The Wrightslaw Way

to Special Education Law and Advocacy

The Wrightslaw Way random header image

Retention or Promotion? What’s best for my child?

by Wrightslaw

Parent #1:

My son wants to be “left behind”. I feel that another year in the smaller, familiar middle school would be less intimidating and give him some time to mature. Because of the b’day he really wouldn’t be older than the rest anyway.

Parent #2:

I don’t want my child to be retained. Everything I read seems to say that retention is not good for the child. I’m struggling with the school because they say she is the youngest in her class and needs to stay behind so she can “catch-up”. She has struggled with reading and math for 2 years. I think she needs more help – not just being held back.

We’ve heard questions from parents on both sides of the issue.

At Wrightslaw, we say: Read the research, educate yourself, get an expert involved.

For those who are dealing with retention, you must educate yourself before you can take a rational position and advocate for a child. We built a page on Wrightslaw with resources about retention.

On that page, download and read these Position paper articles from (1) the National Association of School Psychologists, and (2) the American Federation of Teachers.

Retention poses several problems – including the fact retained children are far more likely to drop out.

If you are considering retaining a child, get an independent expert involved. This person can evaluate your child and help you use facts to make this important decision.

If you want to read more, we’ll share a comment below from a parent who wanted retention for her son. She did her research, contacted the experts, and determined what she thought was the best route for her child. We don’t agree that retention is the best case for most children. But this parent’s advocacy strategy and tactics were well crafted.

A lot of the research regarding retention says that it doesn’t work. But a lot of that research is based on keeping kids in the same instructional environment and kids who have extenuating circumstances outside of school. The extenuating circumstances did not apply to our son and we were asking for different supports and instructional techniques.

Repeating a grade with no changes in supports or how the instruction is delivered generally has the same affect-not working. Finally, the new research shows that kids are not successful when they are being taught at a frustration level . . . they need to be taught at an appropriate instructional level. For our son, who is 1.4 years behind, moving ahead put him in the frustration level. All of these factors led us to ask for retention so he could catch up and move ahead the next year.

We requested retention for many of the same reasons as you and were told it had never been done in our district beyond kindergarten or first and they were not going to do it. (We are about to go into middle school). The reasons were it hasn’t been done, it’s against policy, research doesn’t support it, etc. I talked to the principal and district people informally to find out all the reasons they would want to deny, then crafted a really nice power point (based on the types of info I learned at Wrightslaw Bootcamp about decining test scores (order the CD to find out how to draft your child’s dropping achievement scores). Then I got letters from his private providers (tutor, psychologist, etc.) and his doctors. The doctors said it would be too stressful for him to move ahead with such lagging academics and it would harm his health. The meeting began with the principal telling the 15-person team this had never been done and trying to coerce them to decide against before I even started. He announced that the three main people in the State Education office said it couldn’t be done. I had the policy that I got at the district which said nothing of the sort. I passed it out, showed my slides a la Wrightslaw style, and we won or case. Don’t be discouraged if they tell you no. Do your homework, make a nice presentation that is prepared like the “letter to the stranger” (see Emotions to Advocacy book), and go for it. I never thought I could win on this request, but it turned out to be pretty easy. Good luck.

Print Friendly

Tags:   · · · · · 82 Comments

Leave A Comment

82 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Veronica 03/13/15 at 9:30 am

    Karen – I’d like info about what the psychologist said about retaining your son. Why did she recommend that? Did she evaluate him? Can you share what tests she used? Based on your son’s tests, did the Psychologist say what specific program he should have or how they should teach him specifically in the 4th grade again – that would bring him up the 1.5 years? Did the school even look at his test scores and her recommendations?

  • 2 Karen 03/12/15 at 11:10 pm

    I would like more information as to how this mom fought the fight of retention. I had the same situation with my son. He was 1.5-2 years behind entering the 5th grade. We were changing schools overseas in the international community. We had been told by the Psychologist that retention would benefit him. I took the Retention Survey given to me by our principal to help me in my decision and did more research. I requested that my son repeat the 4th grade at the new school and they denied my request based on his age alone. Never mind his academic scores, his social/emotional state, and his clearly being behind academically. They thought they knew him better having not met him. He finished 5th grade but he was still way behind his peers academically and anxious. 6th grade was too hard for him. He is now home-schooled.

