Repeat first grade???
05/09/2007 at 12:22 PM


Hopefully, someone can give me some feedback.

My son, Jacob, is in the first grade.  He will be 7 on August 15, so he's one of the youngest in his class.  He has been struggling all year with reading, which often affects other subjects.  He goes for special reading help with the learning specialist and has made some very slow progress.  He is reading at like a "primer" level and to me, is starting to progress forward to the next level very soon. 

His teacher really feels that he should be held back in first grade.  She says he has some maturity issues that really show.  She constantly has to keep him on track and keep him working at the tasks.  I asked her if she felt it was an attention problem.  She feels it is not because he does not have that "spacey" look when not being attentive.  She does not think he's exhibiting symptoms of like ADD. She thinks it's a maturity problem and that he might be just shutting off the lesson because he feels overwhelmed by it.  I ask him about school and he says it's easy....his work is often rushed.  When he doesn't feel like it..he just writes "mumble-jumble". 

I don't know what to do.  Part of me feels he needs to stay back another year....part of me says that would hurt him too much. 

Any ideas?


mom-Jacob 6 and Julia 9

I thought I had it all figured out myself. My son is 5, and he's in transitional K (a spec ed kindergarten class). He's doing very well, although he has trouble staying focused at times. It was suggested by my son's pediatrician that b/c his b-day's in the summer, that we shld hold him back having him repeat kindergarten when he enters public school next yr. I'm all for giving him this advantage since he is behind somewhat academically. Just this wk, however, we took our son for a follow up appt w/ his developmental pediatrician. We told her how we thought it might be best to have our son repeat kindergarten. She said she sees no pt in that as our son is very smart and another yr of kindergarten is not going to make a significant difference.
Now we're back at square one, confused as can be. We want what's best for our son, but it's hard to know what that is, when we keep getting conflicting opinions. It's probably best to use your own judgement. As parents, we know our children best. Sometimes too many opinions are not a good thing.
My youngest son is 4, and we decided to put him in a pre-school 3 program. His b-day is right at the cut-off date, so we cld've put him into pre-k 4, but then he'd be the youngest in his class. That's why we decided to hold off on advancing him. He's very smart also, and academically he's doing great, but socially we feel he's immature for his age.
Use your own judgement, and do what you feel is best for your child. Every kid is different, so don't let others influence your decision one way or another if you feel uncomfortable w/ that decision. Good luck!


Hello, I teach 1st grade and have a child this year who just made the cutoff date last year into K. I so wish for his sake that his parents had bit the bullet and paid for a year of preschool for an extra year. It is so worth it. My son was in the same boat and we paid for the preschool year which was a hardship BUT is now in high school- thriving in all honors classes. That extra year EARLY on is vital for boys. The little guy in my class is a big behavior issue with major focus issues too. Parents are not types to follow through on anything. He is too young AND cannot stay on task long enough to learn. Grrr...


I am volunteering some time at the elementary school. I work with two little boys in the second grade. One of them is confident, hearty, destined to be on the team, whatever the team may be. The other is frail, quiet. When asked to do something new he has to take a breath to get calm enough. But what heart!! He really gives a lot of effort to what he does. I think if I had been his mom, I would have seriously considered keeping him back a year. I don't see him in the classroom, and the work I do with him is not directly academic so I don't know how he's doing there. The other boy is more advanced in the tasks we do, but they are progressing at about the same rate.

I think it is a really tough call.




My daughter's kindergarten teacher asked us to hold back our daughter for another year of kindergarten for maturity issues. She was a May baby, and one of the youngest in her class as well. As a former teacher (9 years in high school), I saw all too often the results of kids who should've been held back but weren't -- lower grades, lower confidence, lack of interest, etc. We went ahead and held our daughter back, just making sure she had a different teacher (so she wouldn't think she was staying while everyone else moved on). She is now in 1st grade and participating in class, setting a good example for others, and excelling in her work. I would much rather have a kid who is loving school than one who is uncomfortable and needs to be constantly prodded to work. Besides, this gives us another year with her before she goes off to college and lives independently. That sure can't hurt!


