To Retain, or Not Retain, That is the BIG Question

Myrna Easom posted this recently on her blog. I am eager to share her article as a guest blogger.

Gone are the days of “holding children back” as the only solution for poor grades in school. Retention, or repeating a grade demands a great amount of examination of all factors contributing to a child’s failure in school.

For children with diagnosed learning disabilities (LD), retention is almost never a viable option.  Instead, these students must receive alternative, caring and loving educational support, either in part time Resource Rooms or in Full Time LD classrooms.  Spending another year, with the same curriculum and same instruction, does nothing to resolve the problem of a child’s learning disabilities.

There are occasions when it may be appropriate to give a child another year before advancing to the next grade.  That time would be very early in their schooling.  For instance, at the pre-K or kindergarten level.

There are children developmentally young for their age, and simply need another year to grow or acquire perquisite skills for formal schooling. Giving them that extra year is all to their favor and they never are labeled as a “failure”.

An issue directly related to retention is the “Third-Grade Reading Laws”, practiced in more than 30 states (from National Center for learning Disabilities, accessed, June, 2018) in the United States, which basically says that students must be performing at a certain level in reading to be promoted to the fourth grade.

Intensive monitoring and interventions are in place to help these struggling students to acquire the needed fourth grade level prerequisite skills.  Those children with diagnosed learning disabilities are exempt from retention, with documentation of LD placement into fourth grade.

If you think your child has a learning disability, be sure to have him or her tested before third grade, in order to qualify for exemption from the Third-Grade Reading Laws.

Another challenge for parents who choose a private, Christian school education for their child with learning disabilities, is that many Christian schools are not able to accommodate programs for children with special learning needs.

Unfortunately, some of these well-meaning Christian schools allow these children to enter their school if the parents are willing to hold the child back a grade “to level the playing field” for the child that is probably at least a grade behind their peers in at least reading, and likely in other subjects as well.

I say “unfortunately”, because all children with learning disabilities must receive interventional and individualized instruction in order to achieve success.  Just repeating a grade does not make their learning disabilities disappear.

So, what’s a parent to do?  First, be sure, if your child is failing in school because of a diagnosed learning disability, that he or she is placed appropriately in school.  Instruction should be accommodated with an Individualized Educational Program (IEP), which specifically addresses all the identified learning disabilities, with specific and time programed intervention strategies.

Then, if you decide to place your child into a Christian school, choose one that accommodates children with learning disabilities…not hold them back, with the false hope that another year in the same grade will remedy their learning problems.

All children can learn.  For children with LD, it is a matter of loving and caring teaching, with foundational learning strategies targeted to their specific leaning disability.   NOT grade retention

Thank you Myrna for your excellent coverage of a very sensitive issue! I have spoken to more parents and children than I would want to count who shared with me with hushed voices or hung heads that they were held back! So much shame, judgment and sense of failure.

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