  • 3 Jeanine 03/10/15 at 8:13 pm

    I have a student that has been recommended for evaluation from our MTSS (old rti) team that has been receiving intensive intervention each day she has been here. At 3rd grade, she is 1 1/2 years behind. She has missed exactly 1 1/2 years of schooling (no kinder, didn’t start first grade until April, is on the “3-day school week plan” loads of absences). Second language learner, very young, immature, tiny, fall birthday, sweet, talented artist. I would like to recommend retention. Every year, it gets harder and harder to close the gap. She went to summer school last year(the summer school program can kick them out if they miss more than 3 days of school, we are not allowed)If she repeated 3rd grade,attended summer school again and came to school so I could work with her, I believe she could be on grade level. Any research for this?

  • 4 Chanel 11/12/14 at 6:24 pm

    My daughter is 8 and in the 3rd grade. She is advanced in all her classes and has been a straight A student since she started school. How do I make sure my child is getting all their is to out there to further advance her.

  • 5 Monsef 09/18/14 at 3:32 am

    My son is 11 year old and doing good in 6th grade. My daughter when she was in 1st grade was good. At end ask her to take a exam &amp skip a 2nd grade and went to 3rd grade. When she was 16 1/2 year when she finished highschool with 4.5 grade. She got scholarship in university. I like to do that for my son. Is it a good time that he is at 6th grade at 11 year old? please suggest.

  • 6 Octavia 08/28/14 at 12:21 am

    My daughter is being retained in the third grade. During the middle of the school year I requested an evaluation be done to place her in special education because she wasn’t getting good grades. I was informed that the school was already evaluating a lot of other kids and it would take some time. She took both nys math and reading tests. Failed the math went to summer school only for 19days. The school didn’t offer to have her retake the exam. I as a parent was worried that she wasn’t going to pass but the school never did the requested evaluation. Im writing an appeal.

  • 7 daisy 08/26/14 at 11:26 am

    Today was my daughters first day of school. I’m not happy today because my daughter was retained in first grade. Through out the school year (she actually started going to that school in @ mid November) the teacher never requested a conference and never warned me about her progress!!! NO WARNING!! …and my daughter also attended summer school and still was retained! Most important is that I don’t agree with the school’s decision, my daughter completed her first grade and is wrongfully being retained.

  • 8 Rosa 08/25/14 at 11:03 am

    Hi my son is 15 years old diagnosed with autism since he was 8 month’s old. He was not allowed to his graduation ceremony from High school, according to the principal he had not returned a book that was given to him at the beginning of the school year. Ironic because his math level wouldn’t allow him to use that book anyway, but the teacher said that he gave it to him. My son has an IEP. Could someone help me please. I can not get over it yet that my son was not allowed to a first time graduation that he was ever aware of due to his disabilities. Thank you.

  • 9 michael 08/21/14 at 7:11 pm

    My kid came home today and told me that she is retained, got called stupid and was laughed at. I am furious because I was not told about this. I didnt get a letter, a phone call, or sign anything. She doesn’t want to go to school at all now. I am pretty sure some laws were broken. What do I need to do? This is wrong. If she was failing I would have sent her to summer school or anything. They cant just hold her back and not tell me about it. Dont they know what they just did to her mind. She will never like school now because of this. What’s the answer?

  • 10 SusanB 08/20/14 at 10:14 pm

    Hi Jessica, we are going to need more info. Does your son have a disability? Why do you or the school feel he needs to be retained? Did he fail a class or more than one? If he has an IEP, what does it look like?

  • 11 Jessica 08/18/14 at 9:13 pm

    I would like to know of some feedback and websites. If my 17 yr. Old son can repeat 11 grade?

  • 12 BETTY H. 08/18/14 at 2:17 pm

    NC charter school decided to retain my kindergartner without any formal testing. He developed “school refusal disorder” the second half of last school year. He missed 93 days but did all work sent home and I homeschooled him. The Board of Directors for the school just decided in a closed session that they cannot hear an appeal from me because the decision by the principal is final.