I have taught for 28 years and was a principal for a half a year. I am no specialist on children who learn to read late, although I do have some experience with it.

From my experience, I would hold a child back in first grade much more easily than any other grade. A student who has the tools learned in first grade has a far better chance of getting through the next 11 years.

i understand that a parent doesn't want to hurt the child's feelings, but in this case, he is the youngest in the class and not quite ready to move ahead. He will make friends in his next class too.

After first grade, it is very difficult -- and often doesn't really help -- to hold a child back. I would say that this is the time to hold your son back so that he has the skills to continue. As another poster noted, he could be playing catch up from next year through high school if he isn't ready to go on now.

I know it is hard to think of holding your own son back and of hurting his feelings. But just be gentle. Explain how his really is the youngest in the class. He probably should have been in next years class to begin with. He'll make new friends. Encourage him and listen to his ideas. Maybe, just maybe, he wouldn't mind it at all.


I wouldn't hold a kid back. That will be horrible to his self-esteem. Kids are cruel. The teacher is wrong. If she doesn't feel this is a medical thing (ADHD or whatever) he'll come around. Boys are immature. Boys aren't as bright as girls in the beginning (not always true though). Slow readers usually catch up by 2nd or 3rd grade. Now do YOUR part. You and your hubby NEED to read to him every day. Also have him read to you. Over the summer make the library a weekly visit. Kids change every 6 months. he'll be just fine. I would rather see you homeschool him than hold him back.


Speaking as a Kindergarten Teacher of 16 years and a mom of three, I totally believe in repeating at a younger age. Boys, first off, tend to be more rambuctious than girls especially at the 5-8 year range. Usually we recommend parents start boys with late birthdays a year later anyway, or we let them know ahead of time that they may need an extra year. It's better to hold back your son and have him be successful and enjoy school, rather than dread it and hate going because he is struggling and not getting the work. Kids usually don't even really notice that one of their classmates has been repeated. Or they just forget about it anyway. I'd look at what will make your son have a positive experience rather than just be pushed along. I hope this helps.


Hello, I am dealing with this decision for my first grade son right now. I know he is not ready for second grade. He struggles and works very hard to keep up in first grade. I know what is expected in second grade with comprehension tests. My daughter is two years ahead. I would really like a update on your son.


Just a note: I learned that if your child is in special ed, you can't hold him or her back. It goes against special ed law: No Child Left Behind.


My son just turned 6 on march 8th and is starting first grade in sept 09. Is that the age of your first graders in your town, 7 and above?


Most kids here turn 6 in Kindergarten, turn 7 in First Grade. The moms that have experience in education seem to be the ones that are most likely to keep their sons out of Kindergarten for an extra year, so there are at least a few boys who turn 8 in first grade.


This thread is helping me think thru our situation. I have a very tall girl who just turned seven the end of July. She had average grades thru first grade last year, has moderate ADD. So, young but very tall, ADD, average grades. Our debate is whether to keep her at the private school and move her on to second grade or pull her out and place her in our public school (excellent, highly rated public school) and have her repeat first grade. This is one of the most difficult situations. I hear so much about boys, but wonder and would love to hear more from parents of girls. Any thoughts?



From my experience very few girls repeat a grade. I'm not quite sure why you are considering holding back your daughter if she is keeping average grades and not behind. Girls do tend to mature quicker and from my experience most girls are definitely more mature throughout elem. school.

Is she on meds for ADD? If so, for how long has she been on them? Some kids make remarkable growth once they are put on the correct dosage of ADD meds for their ADD.

Why were you considering changing her schools? Do you have a concern about your daughter having a learning disability?

My son has been the youngest in his class since he started school, but he is at the top of his class as well and he's ADD and NLD. Just because they are young it doesn't mean they should be held back.

Hope this info. helps.




Does your daughter have an IEP? And is the private school a spec ed school? If so, it may be hard to hold her back. My son's classified in special ed, and b/c of the No Child Left Behind Act, we were told holding our son back wld be going against spec ed law. Something to look into.


