related to him. ;-) I emphasize how immature he is and he is also very, very sensitive and emotional. I mentioned him repeating the 5th grade and he didn’t really seem to think it was a bad idea since he didnt know anyone anyway. Thank you for your time.

    1. Jennifer says:

      I just had to have a meeting about the same thing with my daughter who is in 6th grade. All agreed to having her held back including her teachers, and the principle. Basically I explained her immaturity and that she better relates to kids younger than her grade and I wanted to give her a chance to have her maturity catch up. I felt she would be left behind if moved forward which they agreed. She is smart in most areas but just doesnt fit/connect with other kids maturity level in her grade. She does have some reading comprehension/ auditory language processing delays.I did my research and reviewed the Retention Check list online
      If student is identified with a learning disability and is developmentally immature, then holding them back will correctly align them with more appropriate curriculum and instruction.

      I definately think if a child falls under this category then it will be best for them to do it now than to wait and watch them stumble. Good luck.

    2. Shannon says:

      Great idea to have him repeat fifth grade! I have been tutoring middle and high school students and the grade repeaters, especially those who have changed schools, are so much happier and stronger academically. When you watch your son graduate from high school you will be so relieved and will have no regrets. Go for it!

  12. Allie says:

    We are considering retaining my 2nd grade daughter. I am a spec. education teacher and did an informal reading inventory and felt that she needed reading help. About 2 months ago, she started receiving reading help, but still is very far behind her peers. I believe she is dyslexic. In addition, she is immature for her grade. Her 2nd grade class is not as kind as the rising 2nd grade and she has also been having social issues. We are at a high academic school and I feel she would benefit from another year in 2nd. She is going to get a psychological and educational test this summer. There are also attention concerns. Her fluency rate is at about 25th percentile for end of 2nd grade. I feel like she will not be able to keep up in 3rd, even with her receiving reading help in Orton-Gillingham. Her friend, a girl is being retained b/c of her age and social issues, which would make it easier for my daughter. However, although she is bright, I worry that she will not be confident if she is held back and feel bad about herself. I would love your thoughts on all of this.

    I have read the pros and cons on retention, but feel this is such a difficult decision.

    Thank you!

  13. joyce says:

    I am so glad to have found this site. My son, who is in 3rd grade right now is being considered for grade retention. We have constant case conferences with the teacher since the first parent-teacher conference back in November 2012. Basically the teacher stated that our son 1 grade level below in reading comprehension and appear immature compared to his classmates. He does not have any social issues and his math skills are good, but he gives up easily when new concepts are presented and needs a lot of prompting at first. Up until January 2013, I have been the one who had been helping with his schoolwork. Then my husband and I switched places since we theorized that he might respond more positively to my husband’s teaching style than mine- and he did! We also added Kumon reading (on top of the math Kumon program). He has also been attending the NJ prep classes as well as been receiving additional reading instructions (1xweek) from a reading instructor in his school. During our most recent parent teacher conference this April, the teacher mentioned a huge difference with our son- but unfortunately, his testing scores are still not where he should be. We have 2 more short months to go, but I am not sure if the improvement will be enough to change the scores. I have been leaning towards retaining him 1 more year AND switching to a private school. Another option is to reject the recommendation and let him remain in the same school. However, my husband said that he (my son) already has a “bulls eye” on him (whatever that means).
    I think that when the time comes that we receive the recommendation (because I think that even though the teacher is saying she hasn’t finalized her decision, that she already decided on it), we will reject the recommendation and provide them with copies of the research articles I have come across about the negative effects of retention.
    It is really a difficult decision to make….

    1. Educationmom says:

      Hi Joyce, thanks for getting in touch! My heart goes out to you and all the parents who have commented on this post. It just goes to show that retention is one of the most difficult decisions to have to make and the problem is, there’s no way to know if you’ve made the right decision or not until later, often times much later. Every single child is a unique case. You and your husband seem to have done all the right things–providing extra support at home, extra support outside of home, keeping in constant contact with teachers, receiving extra support from school, etc… You are very much within your rights as a parent to reject the teacher’s recommendation. I would also suggest you document all of the support that your son is currently receiving, how long he’s been receiving support, progress he’s made as a result of the support, and also what your plan is to continue supporting him next year. You should also ask what ongoing support can be provided through the school next year. IF possible this is an appropriate case of requesting a specific type of teacher. Not specific teacher, but specific characteristics that your son needs in a teacher. This will hopefully help him receive consistent, caring support. I think it’s really important to buttress your son with support from all sides. I hope that helps and best to you! Molly

      1. Joyce says:

        Thanks for the tips Molly. We will surely keep that in mind once we have that conference with the teacher and principal ( if we get that letter recommending that he gets retained). I have been researching with the intent of finding concrete data to support grade retention (because as I said, I was leaning more towards doing that for our son). In the end, all the researches I have found are opposed to grade retention.
        One of the things that the teacher ruled out was learning disability- which she said she is confident my son does not have. IF he has that, I would most likely decide on retaining him. However, he doesn’t. I am now more confident with rejecting the grade retention recommendation when or if it comes. And my husband and I will continue to provide additional support on top of what the public school system can provide for him.
        Thanks again!

      2. Joyce says:

        Hi Molly,
        Just wanted to give you an update with my son. We had a parent teacher conference with his literacy teacher (who teaches kids who are lagging behind) and his score rose 6 points since the last test she did (2 months ago). She said he’s like another person. And if the improvement goes at this rate, he might not even be recommended to be retained. We also met with the Kumon director and they showed us that he is exceeding their projected progress for him. He still has a long way to go, but its really good to know that he is responding to our strategies. I owe it all to my husband. I was ready to give up, but he persisted and is working on the underlying problems with my son (lack of self confidence for the most part, and not holding accountability for his actions).
        This is a learning experience for my husband and myself.
        Again, so glad to stumble upon your article.


        1. Allison says:

          It’s great that your son is doing better! How has your husband helped him with the underlying problems you wrote about? My son has a serious self-esteem problem because he is grossly under height (we are working tirelessly to find a cause and solution) and is very irresponsible? I have tried everything I can think of to make him more accountable. I offer encouragement/praise until I am blue in the face. I would love to know what tactics your husband is using! Thanks!

          1. Joyce says:

            Hi Allison- my husband did a lot of research and narrowed down the strategies to two patenting books: “how to talk so kids will listen” by Adele Fabre and Elaine MacLeish , and “teach your children well” by Madeline Levine. It was hard to follow the strategies mentioned there at first because they all seemed awkward. I couldn’t do it consistently because I am not very patient. But my husband took over and pretty much told me to get my act together before its too late for my son. It’s not an overnight process, but I’ve seen it work with our son. I hope this helps!- joyce

          2. Allison says:

            Wonderful! It will help to know that it has worked for someone in case I struggle with the process. Thank you!

  14. Laura E. says:


    Thank you for posting your article!

    I have an interesting situation. My 4th grader was born with health issues and had intervention until he was 5. He has an auditory processing issue but does not receive any therapies. (he has not been tested for ADHD)

    He has been chugging along at school just fine, however this year has been different.

    Our school district has implemented a 1-4 grading system for everything.

    No one fails. (Personally I HATE this way of grading, but that is what we got to work with)

    My son is getting 2′s & 3′s (which are considered very acceptable) however still cannot competently do basic mathematics tables and has very poor writing skills. My husband and I want to keep him back so the basics will finally sink in before starting 5th grade with much harder math and writing assignments.

    Homework takes us 4 hours to complete. We practice the math tables daily, but he is still counting on his fingers and it can take him at least a minute to figure out a basic division problem.

    He is a bit immature for his age, and can be quite bright when the notion strikes him. He reads everything he gets his hands on.

    I would rather have my son with the stigma of “the kid who was held back” rather than “the dumb kid”.

    What do you think?

    1. Educationmom says:

      Hi Laura, thanks for getting in touch! As I’ve mentioned before, every single child is a unique case. In your son’s case, I have a few questions:
      Is there an IEP in place?
      Are you concerned that he has ADHD?
      When you say, it takes “us” 4 hours to complete homework, I’m assuming that you mean it takes him 4 hours with your help? That is way too long. At 4th grade, on average, homework should take 40 minutes.
      What support has your son received at school? outside of school? at home?
      What does your child’s teacher observe at school? What does the teacher recommend?

      Without knowing much else, it seems to me like there could be a learning disability involved because it sounds like he is able to read (and with interest), but there’s issues with math and writing. If this is the case, it may require an IEP, which would provide him with support and modifications to help him succeed. Neither of the stigmas you mentioned are ideal by any definition, so looking deeper to find a way to help your child be successful and build a sense of efficacy (as opposed to just esteem). If you have further questions feel free to contact me offline via the “contact me” button on the top of my main page. Best to you! Molly

      1. Laura E. says:

        Thanks for the reply Molly,

        There is no IEP, he has not qualified under the state requirements. We had him diagnosed with auditory processing (APD) but they do not have much to assist with that, the teacher is aware and seems to make sure she gets his attention. However the attention is fleeting in nature and she has to call his attention repeatedly even when seated next to him. (This happens at home with homework.)

        My husband and I are meeting with the teacher Monday and hopefully we will get a better understanding about what we can do for him.

        Thanks again for your insight,

  15. Hi I have a rather unusual situation in that I have just recently relocated to the US and my 11 year old twins ( late Nov birthday) were placed in 6th grade. They have only been in school since January but are both struggling academically. Socially they have settled in well, they have not complained about attending a new school and appear to have made friends. I am now in a dilemma about whether to send them upto middle school (7th grade) or retain them so they can complete a full year at 6th grade to allow them to get a sound understanding of the curriculum, which is very different to the school they came from. We were not aware this was an option when we first arrived in the US otherwise I would have placed them in 5th grade from the start.

    We have discussed this with the teachers who appear to be in favor of us retaining them to complete a full year and to give them half a chance of success, instead of always swimming up stream as we are at the moment. We live in a school district where it is not uncommon to retain children or delay them starting school but this would normally be done at a younger age. Certainly we have noticed that many of the children in our children’s classes are older,taller,more mature and coping better with the academic and organizational skills expected of them. I have discussed repeating 6th grade with my children and they understandably have mixed feelings, although not altogether negative.

    I suppose my dilemma is do their academic abilities and needs outweigh their social needs? I would hate to make the wrong decision and them be terribly unhappy at school either because they have become socially outcast or alternatively because they are struggling to keep up academically and am beginning to feel whatever decision I make it could be wrong.

    Any advice would be most welcome from a very worried mom

    1. Educationmom says:

      Hi Rachel and thank you for getting in touch! You do have a unique situation, but then again, when it comes to retention, I think each situation is unique and should be handled with care.

      So there are a few things I see in your situation that you should consider.
      1) Sounds like your children are settled in socially and that 6th grade is the final year of elementary school. (Some schools end elementary school at 5th grade.) Would they have a hard time staying behind and making new friends? I’m not of the mind that social promotion is a good idea, but it is definitely something to consider as it can greatly affect a child’s psyche, especially a middle schooler who care most about their peers.

      2) What sort of support have they received both in and out of school? This is really important. If you do decide to retain them, what will be different next year? Different teacher(s)? Different support? The worst thing can be doing the same thing twice and expecting a different outcome.

      3) Your comment, “We live in a school district where it is not uncommon to retain children or delay them starting school” is concerning to me. It should be uncommon to retain students. In this regard, I would encourage you not to look at what anyone else is doing but to do what is right for your kids period. I know you know that, but I felt it was necessary to encourage you to focus solely on your kids needs and situation.

      4) What are your children’s work habits? Are the studious? Responsible? Or do they require more attention and prodding? Middle school is a time when students are expected to rise to the occasion — more responsibility and expectation to be independent. If this will be an added burden next year, that’s something to consider as well.

      While I cannot make specific recommendations since I don’t know the intimate details of your children’s situation, I hope these few thoughts will help you look deeper before making your decision.