    He can read, write phonetically, count to well over 100, knows all colors, shapes, letters, letter sounds. What could he possibly learn from repeating kindergarten. All of the research is against this decision by his school. They say he is “socially not ready” but have not had him in class since February of last year.

    Any help or advice on moving forward would be appreciated. Do I have any recourse? He has no learning disability .

  • 13 Rina 08/18/14 at 6:53 am

    My son was retained last year, he is now doing his second year in grade 1, the teacher says he is now failing,but he passed terms one and two with amazing marks. Can he be held back in the same grade for a third year? I’m very worried about this.

  • 14 SusanB 08/05/14 at 10:32 pm

    Mom of 4: REALLY, they can’t do whatever they want. I don’t know which bill you are speaking of, state???perhaps, but you need to get a copy of it and read it. My question is, are they going to follow it or not? Can’t follow only part of it. Further there is no research that demonstrates retention works. Next, why is your son not learning to read in the SCHOOL’S program? Does he have some sort of learning disability or is the school’s reading program ineffective? Read the law you mention then ask the questions, be nice but ask IN WRITING! Does your son have an IEP? If so, is the program being used to remediate him working and is it right for him? How much progress has he made? If we retain kids until they can read on grade level, without providing appropriate remediation, we will eventually have 3rd graders with drivers licenses!

  • 15 mom of 4 08/05/14 at 4:51 pm

    The school is wanting to retain my son because his reading level is 3 tenths below mandated level. He was tested today and Ive not heard if he made the 3 tenths up or not. His grades are good.. A’s and B’s maybe an occasional C. He has a twin brother that will be going on to the next grade. We were not told of them wanting to retain him until school had been out for a month. They did not give him a reading assessment at the end of the school year and did not offer summer school reading like it states they have to do in Senate Bill 319 (which is the bill they are saying gives them the right to hold him back). I feel holding him back would hurt him more than help. I think with extra tutoring and us reading with him at home he will be reading at grade level. Do I have any rights? The principal told me he can hold back any student he wants

  • 16 Deborah 08/05/14 at 2:11 pm

    I had my son held back in 1st grade because the teacher he had was a first year teacher right out of college. A lot of issues I was catching at home with him doing homework, she wasn’t noticing. After several conferences with the teacher and I, she finally implemented and IEP, 2 months before the school year was over with. I didn’t feel it would be beneficial to my son to continue on if he doesn’t have the basics yet. Holding him back, helped him, he was a little more mature and did 100% better the next time around with a different teacher. I’m not solely against holding your child back, as long as you know your child and work with them. You can’t soley rely on the word of some teachers especially if they have large class sizes; children can easily be overlooked.

  • 17 Morning 07/23/14 at 4:49 pm


    Educate yourself on the Wrighslaw website. Talk to the state advocacy center. Keep any data/ written observations on his reading habits this summer, number of books he has read, reading strengths and difficulties, etc. Create your own report to give to the school though it would be informal. If the school gave you any reading resources for the summer, did your son complete them? The school has enough data, in their opinion, to retain him. What does that data tell you and what does it look like? Such data can alert you to any further issues, etc, An evaluation seems warranted and all you have to do is put the request in writing to start the process. In your case, the letter may indicate to the administrators that you are now “aware” and they may work with you in a more collaborative manner,

  • 18 Helen 07/15/14 at 12:47 am

    My husband and I don’t want my son to repeat 2nd grade again but the school board said it’s up to the principal and they are just giving me the run around. my son has never been on pmp plan or on a SAI program please I need help. I am not going anywhere with the school board in Florida or the principal.

  • 19 Wenda 05/31/14 at 9:08 am

    My husband and I are wanting to retain my daughter. She was diagnosed with Bipolar in November and the school did not get her IEP in place until March of this year. She has failed the state test for Math for two years in a row, plus she has a 54 for an average this year. And that is with the Math teacher giving her a forced 70 for the last 6 weeks. Everyone at the school keeps telling me that she needs to go to high school.But why? I understand that it could and probably hurt her self esteem. But what do you do about the real world. Because they are not going to let her pass if she can not or will not do the work.

