Split on retention or advancement - FamilyEducation
Split on retention or advancement
06/27/2010 at 06:43 AM

My daughter, born November 2003, is in 1st grade. She has ADHD, a weak bladder, and is rather inmature compared to other 1st graders. I tried to get the school to keep her in first grade but they insisted on advancing her feeling she would somehow "catch up" in 1st grade. My husband, who has only spent maybe two complete years out of the 6 that we have been in California (he's in the military, lots of deployments) managed to be home during the time the kindergarten meeting to hold her back took place, he agreed with the school that she would catch up in first grade.

Now that first grade over in less than a month, she still hasn't matured that much, is just now hitting the level in reading they wanted her to enter the first grade at, and has been tested for learning disabilities with none found. The school is still insisting on advancing her ANOTHER grade level, stating that once she is there with the way the school year will work next year she will have more resources for learning. (the school is switching to an inclusion instead of mainstreaming teaching practice). Currently she is pulled for reading resources and has an aid that works with her on reading as well. They feel that once the inclusion setting takes place she will get more than enough help and that they will set goals on her IEP to ensure that she goes from a level 4 to at least an 18 by the end of 2nd grade. She was at a level 2 when she entered 1st.

I feel that it would benefit her more to be held back and have voiced my opinion not only to her IEP team but to the principal. The principal feels there is no reason EVER to hold a child back a grade any soon than 3rd grade. I feel that she deserves the chance to catch up to the levels she needs to be and if we keep pushing her on she will end up like many of the graduating high schoolers around here--barely able to read and struggling in all subjects.

While I know my child is behind in reading which can lead to issues in other subject areas (her math declined when they began simple word problems) I feel her maturity level affects her the same if not slightly more than the frustration that comes with not being able to keep up within subjects due to poor reading skills. She began after winter break "loosing" her weekly homework packet somewhere between the classroom and the front gate of the school. The packets the teacher puts in my box (when she remembers, she's a wonderful teacher and has tried to do everything possible to help my daughter succeed) I find that doing the homework is more painful for her than it should be. She's very frustrated. Although we have seen improvement in her letter spacing, after I spent months drawing boxes on her paper to that she wrote her letters in to help with spacing, which her teacher willingly over looked because it did seem to do the over all intended goal. (a trick i picked up in the K/1 special ed classroom)

I've implemented at home several of the sight word games (which during testing she could only recognize 4 of, at home she recognizes a few more than that but no where near what a Kinder should recognize) that we use in the k/1 Special Ed classroom but she still is not in a range that I think would be acceptable to move on. My husband is willing to move her on because they have offered her the extra help, although working in this school even the special education teachers have no idea how they are going to work all the special help the school is promising to the kids once it implements the inclusion program, which gives me great concern as well. If the special education team that's implementing this within the school is concerned about how they will succeed in giving the appropriate amount of time needed for each child to help them, how am I to not worry about her? Although if I hold her back the Special Education teacher that will be working with K/1st graders is the one I currently work for the most (the other is the 2nd/3rd grade teacher) and has more patience for children and their issues than the 2nd/3rd grade teacher.

So I guess my question is: With my concerns should I once again against my better judgement allow her to advance when I took that route last time with little improvement and hope that the principal's plan at implementing for the first time within the school (or any school she's worked at) the inclusion program will actually help my daughter catch up not only on the first grade reading areas but into the second grade reading level? Or should I force retention and take the chance that she's bored for a bit, but in the long run hopefully strengthens the areas she is good in and improves the areas she's weak in. Also next year my husband will retire and we will be moving back to OK. My nephew's learning seems to be slightly behind my daughters, both being at the same grade level.

Does anyone have any advice? Experiences? Did your child benefit from such? Or did it make matters worse?

A 2002 paper http://education.ucsb.edu/jimerson/retention/CSP_RetentionDropout2002.pdf "A recent systematic review of 17 studies examining factors associated with dropping out of high school prior to graduation suggest that grade retention is one of the most powerful predictors of school dropout." HOWEVER: What are your goals for your child? Do you want her to be able to read, write, calculate and think critically? Do you want her to be able to provide for herself? Conventional schooling is not the best choice for every child. A decision to home school a child for a year does not mean you will always home school. I've home schooled four of my children; three have already graduated from public school. I expect the last will, also.

I am a retired Kindergarten teacher. My older brother was held back in first grade. It was fine. He never really noticed. My younger brother did not get held back until my mother insisted in fourth grade. He never did well because back then the real reading skills were no longer taught. It may well now be that way in third way. My kindergarten classes were what first grade used to be. The benefits. Your daughter will go through school at the top of her class as a winner, instead of at the bottom. This will carry across motor skills too. She will be chosen for teams instead of left out. In my opinion reading intervention is better early rather than later especially since your child did not catch up as hoped. You may have to insist. Be sure to keep copies of all letters to the school-request holding your child back in a letter even if you have already requested it. Also keep notes of your meetings. This will create a paper trail of everything that happens. Another consideration, your child will be much more likely to suffer from being teased in third grade. Good luck.