I'm going to comment as someone who has coordinated graduate programs in special education and reading disabilities for the City University of New York, who has edited academic journals in both areas, who has published more than 100 articles in these areas, who has consulted to many school districts and families about reading disabilities, and who is the brother and son of family members who had severe reading problems (and dropped out of school).

The argument for retaining struggling learners in kindergarten and first grade is very simple: They won't be able to handle the work in the new grade and they'll fall further behind. Keeping them back gives them a chance to catch up.

The problem is simple: retention rarely works. Most often, it harms children, even in kindergarten and first grade. Here's a summary of the research:
“The large majority of all [research] studies do not find any positive results from grade retention. In most cases, students’ achievement and self-esteem are shown to drop after retention. Retained students are more likely to drop out of school.” (Holmes & Saturday, Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, 2000).

So, what should a parent do?

Get the evaluations your child needs. This will help you identify what’s currently causing his problems. Then seek the services he needs to overcome the problems. Use the law to do both.

Send the school a written request for a full set of evaluations in all areas of potential difficulty. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) the school is required to evaluate children suspected of having a disability. In reading, the most frequent area involved in retention, the evaluations should address, at a minimum, word recognition, decoding, writing, language, auditory processing, and the child's ability to set goals, attend, concentrate, remember, and adjust his actions to overcome unexpected problems (this is called self-regulation). It should involve diagnostic teaching. After the evaluations are completed and you understand them, work with the school to develop and monitor a program that continues to meet your child's needs and continues to produce meaningful progress.

How to do this is difficult. It might create conflict with the school. You can get a great deal of free information on what to do and how to resolve conflict from and You can also ask your librarian to download a free copy of my article, My Child Can't Read: What Should I Do? It's available from EBSCO,, and Learning Disabilities Worldwide (

Good luck,
Howard Margolis, Ed.D.


Thanks, Dr. Margolis, for an informative post. Do you know of any research about giving students (particularly boys) a late start in Kindergarten?


I wrote a post in response to your question and that of a few other parents. Below is the start of the post.The blog is Good luck.

My son has learning disabilities. Should I delay kindergarten for a year?

A parent recently asked me if she should delay registering her son for kindergarten. She thought he had learning problems that would create problems in kindergarten. My response was that the research, though insufficient and contradictory, didn’t support delay. Here’s a sample of the research findings:


I read your post regarding holding back your 1st grader. Mine is suffering just like yours. My question is, now with the "No Child Left Behind Act", can we still hold back our children even with that act?


the no child left behind act was made to get the school systems to do more to make sure that as many as possible students got an equal shot at a good education.

The choice to have your child repeat a grade is not affected by this.


Hi Jeanne,
I am wondering how it turned out for you. I am in a similar situation and finding the responses to your email interesting. They seem to support the repeat year for the most part.

My son is 6 and currently in 1st grade, and struggling with reading, such that we are contemplating having him repeat 1st grade next year. His teachers have recommended it, including the reading specialist he sees. I think they might have recommended it though knowing we, and especially my husband, believe this would be a good idea. We explored doing this in Kindergarten, but the school did not support it that year, so we didn't pursue it. He is young (July birthday), but very large for his age, very advanced athletically, and socially very outoing/advanced - no immaturity in that regard. He is doing fine in math. He has no behavioral issues at all. He gets along well with everyone in his class. He works hard and focuses on the assignments. Recently he was asking his friend next to him for the answers, as he couldn't read the assignment, I think. As the class has advanced in writing, we haven't seen Ben keeping up, which is related, I think, to his reading level.

We decided last night to let him know that we are thinking about this option. We explained that this would allow him an extra year to get more reading practice so he will be better prepared for 2nd grade. We reminded him that he is young (don't want him believing that he failed), and that his older sister was 7 in 1st grade (a September birthday), while he is 6, and that makes it more difficult for him, as it would for anyone. He has friends in first grade who are an entire year older than he is as they were held back pre-K. So we pointed that out to him so that he wouldn't take it as a failure on his part, and to see there is a role model for doing this. He said "I won't do it" quite a few times, and later told me he'd miss his friends at recess. I don't expect him to embrace this decision, necessarily, but I also wanted to hear him out before making it.