  16. P.L. Noyer says:

    Oh my, I am so glad I have found this website! I will be having a meeting with my son’s school next week where I would like to discuss the possibility of retention. He is in the 4th grade and is what most would consider a “highly sensitive” child. Having suffered complications at birth, he has Developmental Apraxia and has had a IEP in place since he was 2 for speech. He has been tested for other learning disabilities during the IEP process, of which none were apparent. Last year an addendum was made to the IEP which incorporated RSP help for reading and comprehension. I would not consider him to be excelling, but he is not at the bottom of his class either. He has scored in the “Basic” category, the second to lowest category out of 4, on standardized testing in language arts two years in a row. He performs very well in math. He has also been seeing a private tutor twice a week for the past two months, where he is currently performing at a 3rd grade level in site words, fluency, comprehension and writing.

    He is emotionally immature and connects best with those in the 3rd grade over his 4th grade peers. He has been bullied repeatedly at school this year due to his sensitive nature. I have put the wheels in motion to have him switch schools next year, whether he repeats 4th grade or not. I will also have him see a therapist over the summer to help him deal with his over-reactive feelings, which were accentuated this year due to peer problems. I regret having him start kindergarten just a few months into turning 5 (he has a late May birthday), especially with his speech and reading challenges. 4th grade has been the most challenging year so far for him emotionally.

    He is my youngest of three, with two other boys currently in middle school as 6th and 8th graders. I see the rigors that lie ahead for him and what it will take for him to be successful beyond elementary school. I do not see him being ready in just one calendar school year for middle school if he stays on the current path, even with weekly tutoring. I have discussed the options with him and he agreeable to either option, as long as he switches schools.

    I was very confident in my decision that retaining him was the right thing to do, until I started doing more research where there is so much negativity surrounding the issue. I have already been told that his RSP teacher is fundamentally against retention no matter the circumstances. My gut as his mom tells me that having him repeat 4th grade is the right thing to do. I have even looked at it from the perspective of hitting puberty too soon, however, my soon-to-be freshman is far from puberty and my husband did not hit puberty until high school. I feel like I have examined this option every which way possible. I want him to feel and be successful, and not that he is always behind the curve of his peers. Am I missing something? Any additional insight you think I should consider would be appreciated! Thank you.

  17. Lisa says:

    I just had a meeting with my daughter school and they said that they think she should retain the 3rd grade. They claim that she isn’t working to the level as her peers via reading and math. (Mainly math) She passed the IREAD test which is state mandated. He b-day is in October; therefore they say her maturity level isn’t where it should be. She is the only “brown” girl in her class. Her other teacher said that she have to potential to do good in the 4th grade but her homeroom teacher said that she do not. I need help because I am very upset.

  18. Jen says:

    I have a 5th grade boy who turned 10 November 6. He is the youngest in his class and has always been as we live in an area where most redshirt their boys and wait a year to put them in kindergarten. At the time, the cutoff was December so he made the cutoff and I was not aware of this holding back thing. The cutoff for kinder now is September or October, so he would not have made it. We spoke to the principal after kindergarten about holding him back and she told us academically he is fine, so she does not suggest it. We felt he was much younger socially, but went with her advice. He did fine up until 4th grade. Now in 5th grade, he has to work much harder then his classmates and still gets average grades. This is the year we have seen groups of friends change. He has been left out and forced to find other friends. He is clearly one of the smallest and one of the youngest. This is the first year we have watched him play Flag Football and baseball with kids his age, but in the 4th grade. He clearly fit’s in well. He is their size or a tad taller and performs as one of the best. With the kids in his grade but a year older, he is the smallest and performs average. Again, with extra help. We are realizing he belongs with the 4th graders and need help in making the best decision. Do we homeschool for a year or two and then let him join junior high? Or do we just put him a private school? So confused. He is fine with being homeschooled, but is not wanting to go back a grade and go to school without any friends. Academically he can move on to 6th fine, but from there I see problems. I am thinking to homeschool him for 6th grade and then and then integrate him into a classroom situation again for 6th grade. So confused, please give me your thoughts. He is a great kid, but you can tell socially a year younger and it is breaking my heart for him and as friends are dwindling.

    1. Educationmom says:

      Hi Jen, Thanks for getting in touch! I really feel such agony as I read all the various comments from parents who are struggling with retention, because it really isn’t an easy decision nor is it ever cut and dry. A few questions for you to consider:
      1. If you home school him, would you do it for a year and then send him onto middle school a year later than he would’ve gone had he not been retained and stayed in a public school? If you do decide to homeschool, make sure you get him involved in activities so that he still has the social outlet. The biggest concern for me at the older ages is the peer relationships. Sounds like you are already noticing that your son is being left out because he is smaller and younger. Middle school is a time when peer relationships can be so difficult and tenuous. The added pressure of being younger and/or smaller can make it that much worse. So it is good of you to look ahead to that age and think through the pros and cons. Honestly, there are pros and cons either way given your concerns.
      2. You absolutely have to consider his feelings on the matter. He is at an age where he can reason and understand pros and cons. He may not understand all that middle school will entail, but you can certainly explain to him your views and discuss all the options. At the end of the day, you have to make the decision as the parent, of course, but it sure helps to have him on board or at least very aware and involved of the decision making process.
      3. The other piece to consider is the peers. While it isn’t the end all, if friends (particularly former friends who no longer hang out with him) get wind of his retention, he could possibly become a target for bullying. If you decide to retain him, you may want to discuss sending him to a new middle school where he may only know a few kids, preferably ones who will are friends with him and will be a good friend to him. I know that’s easier said than done, but it could really be killer for him to attend the middle school a year later and deal with all the questions and/or assumptions his now one-year-ahead friends will deal him. If you switch him to a different middle school, meet with the school administrators ahead of time and share your situation with them. Ask them to set your son up with a buddy (same grade and maybe one grade older) so that he has some support. Get him into a counseling group around making new friends, etc… And make sure you let him talk to you openly about how things are going. In middle school, many parents assume because their kids don’t want them around, it’s better to give them space. I think the opposite holds true. I’d put your child’s desk and/or computer in the living room which is open space so you can be very aware of what he is doing. Stay engaged in his life, whether he finds you to be a bother or not.
      4. Seek council from his teachers (past and present) and get their viewpoints. They may have some different insight that you may not see at home.
      I wish you all the best. And feel free to touch base again in the future. I’m happy to be a sounding board.

      1. Denis says:

        Hi Molly

        Our daughter is 10 in Grade 5. We recently moved to a new country (for a few years)and she joined this class in Jan, missing the first term. She has worked really hard to catch up what she missed academically and is getting decent scores in tests, B+ average. The issue here is that she is a Nov baby and is the youngest in here class, by 15 months in some cases. There are only 5 girls in her class and the social dynamic is very tough to manage. Girls that are 11 and turning 12 have developed quite a bit more than a 10 year old, plus they have been together for a few years and friendships are established. They are cliquey and she feels emotionally bullied at times. She left very good friends and always makes friends wherever she goes, but is struggling to find her place in this group. We thought she would be put in Grade 4 when we arrived here because their cut offs are different, but the school tested her and decided not to have her repeat grade 4 and worked with her to ‘fill the gaps’ academically.

        Our concern now is that she is ‘managing’ academically, where she would likely be excelling given the amount extra work she’s putting in, and we feel she really is in the same age group as the Grade 4s here. Most of them are 10s.

        My wife wants to hold her back, even move schools to so. Giving her the ability to excel and to be in a group with similar aged girls (and boys).

        My daughter is not too keen on the idea and wants to stay in the same grade that will have her joining her old friends in middle/senior school when we go back in a few years.

        While she is younger than all her new ‘friends’ I think in time she will be fine and she’s likely to encounter the same issues at another school anyway even if she’s in a more age appropriate social group.

        Every situation is different…. what are your thoughts on this one?
        Thanks so much for your help.

  19. The KIngs says:

    Hello: We have an unusual situation. We are two Deaf parents. We met Chris, also Deaf when he was 9 years old, and three months later became Chris’s foster parents when he was 10. When Chris came to us, he had virtually no useable language skills. None. Nada. Nothing. Chris was unable to articulate how he felt about anything. He was not aware that he had any opinions about anything. He was unable to describe what he was seeing. However, he was a sweet, agreeable boy whom we fell in love with. We were fortunate and blessed to have the opportunity to formally adopt him when he was 12, just as he was just beginning to grasp the basic grammar and communication concepts of American Sign Language.

    As a result of his first decade of life being ignored, neglected, and possibly abused and the fact that he missed A LOT of school during those early years, directly caused him to be severely academically delayed. Chris is often compared to other children and peers his own age, which we feel is probably not the best way to assess him. We feel that Chris’ academic skills should be assessed by how long he has truly known language, which have realistically been only a few short years. Now that he has some basic language skills, Chris is entering a dawning age. He is just beginning to be able to articulate some instances of his past life to us. He has discovered this school year, (much to his dismay), that school is all about work, and not play or socializing time. However, he has also discovered that he very much enjoys being actively involved in extracurricular activities in sports such as cross country, swimming and basketball! While he has played basketball before, he is just now getting the hang of how to actually play, and understand the rules to playing on a team. He will soon be doing baseball and is quite excited about it. To be able to participate in sports give Chris the socializing and teamwork opportunities he has not had in the past. Additionally, he must use a sign language interpreter to participate. This is crucial experience for Chris that will teach him how he will interact with the majority of hearing people who do not use sign language when he is an adult. This skill will paramount for him to be successful as an adult when he is out of school.

    We were unhappy at the home school as after the first 1/2 year, they refused to pay for any more American Sign Language tutoring. So we put him in the State School for the Deaf for the rest of the year and the year following. Awash in native American Sign Language, he was finally able to learn ASL from the school there in the daytime, and with us at home in the Evenings. However, they were teaching him nothing academically, so we decided to move him back to the home school where he could get some one-on-one academic instruction.

    Due to his age, he was put in the sixth grade at the home school, at the deaf school, we advocated the 4th grade, but they put him in 5th grade, then the following year he was in 6th grade. When he came back to the home school they placed him in 8th grade instead of 7th, Now we are sorry we didn’t dig our heels in as they want to automatically move him to the 9th grade next year. He is NOT ready. He currently has no true peers so what the other kids think is pretty irrelevant as he is in a segregated class by himself and goes out for Art and wood-shop.

    After years of inactivity, and not knowing what it was, and purposely breaking any Cochlear Implant that was put on him, just a few days ago, he expressed his desire to have it activated and put on to experience sound. Due to his age, we have no speech and language expectations for the cochlear implant to benefit him, but we do believe that hearing environmental sounds around him will improve awareness of the world around him when he is focused on something else visually and will perhaps even help in his sport activities.

    We all know that Chris has a long way to go, but we do believe he can progress farther along than he is now. We don’t want to see Chris continually advancing to the next grade in school just to be with other children his age and yet get farther and farther behind them. As his parents, we both feel strongly that Chris would benefit tremendously from summer school this year and another year in 8th grade this fall. We know that Chris is not ready for high school next year, and think he could possibly bloom if he stayed another year at the Middle School. We feel it would be extremely difficult for Chris to remain active in sports in high school as students often must maintain certain grades in their classes, as well as try out for sports.

    This puts Chris at a huge disadvantage when he is clearly not ready for either of those conditions. To address his severe academic delay, as mentioned earlier, we strongly desire for him to be enrolled in Summer School as he tends to forget much of the gains he has worked so hard to accomplish after being out of school for three months. The teacher must work for months to just get him back where he was at the end of the school year before they can start to make more progress during the new year. We know that there is another hearing impaired 14 year old at Middle School who is currently in 7th grade. Perhaps this would be a workable situation to have Chris enrolled an additional year at Middle School and thus have two 8th graders about the same age next year?

    So far the school has been refusing to consider retaining him. we feel that they just want to promote him and get him out of their hair. Incidentally his teacher is supportive of our desire. He is also small for his age, and we know of 12 year olds who tower over him. His birthday is late October, so he will still be 14 when fall comes.

    How do we convince the schools to keep him back. We have also desired summer school for him for the past three years and are continually denied, and they are trying to refuse us again this year, even though his teacher even wrote up a recommended summer school plan.

