To Promote or to Hold Back; What is the Answer

At this very moment, Texas schools are struggling with the question of what to do with a child who cannot read by the end of the first grade. While it is clear that once a child is left back, they rarely make up the gap, it is also clear that if a child cannot read, they cannot advance. This is a difficult question that is often followed by passionate and heated debates.

I do not believe that either side of the coin if correct or fair to the child. I believe that if a child cannot read by the end of the first grade, then one-on-one attention is required to get that child up to speed by the end of the summer. Otherwise, the option of summer school is wasted.

But can a child be taught to read over the summer if they could not learn to read during the school year?

I personally ran into this problem when my youngest child finished kindergarten unable to read when most of he other children could. The schools were not necessarily interested in giving her special attention at this point because she was not far enough behind. I however, as her parent saw the need for immediate action. I purchased an online learning tool called This program was designed to help struggling readers in the grades k-2 learn how to read quickly and efficiently. As advertised, my child learned to read in 100 easy lessons. The cost of $100.00 was not too much to pay to get my child reading and to keep her self-esteem in tact. If this program is not for you, there is other learning to read programs like “Hooked on Phonics”, for example.

What about other subjects?

A sixth grade relative spent two weeks with me last Christmas. He was struggling in math and being disruptive in class, as he was very frustrated. I used the same methods I had used to teach my now home schooled kids multiplication, to re-teach it to him. The schools were insisting he memorize the facts when some kid’s minds just do not work that way. I taught him how to figure out the math facts and he received the most improved student award at the end of the school year. He had started the school year three years behind in math, and finished the school year 1 year behind in math. With extra work on Fractions and decimals, I am certain he will be able to catch up with the rest of the class. Because this child no longer thought of himself as inferior to the others, his disruptive behavior came to a screeching halt.

Whose responsibility is it to get a child up to speed?

The key to catching a child up is to recognize when they are falling behind. In a public school environment, both the parent and the teacher should be in close enough communication to recognize that a child is having problems in a subject. If 70 percent of a class can read, and your child cannot then you, the parent needs to make sure your child is getting the extra help they need. If the school will not comply with your requests, then there comes a time when you need to consider teaching them at home. That can mean permanently, or simply at home tutoring on the subject.

In the end, I feel neither social promotion nor holding a child back is healthy for the child in the end. While pushing a child before they are ready is self-esteem damaging, falling behind the level of their friends or classmates is equally damaging. The best solution would be to let each child move at his or her own speed in every subject. This can be accomplished with the help of computer-based learning, both in and outside of the classroom. While this revolutionizes public education, as we know it, some adventurous educator and many homeschoolers are proving that this is the best solution for children. Although you might find that a child may be slower to read or do math, it is also evident that the same child will be superior in another skill. Therefore, the self-esteem ramifications of being left behind is minimized.

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