I felt very confident about the decision last week, but spent the weekend reading about studies that indicate holding children back is not successful. Most of them cite children feeling a lower self-esteem in not being able to go forward with their peers. I know he would make new friends (one of the discussions with the teacher and pricipal were in identifying peers for him in K who were bigger and older), but I am concerned that the whole experience would always be there for him, reminding him of the kids he "should have" been with, and that he'd always be reminded of this seeing these friends in school and elsewhere. I am now doubting the decision, and feel completely unsure of what to do.

I would appreciate any insight and experiences of what worked for you Jeanne, and others. Also, how much should I weigh the social aspect/ impact.

Thanks everyone,


I read your response with interest. What if the teachers / school is telling you that there are no issues suspected, but that my child is not reading because he is young for the grade (he is a July birthday), so he is 6 in first grade, while many other kids in the class are 7? Is it possible that cognitive development just isn't where it needs to be, and that pushing the child forward when the development hasn't happened is wrong?
Thank you,


Delaying kindergarten enrollment or repeating kindergarten has a better track record than repeating a later grade. Since he is mature socially, I would recommend advancing him.

Encourage bike riding and other activities that require large muscle motions that cross the midlines of the body. Have his vision checked. I saw somebody posted a teaching reading scheme on here. I couldn't find it, but it started with teaching three letters the first day. You teach the child to write a "c", let them practice it until they are satisfied, then an "e", with practice, and then an "a". After that you teach them to write "ace." The second day you teach "s", "o", and "d". Then you teach them to write words using only those six letters. I'm not sure how the sequence of the rest of the teaching went, or if it matters, but after the first two days it was one new letter a day, and then spelling the words with the letters you taught. I liked it because it taught from the beginning that letters have different sounds when they have different neighboring letters. Sod, soda, cod, code. It also taught that some combinations are not words.


The first thing I would say it to NOT ask him his opinion. He is way too young to make this kind of choice! Second, I have two boys with August birthdays, it does make a difference. I am 43 years old and the only regret I have in my life is that I did not hold one of my boys back in first grade! One of my boys was reading chapter books by the end of first grade, but he was a little immature. He excelled in everything academically though, so would probably be bored right now if he was held back, his maturity level caught up. (a little immature - don't hold back) MY other son, however, struggled with reading and his teacher had concerns. He is finishing 6th grade and still struggles - a LOT ! I wish I held him back. I realize now that 1st graders are so young, it would not have ''hurt his feelings'' , and if it did, he would have gotten over it really fast. Instead I let him go on and he is the one suffering for it now. I work with him every day with every class - reading comprehension affects EVERY subject, especially as they get older. If you are questioning it at all, and his teacher is too, I think that is a red flag and I would seriously consider holding him back. By the end of September he will have new friends and not even realize he was ''held back''. Best wishes to you with your tough decision, I know it's a hard one.


Repeating Kindergarten is OK, but repeating first grade, the kids do notice.


Here's the problem that I have with all this research that doesn't back up retention. Our state's cut off date is December 31st and I live in a suburb where most of the boys who's birthday is in the Fall get held back a year. So my son is on average 6 months to a year younger than most of his classmates. I didn't know that people in my town held back their kids when my son went to Kindergarten a month before turning 5. He is in fact very young for his class. He's smart, quiet, well behaved, good athlete. He's average in reading and writing but is not proud of his work. He's also embarrassed to ask questions in class when he doesn't understand something. I have asked the principal for age data for first graders and K to actually see with numbers where my son fits best (K population or 1st grade population). No luck getting that! He is very self conscious of being the youngest in the class, gets headaches every day and according to the pediatrician he will benefit from retention not only now but in his teenage years. Studies indicates that if children have problems academically, they won't benefit from retention but in my son's case I simply think that he's in been misplaced by the fact that people are choosing to hold back their kids. So, in my heart (since no data has been provided) I know that my son is at a disadvantage by competing with kids with the same socioeconomic circumstances that are older than him, it only makes sense, but I have yet to find research that backs up my "gut feeling". Any further comments will be greatly appreciated!