  • 20 Bridget 11/21/13 at 6:19 am

    I would please like to find out if my son can be made to repeat grade 6 if he passes all his subjects but gets rated 2 for maths

  • 21 Christina 10/16/13 at 10:35 pm

    The system has failed my child. My daughter has had a 504 plan in place since the 1st grade, she is in 3rd. This is the second time, second state that has denied us placing her in the previous grade. Her progress although it has been minimal progress she has still meet the criteria to be placed, not promoted, and passed to the next grade for 2 year. Where is the line and where do they stop and see that it is not beneficial to the child to continue moving ahead? I can spend hours on one problem to try and help her understand. Reading is the foundation to learning, if my child cannot read, she cannot grow. She has 30 minutes a day with a reading specialist and 30 minutes of Lexia and has reading time before and after school. She is progressing but at a year behind. Each individuals learning is different and should be adjusted per child.

  • 22 Jennifer 06/21/13 at 5:17 pm

    Already talked to a lawyer. Now they are finally looking into a full IEP for him. Thank you for your help! It is nice to know we are not alone.

  • 23 Sharon L. 06/21/13 at 12:12 pm

    Jennifer, I feel your frustration. It may be time to get legal advice. Has the school put their decision in writing via a prior written notice? They need to do this & you can ask for it. This may open the door for renegotiation.

  • 24 MORNING 06/18/13 at 1:03 pm


    I started my daughter in kindergarten at six years old. It has paid off in many ways. First, the school district did not fully service her once she entered special education. Two, it gave her an extra year of maturity. Three, it demonstrated to me how the school district failed her in many ways, regardless of her age. All is resolved now. I am glad that I did not send her to kindergarten at five years of age. I trusted my instincts. I have met many parents who started their kids a little later in kindergarten. Though, I would advise getting advice as my case is unique to her needs (LD) and each child is different. A well seasoned teacher gave me the advice to wait to send her to kindergarden. It was a blessed decision.

  • 25 Jennifer 06/17/13 at 10:55 pm

    Yes, but the school will not give him the IEP even though we have proven he has a medical diagnosis. They say that because he is passing (d’s really?) that they will not write the IEP. This has been a fight with the system since 3rd grade. Even though I am a teacher in the system, my son is still not getting what he needs.

  • 26 Sharon L. 06/14/13 at 9:28 am

    Jennifer, have you had your son evalulated for special ed services under IDEA? My son was on a 504 for ADHD,LD & we felt like he really did not get the services he needed. We requested a multifactored evaluation & signed the school’s consent form. Remember until you sign the consent form the 60 day time frame does not kick in & the school does not have to do the testing without the consent form. Once the testing is done you will sit down with the team to decide if he qualifies to be on an IEP. There is also an OHI (other health impaired) IEP for items like ADHD, medical concerns. I went to the board office & got the information on how to apply for an OHI IEP. I believe that the school has done more for our son when he was on an IEP then when he was on a 504 plan. The laws are different for both.

  • 27 Jennifer 06/14/13 at 12:05 am

    Our son is currently making C’s and D’s in 7th grade. He has a 504 due to probable brain damage that may have been caused in a foster home or due to being addicted to drugs at birth. He has problems with short and long term memory and failed his last state test in math. We asked the school to retain him so that he can get the information he needs to succeed later. The school denied this request. This is not the first time we have had issues with this school to even get the help we need for our child. Sometimes the teachers follow the 504, but more often than not we see that they are not following it. We are also having issues with the teachers giving us his grades in a timely manner, usually a month later, but they are willing to give 0’s for late work. We know he needs help, but we can’t seem to get the school to do so. Any ideas?

  • 28 Kimi 03/13/13 at 8:45 pm

    My child has an IEP bt I believe retaining him would help him. Can I choose to retain him?

  • 29 lynn 09/09/12 at 1:50 pm

    My son does not know his long division and he transferred schools,the middle school he was in passed him to the eighth grade and I wanted to hold him back because he is struggling in math. He went back to school for a week and he went back in the seventh grade. I had a meeting with the principal and he decided he should go into the eighth grade and I dont feel like he is ready to advance and he doesnt either. Do I have any rights about him being advanced to the next grade? I would appreciate any advice you could give me with this situation.

