When my sister was at the end of her second grade year, my parents received the dreaded phone call: “I’m sorry, Mrs. Cross, but we’re suggesting that we hold Ashley back a grade.”
My mother was crushed because she knew that Ashley was smart and that she understand what she was learning; my sister has ADD and simply has trouble concentrating. Apparently, that meant that she should have to repeat a grade. So how does a parent decide if this is the right thing to do?
My mother declined to have Ashley repeat second grade, though most parents do align with the school’s wishes. The last thing a parent wants to do is compromise their child’s education. But who knows what’s best for your a child: their parents or the school?
1. Evaluate the Reasons
The school won’t call and simply tell you that your child should repeat a grade; they will give a synopsis of the problem and the events leading up to it. Are they concerned that your child hasn’t sufficiently grasped the material? Or is this a behavioral problem?
In some instances, a school will also recommend that a child repeat a grade on the basis that he or she is not maturing as quickly as his or her peers. This can be a major factor in the parents’ decision because they want their children to be comfortable in class and at play.
Once you fully understand the school’s reason, consider whether or not you agree with it. Have you seen the same signs exhibited at home? Do you agree with the teacher’s and the principal’s assessment? If not, then you have some considering to do.
2. Request a Meeting
Never make a decision as important as this one without first talking in person with your child’s teacher and principal. Chances are, this recommendation has come from the teacher and not the principal, but it is still beneficial to have an authority figure present. During the meeting, ask pertinent questions concerning your child’s need to repeat a grade. Here is a list of sample questions you might ask:
-Will my child have the same teacher when s/he repeats a grade?
-What are the results that you typically experience when a child repeats a grade?
-Can you give me an example of how my child behaves in class?
-What exactly are your recommendations based on?
-What do you forsee happening if my child doesn’t repeat a grade?
3. Talk with Your Child
Even if your child is young – first or second grade – discuss this subject with them and gauge their response. Are they terrified at the thought of repeating a grade, or are they apathetic? Does he or she feel that school is difficult? Chances are, you’ve noticed problems with grades if this is an issue, and if there is a behavioral problem you’ve been previously contacted by the teacher.
Children who are adamantly opposed to repeating a grade may not do well when forced into the situation. Others have no problem with it – especially if they are young, and haven’t formed intense bonds with their peers. It is up to you to decide what is emotionally healthy for your child, and whether or not repeating a grade will have lasting consequences.
Every child is different and there is no way to decide one direction or another until you have thought about the circumstances and talked it over with your family. Be careful not to let the school’s position sway you because you are, after all, your child’s parent, and therefore responsible for his or her well being.
For children who are older – in Junior High, for example – repeating a grade can be much more traumatic. They have developed friendships as well as pride, and will probably be adverse to having to stay back behind their friends. In this case, academics is the most important thing to consider.
If your child doesn’t understand the material, then progressing prematurely through the grades will pose problems. Starting in the sixth grade, classes at school become cumulative; this means that the information builds on itself like blocks. If a child doesn’t understand one concept, then it will become increasingly difficult as he or she moves up in the levels of school.
Alternatives to Repeating a Grade
There are healthy alternatives to repeating a grade, and my best advice is to hire a personal tutor. Have someone work with your child a few evenings each week to assist in the learning process and maintain focus for the child. Having this specialized help will most certainly correct the problem, and the child will not feel poorly about being asked to repeat a grade.