    In summary: Chronological age: 14
    Behavioral age: 9 (based on his counselor)
    Academic skills K-1st grade. (does not read yet, cannot do basic math. Knows letters and numbers and counting.
    Hearing age: <1 year, (recent Cochlear Implant activation)

    He probably does have some cognitive impairments but we can't really rule this out as he had no language previously to be able to teach or assess him. Recently he has really been surprising us with how much he DOES understand and we think the administrators are not willing to admit that he might be able to achieve some academic success. Michigan Law says with his disabilities, they have to teach him until he obtains a HS diploma or reaches 26 years of age. This means he still has time to go thru the 1-12K instruction if we push and start NOW!

    1. Educationmom says:

      Hello, thank you for getting in touch! Wow, you have an amazing story that is both inspiring and heart-wrenching at the same time. In reading your comment, the bottom line is that you must advocate for your child as you believe is in HIS best interest. You laid out your situation quite clearly to me so I am sure you could do so to the school administrators. Other than your son’s teacher, do you have the support of any other school personnel? The teacher usually has some amount of power in the decision making. Have you had any team meetings that involve all the stakeholders who make this decision? I honestly do NOT understand the denial for summer school. Are there any other viable school options? What are the laws in Michigan around students with special needs and parental rights? Can you get any outside evaluations done to help support your wishes for your son? I’m sorry I have more questions than answers. In my mind, there is not a single child that cannot learn. It’s the schools that fail kids by failing to believe that all students can learn when held to high expectations. Your son is no different, regardless of his special needs. I encourage you to keep advocating for your child, involve an education attorney if need be. While litigation is the last resort, sometimes you have no choice.
      I wish you and your son all the best! Feel free to respond via email directly and I’m happy to listen and provide any other thoughts.

      1. The KIngs says:

        The schools keep reiterating their policy of not retaining students and keeps refusing us. He is finally in an wonderful environment where he is actually feeling safe and learning. They said they could not hold everyone an extra year who “is afraid of high school”. We never stated he was afraid of High school. Regular children benefit from 2 years at a middle school, but he is to be denied. We are still fighting and have managed to have the fight moved it from the school district to the Intermediate school district! Ugh. Such arrogant administrators who hold their policies ahead of individualized educational plans!

        1. The KIngs says:

          Quick update! After four brutal meetings, we finally prevailed. Chris is doing wonderful and has other classmates he can communicate fully with. His language development is really improving! It was nice to have a sympathetic forum to work with. We are pleased with his progress, and most happily, he is pleased to be there in a familiar and safe environment to learn.

  20. erich says:

    my son’s teacher want’s to hold him back in first grade. the reason? immaturity.

    He is 6 and the rest of the class is 8-9 (in most schools most first graders are 6-7). His birthday is right before the cutoff.

    now academically he is fine. He reads at a 2nd grade level, he knows the math and scores high on all test. In all “subjects” except art and handwriting he excels at. his art is pretty bad and his handwriting is good but still not great.

    His teacher says he would rather be outside playing and get’s bored in class. He is restless and sometimes will stand instead of sitting like the rest of the kids.

    We had him tested for ADD and such. The doctor laughed and said he was a healthy and normal little boy.

    My questions are how is this going to effect him long term? he asked this morning if he was dumb because of it (he knows she wan’ts to hold him back). if he is bored and immature now is it going to be worse repeating stuff he knows and excelled at?

    There reasoning is that the kids in K now are his age and size. he is a LOT smaller then the other kids in his class. I just wonder if holding him back for immaturity is right.

    We have a meeeting in the next week. if i can get advice it would be great!

    1. Educationmom says:

      Hi Erich, Thanks for getting in touch. I’ve been very open about my views (in general) about holding students back. While I believe each and every case must be looked at individually since each and every child is an individual, on the whole, however, I do not support retention as a positive intervention. Without knowing all the nitty gritty details of your son’s educational development, if it’s only based on maturity, I do not believe that’s reason enough to hold a child back. Yes, he is a lot smaller than other students so maybe if he was held back, no one would notice (based on size) but what would holding him back do for his psyche?

      IF he was struggling with academics, that would be another story, but it sounds like he is doing just fine there. As for art and handwriting, it may just not be his forte–whether that’s the case for now or for always. Not all of us can be Picasso. ;) I would ask your child’s teacher for all of the data that points to retention other than just immaturity. And not anecdotal data, but hard data.

      And if he’s bored in class, I would ask her why. Maybe she needs to look at her own practice as a teacher. Are her lessons cognitively engaging? Is she differentiating the instruction? Does she ever ask him why he is bored? Is your son a kinesthetic learner and if so, sitting “like the rest of the kids” is not going to work for him. I don’t buy her reason right now for retention at all.
      I’d love to hear how the meeting goes so feel free to get back in touch after the meeting.


  21. Lori Van Roo says:

    What is your reason for not recommending retention past the 1st grade? My son, 12 years old 6th grader; my husband and I adopted him and his 1/2 brother from the foster system in CA, now reside in TX. There were times during his life with bio mom that they were homeless and she chose to withdraw the boys from school. Because of this he has missed educational milestones and we (my husband and I) feel his prior teachers (before he came to live with us) have felt sorry for him, held his hand and passed him along when he should have been retained. He has has several ISS and at home suspension days because of poor choices at school. He makes no effort in class, chooses not to do homework or assignments. We have given him rewards to work towards such as a Kindle, horseback riding camp if he brings up his grades, etc. His response is, “I can’t do that, I never will be able to get my grades up.” I had a 504 meeting last week with his core teachers also feel he has given up on himself too. He has below 60% in all core classes, a 60% in electives and a 100% in PE.

    1. Educationmom says:

      Hi Lori, Thank you for getting in touch! In my experience with middle school students, I have not seen a retention case that turned out well. Because there are so many things going on for a child in middle school–social, physiological, emotional, etc…–it is challenging to deal with retention. Often times, retention in middle school can lead to poor (or worse) behavior in school and a feeling of social isolation. That said, as I’ve mentioned before every case is unique so it’s important to ask a lot of questions. If you haven’t had a chance to read my follow up post to this one, click here. Your son’s case is clearly a unique on given what you’ve shared about his past. The questions I would have for you should you hold your son back are:
      1) What support will he receive that is both extensive and deliberate? How will this differ from the support he is receiving now?
      2) Is there a way for you to incorporate counseling and transition services
      3) What are his thoughts about retention?
      4) Is his 504 plan helping him? If not, can it be restructured so that it is more helpful for him? ie. Are modified assignments part of the plan?
      Separately, I’m not a big fan of home suspension so I’m sorry to hear that he has had some of those. ISS could be productive if it’s structured properly. Discipline in any form should be corrective. If it’s not corrective, it’s meaningless.
      I feel for you and your son. Ultimately, you are his parent and will make the best decision you can for him with the information you have at hand. It is right for you to do some research and ask a lot of questions.
      All my best,

  22. Joyce says:

    Just thought of sharing this to parents who are struggling on how to improve their child’s academics ( like we are). Our main strategy is to address the underlying problems with our child. I think it all boils down to teaching our children emotional intelligence. It is not as easy to do though- but like what my husband keeps on reminding me “we are not just doing this (the strategies we chose to do ) to keep him from being retained. We are doing this so he (my son), will be better prepared in whatever faces him in the future.”

  23. Jeanne says:

    I am struggling with this issue. I have twins in third grade. One of them is struggling and the other is about average for the grade. For the past two years, I have been questioning the school about the readiness of my son who is struggling with the work. The school feels we should continue to promote the boys. I truly want to treat them as individuals, and promote one and retain the struggling one. However I feel the only options are to either promote or retain both boys. They both have 504 plans for speech, fine motor and gross motor delays. I have had the struggling boy tested for additional learning disabilities but nothing was found. I also feel that retention is the necessary it would be better earlier than later.

    1. Educationmom says:

      Hello Jeanne, I feel for you in your situation having twins. I don’t have twins so I’m not going to pretend to understand the different challenges you face when making decisions, esp around retention. Is your school asking you to promote or retain both boys without any option to potentially retain just one? If you’re ok with retaining one, I don’t understand why the school wouldn’t support you in your decision. I don’t know the research around twins and their emotional bond or if there’s any research around what retention to one does in the long run. I would imagine it would be difficult, at best, especially in third grade. I would still suggest that you consider the long list of questions I posted here as well as in the follow up post to help you shape your decision. I also suggest that you exercise every right you have as a parent to do what is in the best interest of each child. Of course, do your due diligence to gather data and as much information from every adult involved in your child’s life who can give you some feedback to help you decide. I wish I had the perfect answer for you, but the reality is, sometimes there is no perfect answer, just a well informed decision. Best to you and your sons, Molly

  24. jenny says:

    Can they retain my child without my consent? Is this different for every state?

    1. Educationmom says:

      I believe that it is different state by state. In CA, a parent has a right to appeal all the way up to the state board of education. Frankly, as a principal, I would never retain a child without the parents’ agreement and support 100%. There’s little chance of success if all the stakeholders, esp the parents are not on the same page when it comes to retention. Ultimately, I believe the parent has (or should have) the final say as to whether to retain their child or not because they as a family have to live with that decision for the rest of their lives. As a principal, I do not believe that should be my decision to make.

  25. Yusely says:

    I have a 7 year old son, his birthday is on May. He is in first grade and the school wants to retain him. I do not agree with this decision at all and not my husband. We refused to sign any documents. They want to retain him because he is not passing math. his math teacher says that he doesn’t complete his assignments in class, he only wants to play. That’s the main reason on what she relays on. So they are giving the maturity speech to us. They are saying he needs another year to mature. But in the other hand at home with me he does all his homework or assignments and does it right. He had problem with reading at first also but he manage to improve a lot, with my help and the reading teacher. I already had a meeting with them at the school, and teacher came with 2 math worksheets that he recently did at class, in one almost everything is check right and the other everything was wrong. You can see that my son just put whatever came to his mind at the moment just to finish. I am going to have another meeting next Tuesday but these time the principal is going to be present. I need advised, I’m desperate> I strongly believe that retention is not the solution for my child success. They can retain him without my authorization?

  26. Hilda says:

    Our son is in fourth grade and we have been informed that his teachers are suggesting retention due to maturity. He is an A/B student and scored in the 99 percentile on his SAT in third grade with an overall score of 92 percentile. Have not received his SAT scores for fourth grade yet. The principle said there are no academic issues or behavior issues. We are one day from school ending for the summer and this is the first conversation of retention for maturity. We do attend a private school known for its high academics. Our son is upset at the idea of retention and we have decided against retention due to maturity. Your thoughts, please! He is 9 and will turn 10 on July 24, 2013.

    1. Molly Smith says:

      Dear Hilda,
      As I’ve stated before, I am not a fan of retention particularly for maturity sake. IF he is achieving academically, there are other ways to help him along in his maturity. Retaining him is a cop out, easy way out. There are school counselors and outside psychology services that you can get your son involved with to help him develop maturity and social skills. If you do a google search around social retention, you’ll find plenty of research to support your decision not to retain him.


  27. Nicole says:

    Thank you for the wonderful article! My 8 year old son was handed a retention notice from his teacher a month and a half prior to the close of the school year (3rd grade). She handed this notice directly to him, without any envelope, he read it on the school steps before exiting the building… needless to say he walked out of school in hysterics, trying to hold his crying until he got home. On this notice, she had written in his final grades (for the year which hasn’t finished – he is still actively taking tests and completing work). She wants to leave him back for a D in math, and a C in writing. She has been telling me since the first marking period that he is “endanger” <– yes that's how she writes it… of failing. I feel like she wants to fail him more for maturity then for grades. I also feel it was unprofessional and very disheartening to take away hope before the end of the school year. Talk about instilling a "what does it matter anyway" attitude for all remaining tests and school work. I spoke to the teacher about being conditioned in the fourth grade instead of retention…and given a chance to catch up during summer. She says it won't matter, he won't have enough time to learn what he needs to. She has also been giving him "different" (dumbed down) homework assignments than the rest of the class, singling him out in front of his entire class, which has embarrassed him further!