Most states require that a child must have already turned 5 by 9/1 in order to enter Kindergarten. This was changed from the 12/31 that still exists in your state, because so many children who started Kindergarten at 4 struggled in school. If you had known that people in your area held back their children with Fall birthdays, would you have held back your child? If so, then follow your heart and hold him back now. From your post it seems your son would benefit from your "gut feeling" to do so.


It is difficult to decipher the research, and find something that actually addresses this scenario. I don't know if the studies are filtering out for kids that were held back as a result of not keeping up and therefore might be needing services to address a learning disability as opposed to just being younger and needing more time to develop. It seems like the anecdotal stories all point to holding your child back, and many parents who wished they'd done so. I've not heard too many negative stories from parents about holding their children back. This causes me to wonder whether the studies are able to answer the questions being posed on this blog.


If the start day was 9/1 he would not be going to Kindergarten until the following year since his birthday is in October. People are voluntarily delaying school entrance for the fall kids, especially boys. I know in my heart that he will benefit from being held back but since he is in first grade and there's a few boys in the neighborhood that are also first graders, I don't know what's worse. Have him be the youngest for his entire school life or being ashamed of being held back while the other kids move on to second grade.I so want to make the right choice for him!!!!


Repeating kindergarten is no big deal. Repeating 1st grade--big deal. I don't know anybody who's regretted having their son repeat kindergarten.


I have boy girl twins that have done preschool, prek, and developmental kindergarten. they are going to catholic school which is a 9/1 cutoff and our public is 12/1 cutoff, their birthday is 11/22. i did DK this year because my son wasn't ready for kindergarten this past year and is right on target for kindergaren this year. My daughter when to Dk because I didn't want to split them. I'm questioning sending her to public 1 more year into the first grade. I feel she already knows most of the first grade curriculum and has mastered the kindergarten stuff. This means she would have to repeat 1st at the Catholic school. they won't advance and long term I don't want to split them. At least in first grade they have ways to challenge kids that are ahead. Am I reading to much into this? She won't learn anything in kindergaren this year??


If they are in the same grade, your daughter is advanced and your son a little delayed, they may have inappropriate competition. What is the downside to acknowledging that girls are ready for school at a younger age than boys are, and sending your daughter on where she can be challenged instead of setting her and your son up to resent each other? Many people (even educators) delay enrolling their sons in school for a year.


I am a retired Kindergarten teacher.

It sounds like your son's teacher may be right.

My mother was told the same thing about my older brother when he was in first grade. She was very upset about it. Funny thing, she was the only one upset. My brother hardly noticed and no one else cared.

Here are the advantages for your son. Boys mature slower than girls. He could struggle to catch up, but what will his experience be like. Will he be in the lowest reading, math, etc group? This could continue for several years. Third and fourth grades are critical. To solve reading problems holding back is most effective early rather than later. Plus the other kids will not notice or care in first grade. They will tease him in 3rd or 4th.

Other advantages, his fine motor skills will be higher allowing his drawing, cutting, and art will be among the best in the class.

His large motor skills will be better too. Is he the last to be chosen? If he stays back he is likely to be among the first.

Look at the whole situation. Will his school experience be better in the long run if he stays back? My older brother's was. My younger brother was not held back until my mother insisted in 4th grade. His schooling never recovered. It affected him clear through High School.

Good Luck with your decision


Hello Jeanne: I am interested in hearing how it turned out with your son.

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Sounds like you don't actually have enough data to make an informed decision. There have been lots of posts but what is good for one student may not be good for another. In general one does not want to retain a student after the 3rd grade. However, if I were in your shoes I would request (In writing!) a psycho-educational evaluation from the school psychologist. This will give you an idea of your child's potential (IQ) and actual performance (Achievement). From this data you will be better informed and be able to make a better decision.