Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Should you Hold your Child Back?

Repeating a grade was considered a stigma when I was growing up. This perception went so far as the "smart kids" were promoted a grade, becoming the youngest (yet still the smartest) in their class.  This trend appears to be changing.  The Wall Street Journal's Career Journal posted an article this morning titled "The Parental Push to Repeat a Grade." According to the article, the current trend is to hold children back, even having them repeat a grade if they are not deemed socially or emotionally ready.

"I have seen a change in parents' attitude toward delaying entry or repeating a grade," [says Suzy Post, director of admission at Rumson Country Day School, Rumson, N.J]. Amid a trend toward "red-shirting," or delaying children's kindergarten entry, the proportion of kindergarteners who are at or near the age of 6 has risen sharply.
A friend of mine has a child who, while academically ready for Kindergarten, will spend another year in Preschool this year, because his parents and teachers don't feel he has the self-esteem to perform to his capacity in Kindergarten yet.

While I can see the point in delaying entry into school, repeating a grade poses another problem.

If a child is struggling academically, there may be an undiagnosed learning disability that should be addressed. Another year of the same material will not necessarily challenge the child, and may leave her bored or un-interested in the work. Instead of repeating a grade, the issue itself should be addressed. Is the child having social issues with peers? Maybe counseling to enhance the child's social skills is in order. Is the child struggling with reading comprehension? Maybe he needs special help to address that hurdle.

A 2009 Rand Corp. review of 91 studies found retention usually didn't benefit students academically over the long term. Any academic gains tend to last only a year or two and fade over time, says the study by Rand, a nonprofit research organization.
If we keep that up, a child could be in school for 24 years instead of 12!

Studies suggest, however, that holding a child back at any age raises the risk of dropping out of school later, says Karl Alexander, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University. Being held back may mean a child is older or more mature physically than peers in middle or high school, making it harder for a child to "fit in" at an age when that is especially important, Dr. Alexander says.
This statement supports the National Association for School Psychologists, which has conducted and reviewed research into student retention.

When comparing retained students with similarly under-achieving but promoted peers, research indicates that retained students have lower levels of academic adjustment in 11th grade and are more likely to drop out of high school by age 19 (Jimerson, 1999). In fact, retention was found to be one of the most powerful predictors of high school dropout, with retained students 2 to 11 times more likely to drop out of high school than promoted students (Jimerson, Anderson, & Whipple, 2002). Furthermore, the retained students are less likely to receive a high school diploma by age 20, receive poorer educational competence ratings, and are also less likely to be enrolled in post-secondary education of any kind. These youth also receive lower educational and employment status ratings and are paid less per hour at age 20 (Jimerson, 1999).
Wrightslaw has a number of resources about holding children back a grade. If you or your child's school are considering retaining a child because of delays, I recommend you do research and think about a number of options.