    Let me go back a step and tell you that he struggled in reading the last half of 2nd grade. I put him in a very intense tutoring program all summer long, and not only did his reading skills improve, but he flourished in it. He retained a B average all year in reading – the only subject he was given extra help in. We did the tutoring thing this year, but the primary focus was to brush up on his poor spelling, and improve his writing. We had to cancel so many of our tutoring sessions because he was given an OBSCENE amount of homework. Many nights he stayed up past his bedtime, and had to wake up early to complete assignments. To say he HATES school is an understatement.. he has been very emotional about it, and to be honest if he was an adult I would say he had a nervous breakdown. The reason the focus was not on math, was because for the first two marking periods he did well enough in it.. but recieved an F for marking period 3, and an F in marking period four, before the marking period has finished.

    We live in the city, in a very poor district in NJ. 89% of the schools in NJ are performing better than my sons school. I cannot afford to send him to private school, but have decided that a move to a better district is in order – I'm disgusted with the school system. The only extra help that was offered (was mandatory on Saturday's) was a joke. My son spent most of the time hanging out with friends according to him. According to the teacher he was given all the resources he needed from the school to succeed.

    All of his problems are academic, no behavioral.. but i'm afraid that it will cross over into that realm soon enough.. especially with his deep root hate and resentment of school (that all started this year). I honestly think his biggest problem was being lazy and not following directions. He needs help in both math and writing, and I've already found a summer program for him. According to my district's rules…The principal has the final say in the matter, and I have a meeting set up with her. Though as i'm told she always sides with the teachers. How far should I push this? I don't want to make the wrong decision, or stand by idly while he gets lost in the system. Any advice would be appreciated.. Thank you so much!

    1. rachel says:

      This sounds exactly like my daughter. She is in 2nd grade and has not failed anything but is not meeting the school benchmark for wpm and comprehension. They have told me they will hold her back no matter what. I have enrolled her in Kumon and they have assured me that she will be up to par by the end of the summer. This is not enough for the school. They told me that no amount of tutoring or remediation will get her up to speed. I absolutely do not want her held back. I have told them I will change schools or send her to a private school if I need to. My state cannot hold them back without a failing grade so we already know what they are trying to do is not legal. We have threatened to get a lawyer and now they are seeming to back off. I have not backed down since they told me they want her retained. Stick to your guns and push it as far as it needs to go.

    2. Educationmom says:

      Dear Nicole, Hearing your story makes my blood boil. EVERY child deserves a quality education regardless of zip code. The barriers that you are facing make me wonder about what the core values of your district are.
      First of all, you are your child’s number one advocate. Do NOT settle for an answer that you are not happy with or that you do not agree with. Period. Research your state’s department of education codes. There are different ed codes by state that may allow you to appeal your district’s decision. Honestly, as an administrator/school teacher, what good is it to retain a child against parents’ wishes. That wholly sets up the child to fail. Everyone has to be on the same page when retention is involved.

      Secondly, when you meet with the principal, do your best to approach her/him from the perspective of working together in your child’s best interest. Assume their best intentions. Gather whatever data you have around his grades and performance. It’s really hard to argue with data. Do some research too, around social retention. It will work to your advantage to arrive “armed” with information so they don’t just view you as a parent that can be barreled over.

      Lastly,if you happen to be in Newark, see if you can find a reputable charter school like the Uncommon Schools Network. Not all charters are good–there are plenty of one off schools. However, the solid ones, really have students’ best interests in mind, partner with parents, hire teachers that understand high expectations of all students, and do not let kids fail. I hate to say it, but many of the large traditional urban school districts are heavy laden and that makes change (that supports student learning) nearly impossible. Charters are much more nimble. if a solid charter school isn’t possible, do you have other public school options?

      Your child deserves the very best and you have the responsibility as his parent to fight for him. Do not let him get lost in the system.

      Feel free to follow up after your meeting with the principal. I’d be happy to help in any way I can.

      All my best,

      1. Nicole says:

        Dear Molly, Thank you very much for your good advise I was able to put it to great use. I had my meeting with the principal today – I went in armed with a plan. I was able to share data about the drawbacks of retention – I handed out copies to both the teacher and principal – complete with the reputable sources I obtained this information from. I came up with a plan of action for the summer, and shared that with the both of them. I went into detail about the skills he was lacking, and how I was going to bring him up to grade level by homeschooling him this summer. I brought in the teaching materials and books that we have been and will be working with.

        The teacher was defensive, argumentative, and seemed to be pushing for retention for more as a punishment. She argued very hard, and attacked nearly aspect of my son – even bringing trivial things into play like how he holds his pencil.

        Luckily I had given myself enough time to calm down and evaluate the situation, and didn’t walk in over emotional. The principal was very receptive to my ideas, and seemed willing to work with me, but was having a hard time as the teacher refused to back down.

        After a two and a half hour meeting I think the principal realized neither of us were going to back down and she used her power to overturn the teachers retention decision. A contract was drawn up stating that as long as he can obtain passing grades in all subjects the first marking period of next year, he can remain in the 4th grade. He was passed conditionally.

        Thank you very much for your help,

  28. camille says:

    I’m faced with the same situation of holding my son back another year in kindergarten. He was tested and it shows he has a learning disability and needs IEP. He is very good with his letters, numbers, colors he is very talkative at home but in school he can be quiet when it comes to being involved in class participation. Sometimes he tells me he hates school and doing home work, i stress the importance of doing homework and getting an education. My son loves cars, trucks buses. etc.he. could tell you what color, shape, make and so on they are. My husband does not want him to be held back he says if he is getting the help he needs in school and help at home he does not see why he can’t be successful. He is 5 years old but a tall child so he looks like 6. My son is very sensitive and i don’t want him to feel that something is wrong that all his friends go onto 1st grade and he is still in kindergarten. Also i don’t want kids saying anything that would cause him to feel sad, he already says to me that he is a loser and he is stupid, don’t know where that comes from but i tell him all the time that he is not a loser or stupid and he is a smart kid and he can do anything he sets his mind to. The school psychologist said to me that when she observed him in class, while the teacher was teaching and asking questions the other kids where putting up their hands, he did not but he kept on saying i know the answer.

    1. Molly Smith says:

      Hello Camille,
      Thanks for getting in touch! I have a really hard time with retention when it involves a student with an IEP. How much support is he receiving from the IEP? From what you shared about your son’s attitude towards school, retention could make it worse. I strongly suggest that you consider all of the questions I posed to the other education mom readers before you make any decision. And regardless of what decision you make, it sounds like your son would need some counseling support in or outside of school. I know there isn’t much time now since school is just about over, if not over already, but retention is a decision that will impact a child for the rest of his life.
      Feel free to follow up if you have more specifics or need a sounding board.
      All my best,

  29. camille says:

    Hi Molly,
    I’ve made my decision after careful thought and consideration. My husband and I decided to not have him held back. He has just gone into the IEP program and i have found tutoring for him so i am hoping that is a start and it would help fill in the gap where is adcademics is concerned. In my persoanl life i am going through some stufff and i try my best to not let him see me cry or unhappy at times but i guess sometimes i can’t help it so he picks up on that and it makes him a little sad. I have thought many times we as adults don’t give kids credit for what they know or pick up on even at the age of 5.

  30. Tami says:

    Thank you for your advice and thoughts, they have been really helpful. My husband & I are deciding whether or not to hold our 7th grader back.
    Just a little back ground:
    Isaiah started Kinder when he was 6. He has had an IEP from the beginning for speech & learning disabilities that include severe writing disabilities. His IEP was recently coded for ADHD, speech is no longer coded. We wanted to rule out any other possibilities before having him tested. He is not on meds, but rather we curve his ADHD with a healthy diet. He is a fun-loving kid with a tender heart. Isaiah is tall (5’9), thin, and has a late summer birthday. He is suppose to enter the 8th grade this fall and will have just turned 14. However, we hit a few bumps in 6th grade.
    In 6th grade, most of the teachers and staff would not work with the modifications set up in the IEP. We feel that they thought we, the parents, wanted to water down his academics rather than break them down…chunking. We also thought that the teachers had to check items off their list in order to succeed & therefore Isaiah got pushed through a pipeline that he very well doesn’t fit. The superintendant literally fell asleep during a very important IEP meeting…the meeting where Isaiah was first coded for ADHD & new modifications were put into place.
    At the beginning of 6th grade, our son went from a very positive outlook on life to a very dim outlook on school & a defeated self esteem by the end of the school year. He was ‘called out’ not only by students, but by teachers during the school year. We therefore pulled him out of public school and homeschooled him for grade 7 to regain his “love of learning”.
    Recently we moved into a new school district. We decided to have a meeting with the diagnostician of a newly built middle school of 1000 7th & 8th graders. Our meeting went better than hoped and we decided to put Isaiah back into public school. However, there are pros and con of retaining him to take 7th grade again. Isaiah is immature socially & a clown…pretty sure that’s due to his ADHD, and we believe the academic part coexists with the social aspect, from our experience.
    I would like to get your thoughts on holding Isaiah back. I don’t want to tell you what the diagnostician said until I hear from you. =)
    Thank you for your time~

  31. Jenny Peterson says:

    My daughter is 5 and will be 6 on August 13th. She went to pre-k and kindergarten in public school. We are in our fourth year of homeschooling but had taken a two year break for personal reasons.We just began first grade in homeschool and I am feeling that she needs to be held back. First of all, she is immature for her age I believe. She has a really hard time completing the work I give to her and I have to help every step of the way. She can read three and four letter words and small readers. Her handwriting is not very good and she get stressed very easily when she doesn’t understand. I am fearful that if I push her through this year, it will be tough every year after this one. I just feel like she is not ready to move on but I don’t want to make the wrong decision. Can you give me some advise or point me in the right direction?

    1. Educationmom says:

      Hi there, Thank you for getting in touch! I needed some time to think through your situation since I don’t have a huge knowledge base or experience with home schooling. In general, for homeschooling, I believe it is really important to use grade-level appropriate curriculum and also to align your teaching to the new common core standards, which integrates writing and reading into all the other core subjects. While this is not a new concept to elementary grade teachers, it is remarkably new for middle and high school level content area teachers. Having said that, if your daughter is not meeting up to those grade level standards, that is reason to be concerned. So rather than go by anecdotal data, measure her against the standards so you have hard data for which to help you make some decisions. Home schooling is great in some ways because you can move at the pace of your child. You should start from where she is and work at her pace pushing her to move forward faster so you can get her up to grade level standards. You can also teach year round since you are not on a school calendar schedule to help her catch up. You may want to see testing from your local public district as well to see if there are really any special needs. Your local school can provide some resources to help.
      All my best,

  32. Marie says:

    I’m so happy to come across this site. I’m struggling with the idea to hold my daughter back in 2nd Grade, my gut feeling is telling me not to but at the same time I’m questioning myself wondering if it will be best for her. My daughter is a December 2 baby and my state cut off date is December 1. She was doing great in pre-k so I decided that I would advanced her to k anyways(I also need to say that she’s really big for her age, people always question me when I say she’s 7, they thinks that she is 10). She has been attending catholic school since K. I started seeing that something was wrong since the end of K and voiced my concern to the teacher and I was told that she was too young to worry. Again in 1st grade, I spoke with the teacher and told her that I thought my daughter was dyslexic but I was brushed up with the too young to worry crap. So for 2nd grade I moved her to another(catholic) school and spoke with teacher the very first day. The teacher was very helpful and guided me to have her tested for a learning disability. Although I still think she has dyslexia, she was diagnosed with speech impairment and although I do not agree with the diagnosis I just shut my mouth and let her get the help. I also need to say that her problem is only with reading. She has been improving with the help she’s getting at school and also with private tutoring. She’s doing great in the other subject, especially math as long as the questions are read to her. I’m struggling to pay for catholic school so if she has to repeat the grade I have no choice to put her in public school which I think will not be a good idea with # of students in a class in public school. I’m so torn, my daughter used to love to read but now she gets so frustrated when she can’t make out the words.

    1. Educationmom says:

      HI there,

      Thank you for getting in touch! There are a couple of things I would suggest that you consider.

