And why it was a good decision
In the next few weeks the school year will be ending, you may have recently found out or are expecting to find out that your child will be held back a grade. I remember when my son was in first grade (the first time) and his teacher told me he did not meet the criteria to be promoted to second grade, even though she had prepared me for this revelation the entire school year, it was still difficult to hear.
My first thought was that I would not allow him to be held back. The school and the teacher did not know what they were talking about. I would take my case to the principal, to the school superintendent, or to the school board if needed. My child would not repeat first grade!
After the initial shock and anger wore off, my husband and I discussed the situation more rationally. Not from the standpoint of what we wanted, but what would be best for our son. When we considered all the reasons (grades, documentation from the teacher, our own experiences working with our son on school work), it was hard to argue that he was truly ready for second grade.
If we tried to force him to complete work in second grade he was not ready to handle, it would have only caused more failure and frustration for him.
If your child’s teacher advises you that your child is not ready for the next grade, consider this:
The teacher and the school are applying arbitrary standards to make this determination.
The school applies pre-set standards to determine which child should be promoted and which child should be held back. NCLB (No Child Left Behind) standards seem so arbitrary to me that it seems more like with NCLB every child is left behind. I am not arguing against standards, but rigidly applied standards will not help you understand why your child is not meeting the expectations or what needs to be done to correct any deficits.
My son was slow to develop reading skills. The school applied a reading scale score (that no-one outside the school could understand, and that years later I still don’t understand even after many requests and google searches). I wanted to understand the standard so I would know why my child was not meeting the standards. If I did not understand the standards, how could I help my child?
What I did know was that my child did not read well, but all the literature I read indicated reading was a developing skill and some children read well at 5 years old and others do not read well until 10 or 11 years old. Arbitrary standards will not improve your child’s education or your understanding or your child’s needs.
No matter what the standard, it is not a reflection of you or your child’s abilities if your child does not meet the criteria by a set date
Children develop at different stages in many different ways. Physically and mentally children develop at different paces. For example, some children will have their first tooth by 4 months old and others not until 12 months. First words may come at 9 or 10 months for some children, but not until 18 months for others. Each milestone is perfect for that child and their development.
Modern education theory tries to treat all children the same (ala common core), but all children are not the same. Some children will pick up reading skills quickly at an early age and others will need several more years to develop this skill. The same could be said for math, science, history and even standardized testing. Yes, standardized testing is a skill one must learn, even as an adult I find it difficult to master.
The goal of education should not be to make every one the same, it should be to help each one develop and enhance their own individual skills and abilities whatever those abilities are at whatever pace is needed.
Use independent evaluations to help understand your child’s needs
Our school district offered independent evaluations through a local university. We were able to complete grade level academic testing, intelligence testing and a number of other tests by an independent evaluator (i.e. someone not at the school). Due to speech and writing problems, we also completed occupational and speech therapy analysis.
These outside opinions can help you build an understanding of your child’s full child’s academic needs. At various times, these tests have helped us to know our son needed occupational therapy, speech therapy, and tutoring. You may share the results with the school as needed to develop a better education plan for your child.
Decide for yourself what is best for your child and become your child’s greatest advocate
You many find that after you thoughtfully weigh all the evidence, the school is right and your child is not ready for the next grade level. However, if you feel the school is wrong or extra tutoring, summer school or other enhancements in the classroom are what your child needs, then you become your child’s strongest advocate.
My son eventually was given a 504 Plan and then an IEP, but we fought for the IEP for nearly a year before it was approved (so much paperwork). For children who need extra help, having to wait a year for help is too long.
As I was developing an understanding of my son’s educational needs, the book, Smart Kids with Learning Difficulties was especially helpful in learning his education needs and the services the teachers, schools and others could provide him. If your child has learning difficulties, I recommend the book to you too.
The decision to hold my son back in first grade was difficult, but I have never regretted the decision. The extra time allowed him the additional time he needed to further develop his reading skills and mature (he was one of the youngest children in his class, now he’s one of the oldest, and that’s okay). I knew that advancing him to 2nd grade would not have benefitted him because he could not handle the assignments.
To be honest, I still do not fully understand all of my son’s academic needs, but with each school year and each teacher I have a better understanding and continue to refine my teaching approach with him to best suit his needs.
What experiences have you had with teachers and your child? Have you had to hold a child back a grade or adjust their education plan to fit their needs better?
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