Retention (as used in school districts around the U.S.) is just another word for ‘flunked’ or ‘hold back’ a grade.  Even with the NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT, schools continue to practice this method as a way to cope with lower achieving students.  Does it work? 

A few years ago at a parent teacher conference, it was suggested that I retain my middle child who was not performing at grade level. She was on the immature side and, at first; I did not think it was such a bad idea.  Especially, since she was only in first grade.   My husband, on the other hand was against it.  I decided if I wanted to convince my husband this was a good thing, I would have to do my research.  I was surprised to find out the opposite was true.

One of the first sites to pop-up was the The National Association of School Psychologist [www.nasponline.org/about_nasp/pospaper_graderetent.aspx] The one big statement that jumped out at me, states:

“Grade repeaters as adults are more likely to be unemployed, living on public assistance or in prison than adults who did not repeat a grade.” 

Not that I think my sweet little girl would end up down that road, but it does make you sit-up and think about what is going on in society today.  For a practice that does not work, it is interesting that kids being retained has increased over the last 25 years. 

Some of the articles I read on retention refer back to NASP’s (The National Association of School Psychologists) study, so I’ll just say there are quite a few that respect this organization enough to site them.

Another little interesting fact, the U.S. and Canada are the only two countries that practice retention, found on Wikipedia.

A study done by Advocates for Children [www.advocatesforchildren.org/pubs/retention.html], although the study specifically focused on New York’s schools stated: 

“Low performing students who have been retained in kindergarten or primary grades lose ground both academically and socially, relative to similar students who have been promoted. In secondary school grades, retention leads to reduced achievement and much higher rates of school dropout. At present, the negative consequences of grade retention policies typically outweigh the intended positive effects.”

On a site called healthline.com [http://www.healthline.com/galecontent/retention-in-school] they combine some of the research done in one summary and then added:

“Although many school districts involve parents in the decision to retain, in most communities the school system has the right to make the decision, with or without the parent’s support. However, most experts support the idea that parents who are opposed to the decision to retain their child should make their concerns known. Parents should survey other local school systems, both public and private, to see their policies on retention. Parents should also request evidence supporting a retention decision, including details of their child’s academic performance, standardized test results, or other pertinent factors, such as the student’s emotional maturity.”    

There are numerous sites on the internet on this subject and there is no positive study on retention overall.  Sure, I found parents, teachers and a handful of kids who said it worked for them, but the research and overwhelming numbers of students followed, show otherwise.

Obviously, my husband was right and I had to put my foot down on not retaining my daughter.  I was told that if they decided to ‘retain’ her, I would not have a choice, so I left that district.   She is still not performing where she needs to be, so we decided to put her in Sylvan.  It’s only been six weeks and I already see the difference in her confidence and writing/spelling.

She now wants to be a scientist and tells everyone Sylvan is making her smarter. 

Overall, do not blindly listen to what teachers and administrators say is best for your child–do your research.  You are your child’s best advocate.  Retention does not fix what they did not get the first time it only masks the problem.  Ask the teachers where exactly your child has the most trouble and then tackle it, either by working with the teacher, going on line (there are tons of free worksheets on-line in just about every subject) or getting them tutoring.   If your child does not have a solid foundation, the gaps in their learning will get worse and they will get even more frustrated.

For those of you in Harrison District Two, retention is being considered once again, which is why I felt compelled to write this article.  There is another way, let our voices be heard.

Shelly Goodman Wright

www.shellygoodmanwright.com FB Shelly Goodman Wright

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