      1. Yes, your daughter is young (albeit tall) for her grade. Most states (even California finally) moved the cut off up to September 1. Often times (though of course not always, )the younger ones tend to struggle.

      2. Public schools are not all bad despite the student to teacher ratio. Our son’s school has a 33 to 1 ratio (even in K) yet it is the 4th highest performing elementary school in the entire county. What matters most is the quality of the teacher. So I wouldn’t rule out public school.

      3. Public school also has resources that private (particularly parochial) schools do not have. You can request (in writing) testing for Special Ed — that you have concerns about your child’s learning and suspect that she has a disability. Public schools are required by law to respond within a certain number of days by completing the testing. In CA, it’s 60 days.

      4. What is her performance on assessments – state and school? Is there a discrepancy between her ability and what she is able to produce on an assessment? That is the key to Special Ed services.

      5. What battery of testing did she go through?

      I am glad to hear that she is improving with the help she is receiving but it sounds like there may be other issues involved.

      Feel free to write again and use me as your sounding board.

      All my best,


      1. Marie says:

        Thanks a lot for getting back to me. She was tested by a school psychologist who came to the conclusion that she has a speech impairment (although, she peaks perfectly fine and everybody who knows her disagree with their diagnosis), I am not sure what kind of test was given to her because I was not allowed to be in the room. I was ignored when I requested that they test her for dyslexia (which I still think is what’s the problem. I am no specialist in the matter but according to all my research this is what I’m seeing. One thing I also have to say is that although she looks big for her age she’s thinks like a 7yr old and is more naïve than most 7yr olds I meet.
        I feel like she would benefit from repeating the grade (I am not worry about her social life since she will be in place according to her DOB) but at the same time what if the real issue is never acknowledge, will she benefits by repeating the 2nd grade? How do I go about making them hear and understand my concerns? We are about 3 weeks from the 1st day of school and I need to make a decision before it’s too late. If I decide to put her in public school, what should I do first? Will they agree to give me an appointment or should I make an appointment to meet with the principal to voice my concerns? (I already have 2 other children registered in that school, we just move to a better school district). Also, she did poorly on the state tests (which is what I’m afraid off because I know that 3rd grade have a lot of important tests) but she did ok with the school tests(just passing), I also thinks that she has test anxiety because whenever she knows that a test is coming she gets so frustrated (you can see it in her eyes). She does better one on one, like with me and her tutor she perform better than the class room. I feel like she knows the stuff but to get it out she needs someone to keep her from getting distracted, she cannot focus on her own especially when it comes to school work.
        Also one other thing I have to say is that she has sickle cell disease, I spoke with her Dr who told me that her condition might affect her learning ability but she wanted the school to test her first. I will see her soon to discuss what might be available to help her.
        One thing that is also bothering me is that her problem is only in reading which affect her writing, of course, but she’s doing great in math, she mastered her addition and subtraction with 1, 2 and 3 digits.

        Thanks again for answering and I apologize for the longer post.


  33. Sonia says:

    Hi my name is Sonia , my son who is 5 turning 6 in oct 2013 and is in 1st grade well was put the principal from he’s school decided to put him back in kinder because she said the teacher and her think its best for him because he doesn’t know nothing of first grade that he hasn’t mastered all the letters and sounds and that’s just into 3 days of starting school . My husband doesn’t agree and wants him back in 1st grade stating that they haven’t have him a chance in 1st to determine my question is should he repeat kinder or not ?

  34. Diane says:

    I’m not sure what would be the right thing to do. I’d love to hear your thoughts. I have 4 children. My boy/girl twins have Sept. birthdays (they were preemie’s who should have been born in Oct. but ended up with a Sept. birthday). Our state’s cut off was Sept. 30th so they went ahead. They’ve done great and are currently in 3rd grade testing in the upper 90th percentiles across the board. My middle child has an early Dec. birthday. Our state says that if a child completes an accredited kindergarten program and has a birthday before Dec. 31 they can enter 1st grade. I homeschooled my son for kindergarten in an approved program. His final testing showed him as scoring above average across the board so I placed him in 1st grade. His teacher wanted to move him back to kindergarten because she felt he was in the lower section of her class. I spoke with my son about it and he emphatically said he did not want to go to kindergarten. I suggested to the teacher that if he was a problem that I could pull him out and homeschool him. She stated he was not a problem and that he was welcome to stay. She asked that we work on some behaviors with him, which we did. (Those behaviors were to make his J’s correctly and to not raise his hand to ask to go to the bathroom, but to just go when he needed to). Since that time she has sent a daily note home with every possible thing through the day that he may have done wrong in addition to keeping a tally of the behaviors she asked he change. (those behaviors have become completely positive, but now she’s added more things she wants changed). I’m getting the sense that my son can’t win with this teacher. It is very frustrating to me since I know that in my older children’s class they had a child who needed to call home 4 times a day in 1st grade and 2 times a day in second grade and this child was not given any problems. They also had a girl with phobia about stink bugs who would scream loudly when ever she saw one and again her behavior was not found too problematic, however my son asking to go to the bathroom is a problem? I’m rather frustrated.

    My question is should I pull my son out and homeschool him or try and push through the year with this teacher? My son says he wants to stay at school, but I feel like I’m spending so much time and effort getting my son to meet this teacher’s wishes that I may as well be homeschooling him.

  35. Nanners says:

    Hi! I am a mother of 2 boys (3 and 5). I am really concerned about my five year old and am thinking of having him repeat kindergarten in the Honolulu area DOE.

    Background, he is born in late August and this was the LAST year Hawaii accepted students who turned 5 by December 31, 2013. The cut off dates are late summer for 2014. Both my sons will have 2 years of preschool (3-5 yrs old prior to entering K). The preschool is not academic and focuses on learning through play. My 5 y.o was never forced to sit and write or try to read. So he didn’t. He played at the block center, enjoyed water play and walks. Now, he goes to a very good public school on a geographic exemption. (Not our school district…which ranks low).

    My son has always had a difficult time transitioning and I have been told by his high achieving Kindergarten teacher that my son is immature. We seriously had loads of homework over Fall Break and my son and I study (writing, him reading, me reading, sight word drills, art) for about 40-60 minutes EVERY night!! We have both had meltdowns, tantrums, elation, and now it has become a part of our daily routine. He asks me to study during the weekends!! I know my son can achieve with me by his side however, he tells me he has a hard time sitting still in school because “his brain tells him to stay still but his body keeps moving”. I know he is a fidgety child but he can study like a little machine when it’s time. After his first quarter review, his teacher did say he was doing well academically (I was shocked as he had very weak fine motor skills and can not really read) but he still needs to improve his behavior and conform to the level of his peers. I asked if she thought he may need to get held back for Kindergarten and this time she looked shocked. She said that it did not cross her mind and NO, he was on track. But then I got to thinking. If I tried to get him into an elite private school in Honolulu, he would have to repeat Kindergarten because the cut off dates for boys are in early summer. If we wait until fourth grade, he will be in the same situation and will need to repeat fourth grade at the private school. If he were to have turn five in 2014 he would have to be in preschool another year anyway. So I almost see it as a free year of super preschool.

    Now here I am in this still unexplained dilemma. This school of his is less than 5 miles away however the traffic to get there is horrendous, we must leave 40 minutes prior. There is another school that is much closer to our home that is also a top notch public school. I applied for a Kindergarten geographic exemption to that school as well but was denied due to capacity. I was thinking of reaching out to the principal and reapplying to the school nearer to our home for the next school year. I was told that they almost never accept first graders as there is close to 100% retention at the school level..not grade level. Our only chance would be to apply for Kindergarten again and explain our wishes to have our son attend an elite private school for fourth grade. Research shows is it better to repeat Kindergarten than a later grade level. As a family, we would be less stressed as well. The new school, my home, and work, and second child’s preschool are all within 2 miles of each other with way less traffic. The cons are that my son has now made the transition and seems somewhat happy. He would have to transition again to a new but much smaller school.

    Emotionally, I am not sure if he would even understand that he is “repeating” a grade if he switched schools. I think he could use the extra year of Kindergarten as well, he is the one who came to me early in the year and told me “Mommy, Mia writes nicer than me. Mommy, everyone writes and does things better than me”. We looked at their work on his classroom website and I could see it was perhaps true. He is honest and would tell me “Mommy, everyone could write about the field trip but me and another boy. We were the last ones at our desks”. My heart shattered. I imagined it was much worse for him. It was after those moments that got out of my haze and woke up to his needs. I have done everything to even the playing field. I have bought many extra books and supplies. We work very, very hard to be average. But to us, that is amazing. Our curve is rapidly rising and there is so much to teach him on the daily. I am a firm believer that just as a teacher is a parental figure at school, a parent should be a teacher at home. Teacher has them from 8-2 and I have them from 2-8. She shouldn’t waste my time and I shouldn’t waste hers. After 8, they sleep and I decompress!!

    The father has mixed feelings. He thinks our son may get bored with repeat curriculum. But dad really has little say because he has not once sat down to do homework with our son. He helps in other ways, he does the drop off and pick up almost everyday after working graveyard. He kind of lives in a zombie-like state. Our joke is that I tell him to shut up and look pretty.

    So that’s it. Do we justify a repeat? Do we just keep the status quo and repeat fourth grade for private school? Fourth grade admissions are best because the kids do not need to take the SSATs. I would love to hear your opinion.
    P.S. I am a Korean-American Non Tiger Mom. More like a house cat mom.

  36. Tanya Hanson says:

    Hi. I have a question if you are still answering. I have boy/girl twins in 2nd grade. My son (april bday) has high functioning autism and in the process of adhd dx. He has an IEP and we do summer school and study with him every night. He is lower grade level reading but up to standards. He is behind in math…we practice but he just doesn’t get it. He receives the same work as the rest of his class and brings home tests with 2/20 correct. The school is great and modify to try and help him but what can we do? If he can’t add coins why is he getting papers where he needs to make change and things he obviously can’t do. My husband wants to push retention. I didnt but not sure what else to do….I don’t want him pushed through to third grade when he still can’t do 2nd grade work. What will he think when he fails every paper and doesn’t even know what to. He brings home 3/4 of his daily work to finish at home. His resource teacher is great but this year (3rd yr with her) annoys him now. He gets annoyed just to hear her talk. And another school isn’t an option. His is only school with resource in our town. What are your thoughts? He has a circle of friends but no close friendships. I would hate to retain but don’t want him promoted with no idea of what to do on his homework. Thanks

  37. yall suk ass…… kids should get held back its not fair fo those who work there butts off. :)

  38. joy Wu says:

    I have a question regarding retaining for the sole purpose of maturity. I live in Texas where the majority of people hold their boys back for athletics. Our son has a July birthday and we started Kindergarten at 5, not caring about athletics. (We are 100% sure that our son will not be a starting quarterback, and we are OK with that). He is now in first grade and we are still struggling with what to do. He is almost a full year younger than most of his classmates. Academically he is great. He is reading one year ahead, doing great in math and we don’t have any behavior problems at all. Our concern is that he is a “young” six. There is no question that he is immature. Would holding him back really help with this issue? I know that retention would upset him and he would see it as flunking but at the same time am I setting him up for social issues/bullying if i send him ahead and he remains immature. I love your articles and this one in particular was so helpful. Thank you for your time.

  39. Jane says:

    I’ve never been a fan of retention….and then my daughter started having problems. She’s a December 23 birthday. Had she been born 8 days later I don’t think we would be having half the problems we currently are. Should we have held her back? In hind-site, yes, at the time she was so excited to go to school where her older brother goes that we caved. Within the first month of Grade 1 she was recommended for Reading Recovery, 30minutes of one on one with a support teacher every day. We started doing a daily Reading A-Z program at home as well. Then her teacher went on early mat leave, then the substitute of 4 weeks was replaced by a temp, then the temp left on mat leave, the last teacher finished off the last two months of the year. Each teacher had a different method and she entered Grade 2 at less than Grade1 reading level. She was stressed and hated school and reading. She now brings home her math work and does it all at home so that we can work through it with her before they do it in class. Now half way through Grade 2 (she’s in a 1/2 split) she is still struggling with Grade 1 level material but is slowly starting to enjoy it. We’ve also started doing Hooked on Phonics daily because there were some serious gaps in some basic fundamentals but she still hasn’t been able to pull up to her Grade 2 classmates.

