Holding Kids Back

It is the time of year when parents and/or school personnel consider retaining a small percentage of children to complete another year in the same grade.  The argument that parents often hear is something like, “Mark is immature and lagging academically behind his peers so another year would allow him to catch-up and boost his confidence because he’ll do much better with the curriculum a second time.”  In most cases, I disagree.  If your child is average or only has a learning disability, ask yourself the question, “What will be drastically different in the academic curriculum that makes you think Mark will need another year?”  The answer is “probably not very much.”  A second time will not solve most problems.  Major research studies indicate that retention (regardless of grade) is associated with later high school drop out, lower levels of academic achievement in the 11th grade, and decreased self-esteem.  It’s cited that children perceive retention as one of the most stressful events they could experience (see my www.wrightslaw.com for references). 

If your child is doing so poorly that the school is considering retention, have a thorough psychoeducational evaluation completed as soon as possible.  The evaluation provides answers so you don’t use a hit and miss approach for helping your child.  An evaluation should be thorough and information should be gathered from parents, teachers, the child, and others.  At minimum, a licensed school psychologist’s evaluation should include intelligence, academic, self-esteem, and information processing tests.  Parents should receive a through, in person, follow-up explanation of results with specific recommendations in a written report.  A psychoeducational evaluation is the main way to identify your child’s strengths and weaknesses to form an appropriate action plan.  The plan is used so parents and school personnel can work together to improve your child’s performance without retention.