How to Decide If Your Child Should Repeat a Grade

All parents want their children to succeed in school. We are pleased with their accomplishments and cheer them on when they have difficulty. When a parent is told their child may need to repeat a grade, many are puzzled as to the best course to take. As a mother and former teacher, I can offer some practical advice for you to consider when making your decision.

First, talk with your child’s teacher at length. Find out his or her assessment of the situation. Is your child not able to do the work or is it a question of immaturity to keep up with the performance required at that grade level? Why is the teacher recommending your child repeat the grade? Have your child’s grades reflected a difficulty with the coursework? Was the difficulty all year or just during the last semester? Can the teacher offer any suggestions for alternatives?

Next, make an appointment to speak with the principal. Tell him or her your concerns, and enlist his or her help to make the right decision for your child. The principal has usually been an educator much longer than the teacher. This gives him or her an advantage in being able to predict the outcome of the decision of whether to repeat the grade. If possible, ask the teacher to attend the meeting, also.

Mary, a mother of a second grader, was told her child needed to repeat that grade. On further investigation, she was told by the child’s teacher that “he didn’t pay attention” and seemed to “be more interested in the tractor mowing the grass outside than what is being taught.” Mary’s son had never had any difficulty with assignments and his grades were good, so she was puzzled over this recommendation. She went to the principal and he suggested the child be evaluated by a learning specialist from the board of education. After her son was evaluated, the findings showed that he was in fact, above grade level, but was bored. He bordered on being gifted. The principal advised Mary to let him assign the child a third grade teacher that had more teaching experience and could better meet this child’s needs. The next year, he flourished under the new teacher’s instruction methods.

Find out the alternatives. If your child is behind in only one area, such as reading or math, he or she might be able to achieve grade level by participating in a summer tutoring program or school-based program.

Leah’s mom knew there as a problem early in the school year. Leah strugged with her homework, seemed to always lag behind in grasping the subject material. She became frustrated easily and sometimes cried about going to school. Her mother frequently met with the teacher, and together they tried to help Leah. At the end of the school year, however, the teacher recommended that Leah repeat the grade. Leah’s mom hired a tutor over the summer to help Leah, especially with her reading level. She decided to go ahead and have Leah repeat the grade, but the extra tutoring resulted in her having a much easier time the second time around. Leah was happy and confident during the next school year.

Trust your instincts. No one knows more about your child than you. Express your feelings and concerns to both the teacher and principal. If you have a suggestion of an alternative to repeating the grade, don’t be afraid to express it. Look into private tutors or tutoring centers and what programs are offered. If reading is the problem, ask about programs at the local library. Have your child undergo a physical examination by the pediatrician and both a hearing and eye test to make sure there is no physical problem that is causing your child to not perform as well.

After careful consideration, if all agree that the child should repeat the grade, it’s important to not see this as a failure. Some children just need to repeat the material in order to fully grasp it. No child likes the feeling of beginning a grade behind the others.If it is a maturity problem, having another year to grow and develop can help. If another year in the same grade can give your child the confidence he or she needs, it will be worth it in the long run.

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