    On the social front, she has some friends who are grade 2 but all her new friends (and they are the friends she tends to gravitate to) are the grade 1s in her class. So now we’ve started talking to her about repeating grade 2. She’s pretty game to be in the same class as her Grade 1 friends again and understands she won’t get to be in the same class as her grade 2 friends. I’m still conflicted about the social stigma but I wonder if it has been softened by being in the 1/2 split. Our daughter recognizes that she’s reading at the same level as her grade 1 friends and seems upset at times that she struggles to keep up with her Grade 2 classmates. Any thoughts?

  40. Rachel says:

    I would also like some input or anyones past struggles with retaining a child. My daughter is in 1st grade and we have noticed for a while that she has a problem with reading it being a couple of months away from summer we really are trying to decide what we should do that will benefit her in the long run. She is a very well behaved child she tries her best but reading is pretty difficult to her. We have discussed this with the teacher and she also started noticing the struggles she has so we are in the process of having her tested for dyslexia . That is of course a battle on its own but her teacher is constantly working with us trying to help her the best we can. Her teacher has a specials education background so she has done things she thinks would help her and for the most part they do and she is passing because of the accommodations the teacher has made for her. She is behind the year is almost over and she is scoring at a beginner first grade level. We are just worried about her going to 2nd grade and failing because who knows how the teacher is going to be and the work is going to be twice as hard, she is very hard on herself so we think it will majorly discourage school to her if this was to happen. With this being said the school may fight us not to retain her because in kindergarten she got the principles award and her grades are passing, however we are between the fence at this time and we are just trying to do what is best for our daughter.

  41. I am in desperate need of some help with my 7th grader. He failed the entire year last year and has also failed this school year as well. The school promoted him against my wishes and now I am getting the impression they are going to do it again. He is not learning disabled, but has some serious issues with attitude and cooperation. This has been a constant problem since he started school and I have worked with the school extensively through the years. Last year I was pretty much told I had no say in the matter. I have tried contacting the school board and state with no success, can anyone tell me what I can do here? My son is failing because he has a bad attitude, refuses to do the work and is at theis point not understanding the subjects. I can give much more detail if needed. Please help!

  42. I have twins. My daughter is ready for 1st grade, but the school is recommending my son spend another year in kindergarten. They attend Montessori school. He has an eye tracking disorder and visual perception disorder, which he is being treated for. He is starting his 3rd month of therapy (needs a total of at least 5 months). The teachers are saying that he is behind in everything – reading, math, writing, and I agree. But, I feel that once his eyes start working properly, he will move quickly forward. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to change schools because they are both very happy where they are, and public school just doesn’t seem like an alternative for many reasons (I have been a public school teacher for 14 years). I am concerned with the social ramifications for my son – his sister moving on and him, staying behind. His teachers say that even if his eye disorder is corrected before school starts, he has missed so much and needs time to catch up with the fundamentals. I am so torn!

  43. Sam Jankovich says:

    I am so glad to have found this site. We are moving to Connecticut from South Africa in August. Our school year starts in January, so my children will only have done half an academic year when we arrive in August. My son is currently in Grade 1, but only turns 7 end of Sept. I am presuming he will be able to start elementary school in 1st grade and do the year again. My concern is for my daughter, she is in grade 7 and turns 13 in July. She is quite immature emotionally and often gravitates towards the younger girls. As she will only have done half of the grade 7 curriculum here in S.A, would she be able to go into 7 th grade, or will she have to join 8th grade? It is going to be such an emotional upheaval to move to a new country, new school etc, I don’t want her to struggle. Would really appreciate any advice.
    By the way I am a Grade 1 teacher and have to say, the kids in my class who were retained in the kindergarten year, ie the Nov, December born kids, absolutely fly in grade 1.

  44. liz says:

    Wondering what your thoughts are about my son. He is 2 years or behind in school, grade 3 and 2 years behind in age and I want to hold him back. he also has adhd and think he also has Asperger’s. need help

  45. tami says:

    I have a June born son who has been a B-C and now in third grade. I am seriously thinking of holding him back one year since he is not socially mature. He know he does wrong and sometimes he forgets or loses control and acts up in his class. I have to keep telling him quite a few times to get up, do his homework, keep up with class assignment, ask him whether he has done everything at the end of the night and,…. I could wait till 5th grade to hold him back since your suggestion to others have been to change his school and after he is done with one more year of 5th grade in another school he can go to middle school. I hope for him to not get discouraged since at third grade the idea of being held back is not very pleasant. I don’t want to damage him emotionally either. Please give your advise. Thanks.

  46. Nanners says:

    I don’t think the owner of this site is replying anymore. I just want to give a follow up of our kindergarten experience. We are not holding my son back. He has grown out of some of his fidgety behavior. He did end up in the office once or twice and meets weekly with a school counselor to discuss behavior. Academically he is doing fine. According to my cousin who is a 3rd grade teacher, the only reason you should hold back is if your child is academically behind. Otherwise, it kind of mentally screws with your kid. His teacher and counselor do not see a need to hold him back and I have seen improvements in many areas. At some point, you must answer your own question and make the difficult choices that come with parenthood. I wish you all well, it is such a difficult place to be. I think I am doing the right thing. I can only love my son and not blame him for this situation. If it is hard for me, I can’t imagine what it is like for him.

    1. Joyce says:

      I just wanted to share what my husband and I decided when faced with the decision to have our son held back in 3rd grade or not. We decided not to hold him back because we saw his huge improvement (even though he was still behind his grade level in reading and writing at the end of 3rd grade). We are still not completely out of the woods as he needs continuous tutoring even though his grades are above average. The point is, whether it not you decide to have your child held back in school, you MUST have a plan in place and make sure his/ her improvement is attainable and measurable. My husband and I did the following:
      1. Enrolled him in Sylvan and worked closely with the director- we made it clear that we need to see improvement, not just in their own testing methods, but in our sons school as well.
      2. Our son continued working one on one with his schools English/ reading teacher 2xweek.
      3. We go over his homework every night with him and make sure that he understands them- if there is time, we review lessons ahead of time
      4. We researched on strategies on how we can obtain our sons cooperation/ how to teach kids properly (ie books and articles on child psychology. , etc)- I assure you, it did not make us experts, but the references helped us grapple our way through this “unknown territory.”
      5. We made sure that he enjoys fun activities not related to schoolwork so he does not get burned out. We also enrolled him in other activities where he can excel to build his confidence ( ie, tennis and piano, boyscouts , etc ).

      He is going on to 5th grade this year. He is now over all an above average student, but still a little behind grade level in reading and writing. We decided to enroll him in a private school that is more receptive to our requests/demands (ie emails/communication of our child’s lessons and progress among other things).

      This was a wake- up call for my husband and I. At first it was so easy to blame each other (and we had huge fights over it). It was a good thing we overcame that and was able to refocus our energy in making sure we do everything we can do to provide tools and resources for our son.


      1. Nanners says:

        Thanks for the reply Joyce! You are doing great things with your son. I also see a plan such as yours in our future, lots of additional tutoring, etc. It takes so much work on everyone’s part and can be draining but I think it is well worth the investment.

        I also look at genetics when analyzing my son. My DH and I are not the most ahead or behind. We are average. I can’t expect my child to be any better. My son reminds me so much of my older brother. My brother hated school and did terribly until he graduated. It stressed my parents out. When he got to junior college, he soared. He eventually graduated with honors from a university with his BS in Chemistry and a minor in Mathematics. No one would have ever guessed while he was growing up!! Some people need to have their own schedule to thrive.

        Our plan is really to keep our child happy and healthy and able to meet grade level benchmarks. Anything more is just extra toppings on an already sweet ice cream cone!!

  47. Joy says:

    Hi, I have a 6 year old daughter who is struggling in school. She is in 1st grade and will turn 7 years old September 30. She is the youngest in her classroom. I am thinking about holding her back in 1st grade, in hopes that she will catch up with her peers. But I am having such a difficult time with this decision. I mentioned it to her some weeks ago and she cried and said she wanted to go to second grade with her friends. I don’t want to hurt her emotionally and I know kids can be mean and all, but I really think she needs more time growing up. She is great socially, and gets along well with her friends and classmates, but she has difficulty with retention, and comprehension. She is struggling in both math and English, her reading is not up to grade level, and she is having a very difficult time with math. She has suffered from seizure disorder since she was 3 moths old, and last year she was diagnosed with ADHD. She currently takes seizure meds daily to control the seizures, and I think that is where the problem with retention is coming from. She has an IEP and 504 plan at school. Will holding her back really make any difference considering her health condition? She works so had DAILY! And she is still behind. Won’t this make her feel like something is wrong with her?
    I work with her everyday after school, She reads daily and we read together as well. Her hand writing is great, and her teacher told me she has seen some improvement overall, but she says “…there is just a lot of missing holes.” And she thinks she should be held back in 1st grade. Although the other members of the team at school (school doctor, special ed. teacher, and others) thinks otherwise.
    She is currently getting extra reading help in school, and she is already enrolled for summer classes to help her with her reading.
    I just don’t know if summer school will be enough to get her ready for 2nd grade. Anyone here with similar situation? Did the summer school help? Any advice will be appreciated. Thanks.

  48. Lisa says:

    I just wanted to chime in from the (adult) child’s prospective. I’m an August birthday and my home-school mother/teacher held me back in 6th grade because she felt I wasn’t socially or mathematically up with my peers. Even though she told me over and over that it was her fault for putting me into kindergarten “too early”, I was the one who had to tell each new friend why I was a year older than everybody else. I got the explanation down to a sentence or two, but it remained painful through the end of high school and I tried to come up with “cleaver” ways to lie about my age so I could avoid the inevitable questions.
    Meanwhile, mathematics never got any easier and socialization… – well, I ended up being a drama geek and, later, an art major, and found plenty of other awesome oddballs in both places. I got 2090 on my SATs (mostly from high verbal skills) and graduated college Summa Cum Laude – which seems to prove that I’m not completely stupid – though my mother has theorized that being older gave me the extra boost I needed to succeed.
    Just my two cents. I know every kid is different!

    1. Lisa says:


  49. Temaka Love says:

    My son is 6 years old.His birthday I Feb 16th of 08. He’s in kindergarten now an his teacher think it will be best to hold him back but I’m not sure.He knows shapes colors some numbers an some of his alphabet he doesn’t read too good an can’t write sentences. He is the tallest in his class an this means he will be 7 in kindergarten. I really don’t know what to do.

    1. P. Noyer says:

      If you started him at 6, he’s already on the older end of the age scale for that grade. I held my son back in the 4th grade, which at that point was a gut-wrenching decision, but turned out to be the best decision for him. Boys for the most part mature more slowly than girls. He has time to catch up. I would not hold him back in kindergarten at his age. Supplementing his areas of struggle at home with online education websites or tutoring would be the first thing I would do and see how he responds. You have a lot of time to decide to hold him back.

      1. Sam Jankovich says:

        I have taught kindergarten and first grade for 22 years and have never had to recommend a repeat year for a girl, but often for boys who are the youngest in the class.
        Despite some parents resisting and understandably being concerned if they are doing the right thing, every one of them has come back to me the following year or a few years later and said it is the best thing they could have done. Also, kindergarten is usually the best year to do it, as the children don’t feel they have ‘failed’ a grade. They make new friends so quickly and I tell them they are staying with me to be my helper and I am so lucky to teach them for another year and the kids feel so proud. The ‘repeat’ year makes them feel very important as they know what to do, they can help the new and younger kids and most of these boys just fly!

  50. Libby says:

    I flunked a grade in grammar school. Repeating a grade did not help me a bit. The stigma and the psychological damage was horrible. I was 19 and -a- half when I graduated from high school. Senior year was one of the worse years of my entire life. I was like why am I here? Don’t hold your kids back! There has to be some other way.

    1. Joy says:

      THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for writing this comment. It was beyond helpful!!!

  51. Shannon says:

    I am in a different situation here then I have read. I have a 7 yr old which didn’t talk till three and repeated kindergarten and I believe it was the best thing I ever did for him. He just finished first grade advanced in math and reading! My 5 yr old (9/25/2008birthdate) has PDD NOS. We decided to give him the gift of a second year of preschool which has been a great choice for him. He has grown a lot and I feel we have given him tools to succeed in Kindergarten. However with that said he struggles and I am sure school will not be easy. As he gets older he gets harder on himself and I see his self confidece really teter some times. Now comes to my issue. My youngest is 4 (6/1/10) he just started talking a couple months ago but is smart as a whip and is constantly edging up on the 5yr old with PDD-nos. Our 3 yr pres allowed him to go 4 days instead of 2 this year to help with encouraging speech! Next year he will be doing a 4yr old full day GSRP program. My issue lies in the idea of sending him right on after this. I am thinking since his serious speech delay and his birthday holding him back when he gets to Kindergarten would not hurt him and have many benefits. So kindergarten twice. I know that the schools are focused on academics of the individual child however I have my whole family to think about. I have no doubt he will be ready academically to go on. My 7 year old greatly benefited from doing K twice yet they said he was middle in his class and could have moved on. I feel as if I don’t give my 5 yr old that has PDD nos a chance to be successful and I let his younger brother start K when he is in 1st grade he is going to cause major family issues as well as mental issues with my PDD child. Where as I do not hurt my 4 yr old to do kindergarten two times at all. What are your thoughts. I am not looking at one individual child. My goal is to have them all be successful. I feel as if we all have to make sacrifices for others and I think at such a young age K twice is not hurting anyone. Kindergarten gives you so much room to grow. I am wondering what your thoughts are not only as an administrator but as a parent.

    1. Alana says:

      It seems there are so many differing reasons parents hold their kids back. I wanted to offer an update on our situation. I wrote over a year ago when we were struggling with our decision to have our son attend a year of full-day pre-k after attending a half day of pre-k at a local church (instead of going on to kindergarten).

      He has a summer birthday and although he would have eventually been okay academically, we felt he wasn’t emotionally and socially ready for kindergarten.

      We did end up holding him back and have no regrets. He’s had a very successful year this year (his full time pre-k program was academically much more rigorous than the church program so a big step up), and he has grown into a very confident and independent boy who loves school. He is ready for kindergarten.

      Good luck to you all who are navigating more challenging circumstances than us.

    2. Chali says:

      We recently had our son evaluated, and he is on the autism spectrum – high functioning. The advice given to us was not to hold him back because his IQ is high, and he tests on grade level. Where he is having the most trouble is social communication (common with autism spectrum/aspergers). Holding him back will not help with the social issues; therefore, we are going to get him some help with social communication through a speech pathologist specializing in this area. His doctor explained to us that it would be more of a detriment to have our son around younger children, stay in the same grade repeating the same material; thus, causing frustration and stress for him. I am in complete agreement with his doctor – as far as my own son is concerned. It may lot be the same for you, but I thought I’d share our personal experience as I have been struggling myself not knowing what to do. I feel very good about the decision and feel that it is important that he be taught differently rather than repeating the same material. I have been an educator for 14 years, and I would feel the same way about any of my students with autism spectrum disorder.

  52. Don says:

    Hi, I live in New York, the cut off date for school is 31st of December, my son is a December child the school won’t let me hold my son back a year or give him any help. He is in third grade now but his teacher said he is at a second grade level. I got my son evaluated I thought he was dyslexia but I found out he has dysgraphia that is a writing disorder. The school said he is holding his own they can’t help him because he is not behind enough he would have to be two years behind in his work before they can give him help. I have been asking for help since first grade. It is sad that a school is happy with a child’s work and them behind a year and also it is the end of the third grades year. If anyone knows what I can do please reply, I need advice. Ta

  53. Karl says:

    I flunked a grade (2nd) in grammer school also, mostly becauce I was not a very good reader. I spent 40 min a day reading with my mom during the summer. When I returned to the same school for my next round with 2nd grade, I was one of the top readers in my class.By the time I got to the 12th grade I was 19-1/2 and it was one of the best years of my life.

  54. Diane says:

    I just wanted to leave an update. My Dec. born son was being considered for retention in 1st grade. His teachers felt he was too immature and was not measuring up to the first grade students. Since I homeschooled him for kindergarten I was unsure about what the problem was since he tested above average after kindergarten. I took him for some testing which showed an auditory processing problem and short term memory problem (which goes with an auditory processing disorder). We went for further testing with the school and this testing further confirmed the auditory processing issues. He was borderline on his school achievement. Slightly behind in math and doing average in reading. Some of the people did not want to provide services for him since he was not significantly behind, however in our case the system worked and enough of the educators and ourselves felt he really needed the IEP. As a result he will not be retained and he will be getting help for his auditory problems. I’m so glad I did not just allow my son to be held back. He wanted to go on to second grade and worked so hard for it. I’m glad I trusted my gut and did the testing.

  55. Marie says:

    My son failed 2 classes this year and I had him registered for summer school. Unfortunately during a routine visitation with his father I was dragged into a custody battle that didn’t get resolved for 6 weeks (during this time his father refused to allow me to have him therefore he missed summer school) I now have temporary custody awaiting my finalized paperwork and my son is back home. His school is now going to have him repeat the 7th grade. This wouldn’t be as big an issue if my child were not turning 14 in 3 weeks. So he will be 14 in 7th grade, 15 in 8th and so on, finishing school at the age of 19 almost 20. I have asked his school to allow him to take extra courses and be put in the 8th grade due to the fact that this was out of our control based on a decision by his father. They will not comply, I don’t know what to do. I feel like this is going to end with him giving up. Do I have any rights or say as a parent in South Carolina?

  56. Kristi Smith says:

    My daughter just completed 6th grade, she has dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD and is small for her age. After kinder I took her to Scottish Rite for the dyslexia diagnosis, and she began taking medication. I hoped that would be enough as her intelligence was not a question. She seemed to improve gradually, but I did not feel as if she were ready to go to Jr high after 5th while I did not want to hold her back at that point in our small school district in front of her peers. After watching her struggle, I moved her to an amazing private school where she gained much confidence and academic growth. One of the reasons I made this decision is that our family is moving to a very competitive (academically and athletically) school district. While she may be able to “make it through” 7th grade academically, she is already intimidated to try sports such as volleyball because she has never played and this particular school is known for the elite athletics program and the students start playing very early to prepare. My daughter is a good little gymnast and could easily fall into cheerleading, but she would go in not having the same starting opportunity as the other girls who made cheerleading at the end of 6th grade. She has struggled so much to finally be on equal playing field with peers due to her issues while she is an extremely intelligent young lady. (By her intelligence testing she is actually on the boarder of GT but her dyslexia and ADHD are severe, and we have worked hard to overcome but it has been a struggle) It hurts me to she her struggling when she has every ability at this point to excel at a new school if she started in 6th grade. She would be able to try out for cheerleading with other girls who are not already accepted on the squad, and she could continue with her newly found competitive cheerleading this year outside of school to prepare and also try some YMCA volleyball to give her confidence for starting athletics in 7th grade. She is extremely immature for her age and still very much a little girl. She appears to be closer to 5th and 6th grade. However, the idea of having to do 6th again is not appealing to her. I just know that she has always felt intimidated and lesser due to her struggles, and I know that if she had one more year she could fit right in socially- unfortunately her birthday is Jan 23 and so she is not a spring or summer baby and the age difference will be more evident. I am a former teacher, and we have four children ranging from 5-15 so I have some experience and do not consider this option lightly. This particular child rather not try something unless she feels like she will be successful and that is understandable, but I want her to give volleyball and other sports a real shot as you don’t know where you may uncover activities you enjoy unless you go for it. – I do not want her to miss out on social fun or academic success that are easily in her reach if she started over fresh in 6th-
    Any thoughts?
    Thank you,
    Kristi Smith

    1. Kristi smith says:

      I also recently gave her a 6th grade Math evaluation and she made a 27% – which of course indicates that she has not mastered 6th grade mathematics- while she has mastered 5th grade objectives.
      k smith

  57. FlunkingIsNoFun says:

    I can’t speak for any of the parents, as you know your child better than anyone. But one thing I would caution, if your child has low self-esteem already, please think long and hard before you decide to hold your child back. I was held back in first grade, and it was a pretty devastating experience. Almost on par with loosing a parent. Just imagine that everyone at your job got a promotion except you. Then at the yearly company parties, they rub it in your face about how great it was or made fun of you because you didn’t get promoted. Or maybe they simply kept asking why you didn’t get promoted, and you had to come up with an answer that wouldn’t further embarrass or erode what little self-esteem you had left, by further making light of your inadequacies when trying to answer them. Now take it one step further and pretend that happened to you for the next 12 years in a row. That’s what being held back felt like during grades 1-12. Seeing all my friends move forward, while I stayed behind had a lasting affect on me. I always felt that I could never measure up. I never felt I was ever good enough, always lagging one grade back. I always felt I was forever one step behind them. I always felt I was never smart enough. I still struggle with self esteem and self confidence issues to this day.

    I’m not saying all children will go through what I went through if they are held back, but just be careful and make sure your child has a healthy self-esteem before you do decide to hold them back. When counselors or teachers say “your child is only 5, they’ll forget and get over it. They’re too young to know what’s going on.” Do not believe them. I’m 40 years old. I knew and understood what being held back meant when I was 5, I’m still not 100% over it, and I remember it as if it happened yesterday.

    Please, as a parent, if you take away anything from this post, do everything in your power to boost your child’s self esteem at an early age. Because self-confidence is much harder to build when you’re older. If I had a choice between raising a child to be over-confident and cocky vs one who had no self esteem, I would choose the former. A cocky child can always pick themselves up when they fall and with time, they will be humbled. A child who falls with no self esteem may not be able to pick themselves back up. Promoting self-esteem, and self confidence in your child is the greatest gift you can ever give them as a parent. The gift of loving yourself. Please be very careful and talk to them before you do decide to hold them back.


    1. Sam Jankovich says:

      Gosh, am surprised by this post…. I am a first grade teacher and have just finished an afternoon of parent teacher interviews. The kids who are doing best in my class…? The ones who stayed back in Grade R and let me tell you, they are not psychologically damaged in any way, they are flying and all the other kids look up to them and think they are the bees knees. As for the youngest boys in the class who are struggling, well that’s another story. I won’t hesitate to recommend a repeat year to their parents. It’s not being held back, it’s giving them another chance to consolidate and be the big fish !

      1. Caelie says:

        Maybe it works better for some kids than others? I was held back in 6th, for reasons my parents have tried hard to justify, and the nagging feeling of failure followed me until college. Every time I was asked my age I wanted to hide in a corner. Sure it was all for the best, but it still hurt.

        1. Kristi smith says:

          Since my post about my own daughter I have done much thinking after reading some of these posts-

          I was a very heavy child and between 2-5th grade and that was a difficult situation that I had to walk through – today I am a personal trainer and love health and fitness.

          I went to 8 different schools in 5 years and today I can adjust to anything life throws my way with strength and vigor.

          I had an unloving step-father and today I love my step-daughter with all of my heart and am mindful of anything that would make any of our children feel unloved.

          I have a gay father and I learned how to love someone when I disagree with choices they make.

          We all have hurts and pains, but ultimately parents have to make difficult choices for their children that aren’t always easy and sometimes I rather flip a coin- but honestly, we all face failure and disappointments. Teaching our children to face struggles head on with confidence is a valuable lesson. I told my daughter she is going to have to trust me as I love her more than anything, and I believe she does because she has watched me stand beside her and felt my encouragement every step of the way. Self-discipline often means giving up what we want today to reach what we are striving for in the future- and that is what I try to teach my children- (to do what will ultimately help them achieve the best for their life in the long run.) Any given day we can be hurt or disappointed, but learning to rise above that and love ourselves beyond what someone else may think and walk with confidence and love for people around us regardless of circumstance is all anyone can do- so my daughter will be held back as she moves to a new school because that is what is absolutely in her best interest. Each child is different. God bless to all;)

      2. mom says:

        Sam, I beg to disagree. In the beginning of the school year all the ones that stayed back do well. They also do well in some areas of class contribution and performance is because they know the response from the first time around and as some of their favorite subjects come up they are quick to score.
        But as my son, the youngest in the class, tells me ‘apart from me, only L has her hand up because she know the answer from last year’.
        I have often struggled with the decision of holding him back (and that is why I am reading through the posts), but I feel every once in a while I will come across teachers who will support the idea. Does that mean, if my son does not get straight A’s I get him to repeat a grade. At some point the child will level out and then do I have to give it a thought again.
        Second, you do have late bloomers in life. Give them time to bloom. My son is acutely aware of the fact what repeating a grade means and he is barely 6. He is academically fine. Each time he runs into a performance challenge there are tears and then he rises up to the challenge and comes through.
        This is life. I was the same way. Youngest in class and shy one around. Each time I have an issue that comes up wrt my son I call my mom. She was a teacher and academic consultant all her life. She reminds me that all you have to do is gently mold the boy and keep his confidence going, he will come through fine. Just this morning she reminded me that when I was in Grade 1 the Principal (a friend of my mom’s) said that I was a backbencher. Look where I am now. Comfortably and confidently retired after Ivy League schooling etc. Somewhere in life I ran into a class-mate and fell in love. We were engaged to be married and I was so sure he could not be any younger to me because all through I was the youngest. He revealed his b’day and I thought that made him 3 days younger, till he clarified he was a year and 3 days younger. Again, he is a Dean’s list topper from Ivy Leagues etc. We were not always the first in class but hovered somewhere there and came through fine. We both bloomed late.
        I guess what FlunkIsNoFun says resonates close to my heart.
        My son cleared Kindergarten with ‘exceeds expectations’ in all areas. In two months when he joined First Grade, I was so shaken up by my son’s first grade teacher’s remark at the beginning of the year that he was ‘developmentally 5′. I almost thought of getting help for my son. My husband is totally against him being held back (I guess he has lived it himself). My son just stepped up to the challenge and surprised us. I think we need to just trust our guts and also wait it out till we jump to quick fixes.

  58. Veronica Ramirez says:

    I don’t understand why a parent gets so much push back to retain their child a grade. I made the mistake of having my child start kindergarten at an early age since I loved the fact that I wouldn’t have to pay a sitter to watch my kid the whole day. He’s now scheduled and should to graduate High School at 17. I know that most people do fine graduating at 17, but I feel that my son will not. He is a lot smaller than most kids his age, (I’m only 5.0, can imagine him) He’s also more of an introvert then most kids his age. He currently doesn’t show any interest in school and does not do the assigned work that’s sent home. I feel that I’m setting my child up for failure if I allow him to go onto the 9th grade. I feel that he will not be able to adjust in school and I’m afraid that I’ll lose him mentally. I’ve had a difficult time trying to keep him in 8th grade when all I get is push back from the school teachers and the principal. I need help!! I’m desperate to make this easier for my family. My son actually wants to be held back and does not want to move on to high school. Any advice?? Should I get a lawyer to help??

  59. Mellissa says:

    My son just turned 8 at the end of August and just started third grade at a new school in OK. His teacher is requesting that he goes back to second grade. He is struggling with reading and spelling. He did well last year in NM. Can I please get your advice should he stay in third and struggle or redo second?

  60. suzette says:

    Hi all, our boy turned 6, 22nd of October and must go to grade 1 next year, as SA rule’s are they must turn 7 in grade 1. To start off with he is a big built boy, very outgoing and positive. We have been going to speech lessons for a couple of years, we changed therapists about 3 months ago, and the improvement is really great, his teacher can understand him fully and the thereapists! We are also going to the OT to help with speech and low muscle tone, his school report is really good, and he is coping well, each term his drawings improved and his marks, he score 5′ -7′s for everything. We went for a school readiness test (griffith & beery test), and with fine and gross he did not score very well, but on logical and practical he is 2 year advance for his age. The psych. suggested we keep him back, but we are unsure, think he will be bored and all his friends are moving on? He is a sharp boy, excellent with building lego and it good with maths. What to do???

  61. Mary says:

    Hi, I need help! My son started kinder right after he turned 4 years old he’s a Nov birthday. He is now 10 years old and was recently in 5th grade, but I’ve been trying to hold him back a grade since he was a second grader and the teachers have denied my request. He has never mastered any grade, he is only average. Last year in 4th grade all my conferences were so painful telling me how much help he needed and also was part of intervention programs. I tried holding him back once again, but my request was denied. The teacher’s comment was he’s a big boy. Okay he is a big boy, but that doesn’t mean he can keep up with the work. It seems like we’ve been playing catch up. Then when I met with the principal all of a sudden he was doing great! I looked at the teacher and told her she had just told me he needed a lot of help. I took the next step and I appealed it through the district and they denied it as well. They said according to the teacher he was doing fine. End of the year I got his report card and he has C’s and D’s some F’s. I gave it a chance and took him to 5th grade this year come parent conferences, new teacher, my son once again needs help. Intervention. I signed for it. Still needs help. I made the decision to take him to a private school, he tested at 4th grade level and he is finally succeeding. I cannot afford another year of private school so my plan was to take him back to his school as a fifth grader next year and I called them and they said NO he will come in as a 6th grader because he left as a fifth grader. I was in shock I don’t know what to do how can this be if he never finished 5th?? please help I don’t know what to do!

  62. Kim says:

    I am truly not sure what is best for my son right now. He is 6, has Global Apraxia, Sensory Processing Disorder, and attention issues. He has had therapy (PT,OT, Speech) since he was 2. He attended private preschool for 3 years and we did homeschool for Kinder and 1st. I was a teacher 10 years and loved this time with him and I had him involved in many small group social activities. Academically, he is above grade level because he learns quick. He attends the public school for services as well as private services to meet his needs. I need to go to work next year and the school is recommending I hold him back in 1st grade due to social, emotional, size, and sensory issues. My gut tells me he will need support services throughout his academic career but he will continue to move forward academically at an accelerated rate. I don’t know if holding him back would help him. Their reasoning is that since the 1st grade academics would be easy for him, it would allow for him to focus on all the other areas he is behind in. Any input would be helpful as I want to do whatever it takes to set him up for success.

  63. WorriedMom says:

    I have a 10 year old 5th grade daughter. Her birthday is July 27th (youngest in the class). (A few other facts – 1. She also has scoliosis and is most likely to have surgery next school year. This will result in missing at least 4-6 weeks of school, which if promoted, will make it only harder for her to stay on track. 2. She is slightly on the young side mentally. Her good friends are 9 -10 years old (and most 5th graders are 11 yrs old). 3. She is small (only 4 ft 8 and 62 lbs). 4. She WANTS to repeat 5th grade and shows anxiety when discussing going to middle school next year.)
    She has struggled since Pre-K. I blame myself for not responding to her mental and academic delays sooner. I guess I felt she would “catch up”. Every progress report she’s received since Kindergarten has been “below grade level” or “needs improvement”. Her 3rd grade year she failed her FCAT tests, receiving scores of 2′s in reading and math. However against my wishes the school promoted her anyway since she is a “hard worker” and “always does her classwork and homework”. We are in Florida public school system that adheres to the “no child left behind” policy no matter what. She was given and ILP where she was removed from Social Studies to get more work in reading. She was placed in the lowest reading group, which completely embarrassed her and her peers were beginning to make fun of her. When her second semester 4th grade progress report came out with the same notes (“needs improvement”), I pulled her out of school and we started the k12 online public school program.
    The more I worked with her one on one, the more things I found troublesome. There are definitely dyslexia or dysgraphia tendencies. She mixes up her D’s and B’s and some of her numbers. Her teachers never requested her to be tested, nor have they ever even requested a conference with me regarding her education plan. When I reached out to them with my concerns, they responded – “Dyslexia is a medical disorder and is not diagnosed in schools” and “Are you sure you want her labeled on her permanent record?” They then proceeded to tell me there are ways to teach around that, but have never given me any insight on how to do so. In 4th grade (K12 Online Public School) she was given an extra reading class and her elective (ART) was removed. For her 4th grade FCATS she received a 3 in reading and math, but a 2 in writing. So good news is there was some progress with the one on one teaching, but she is still below grade level for writing. For 5th grade (still k12) she was removed from the extra reading class because she was on the higher end compared to her below grade level peers (if that makes sense). In my daughters last student/parent/teacher conference I was told her reading is still behind for 5th grade (low in comprehension, vocabulary and is not reading enough words per minute). She was heartbroken after the teacher’s comments.
    She is tired of hearing how she is behind, and frankly so am I. I feel as parents we have made all the strides to help our daughter while following the school board’s recommendations with promoting her. However she is still struggling, and despite our efforts, she is always one step behind. She has to work so much harder than my son (9th grader) to keep up with her peers. She usually fails her K12 mastery lessons her first try, and needs to redo them with assistance in order to receive a passing score. She is now getting frustrated and reluctant to do school work because she is afraid to fail or make mistakes. There is so much pressure on her. I can’t help but think….Instead of always saying she is not on grade level, why not ALLOW her to be ON grade level? Why can’t she just repeat 5th grade so she is no longer that one step behind kid? Maybe this July baby should have been held back all along and I, as a parent, missed my window and my rights? I just can’t see how continuing to allow her to skimp through every school year with barely passing grades and stressful environments is beneficial to her. I feel we are at the mercy of the school board. They feel that all children are the same and learn at the same pace. I again tried contacting her school’s principal and they again said they will not retain her. I feel we have no voice. I feel they are taking a once excited and eager to learn child, that is just 4 ½ weeks behind her grade level (due to her July 27th birthday), and destroying her confidence. What do I do as a concerned parent? I have looked into private schools, but cannot afford the yearly expense. I do not want to home-school or continue with online school as a long term solution as it does not allow enough social interaction. I don’t know how to fight the public school system. I have followed their suggestions thus far and I only see further emotional deterioration with my child while trying to keep her on track. I feel in my heart the best thing for my child is retention. It can’t really be a one size fits all system can it?
    Sorry for the long post. I am just really at my wits end and don’t know what to do.

    1. Wantbest says:

      Hi, everything you are saying is the way I felt, the last few years. I fought with my school about my son every year they said he was doing o.k. but I knew you just know deep down inside. I had to move my kid to a different school and pay for it so I could hold him back in third grade. The school he was in would not help me. I did pay to get him evaluated for dyslexia they told me he has dysgraphia school still would not hold him back for me. I am now paying for school his first year there but back in third grade. Very glad I held him back. You know your child you are their advocate.

  64. There are many pros and cons to holding a child back. Most times it is completely based on the situation and the variables.

  65. angie says:

    thank you so much for your article! i have no idea if you are still answering comments on this forum, but i’m going to give it a try!!
    like many others here, my son (is a young 6 and in 1st grade) has been struggling academically. he is a smart kiddo, but he reads very slowly and doesn’t comprehend what he reads. he has started getting “stomach aches” and “headaches” and “arm pain” often at school when he is asked to do work that is hard for him (his teacher thinks its real pain manifesting from his anxiety over not being about to do his work.)
    his teacher thinks holding him back is the only answer (she is an amazing teacher of over 25 years) but i know it will squash what small love of school he already has.
    He is VERY social and has so many friends and i know it will devastate him to not move up with all of them.
    We don’t have the option to change schools because we left public school this year (after my son struggled so much through kindergarten) and went to a private school that is really wonderful.
    so what do i do?? i have 5 months. work like crazy with him at home and get a tutor and assign chores, etc and work like crazy people and hope he can survive 2nd grade?
    or hold him back and maybe not even have the results after putting him through the strife of failing.
    where’s that time machine when i really need it :)

  66. This article is extremely thought-provoking. Parents, rightfully so, are so protective over their kids and want to do whatever is right for them. For kids born in the July range it is not a bad idea to hold them back at a younger age. Things get dicey when kids are retained at an older age.

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