  • 30 Teresa 07/01/12 at 9:28 pm

    I am looking for information about retention in a private school. My son is in 3rd grade and has received A’s, B’s, C’s in all his classes. He has a Student Support Plan and it has been followed, but retained him. We are switching schools. How do I approach the new principal about having him promoted because of the passing grades?

    I need any advice I can get.

  • 31 A mothers love 06/23/12 at 7:26 am

    I’ve requested for my son to be evaluated ever since K. my son’s birthday is Feb, he’s 7 already in the 1st grade. He was lacking a little, his teacher told me not as proficient as he should be so without even discussing the matter with me any further his teacher she waited at the last minute in wrote on my sons report card that she didn’t think one more year of 1st grade is going to hurt him so she retained him. I had told his teacher that retaining a child is not always the answer to every solution. I told her that I didn’t agree with her decision and that I dont want my son to be retained. His teacher was supposed to have had another meeting to discuss my son and what would be best for him but we never had another meeting. What are my rights?

  • 32 Jane 05/31/12 at 1:15 pm

    We are fighting with the school district to retain our 6th grade son. He does have an IEP (auditory process disorder) but we are not doing it for academic reasons, we know school is just going to come hard. We want to do it for social, emotional and physical. He is young for his class and doesn’t relate and never has to his peers. He has always gravitated to the class behind him. None of the research includes this situation. The school is not allowing us and it is very frustrating when we his parents know what is in his best interest and he also has stated he wants to do it. Please help if you have any experience in this.

  • 33 Gracie 05/23/12 at 8:42 pm

    My son is 12, he is in 6th grade, the school wants to retain him. He has been having problems keeping up with his classmates since he was in 1st grade, I never relized that he might have problem. He recently was diagnosed with ADD, after fighting with the school they finally put a 504 in place about two months before school end, by then he was already faling due to uncomplete classwork. can I do anything for the school to consider promotion? his CRT’s are at grade lavel and in some subjects above grade. I have been researching and nowhere in it states that my son will benefit from retention to the contrary he will damaged, emotionally, socially and academically. Please help with any advise. I have a conference scheduled to persuade them for promotion.

  • 34 Jenn 04/18/12 at 1:30 pm

    I have a 9 year old daughter that has seemed to struggle in school from day 1. It was until last year that we got a diagnosis of ADD without hyperactivity. She started medication and tutoring and rec’d mods in classroom. There was an immediate improvement. However, after a little while the meds didn’t seem to be working as well. We have a tutor and modifications and changed meds. She now has B’s and C’s but I still feel like she is too behind as she struggles with every subject. Her mods include eliminating her options so she now has a 50/50 chance of choosing the right answer. She is smaller than the other children and I want to retain her to give her time to mature and attempt to catch up from the previous years that she seemed to just “slip through” regardless of grades and struggles. Am I making the right decision?

  • 35 Amy 04/05/12 at 3:36 pm

    My son is a young 8 yr old in 3rd grade with learing difficulties in math and reading and has an IEP in place. When he started this school year, he was doing 1 & 2nd grade curriculum. He now is at 2nd grade. He does no 3rd grade work. I am considering retention for him so he can catch up and actually do 3rd grade work next year and be ready for 4th grade. I am concerned about him socially however.

  • 36 Nikki 03/22/12 at 1:58 am

    This is my second year in a row fighting to have my daughter retained. She is supposed to move to Middle School next year and is in no way ready. She is already in a multi age program and doesn’t connect with any kids her age or even in her class. She is about 4 years behind in academics and social aspects and doesnt seem to make much progress in either. Is retention whats best or is she too far behind to ever catch up? I feel like retention is the only shot my daughter has at ever having a social life with class mates, but am I wrong for holding her back?

  • 37 Deb 02/18/12 at 2:44 am

    Speaking on behalf of my son’s experience, retention certainly delayed getting the correct intervention for my son. I had my son repeat Kindergarten. After the second year, we had a diagnosis of Dyslexia. For my son, this retention does bother him. It does and will have an emotional toll on him. The question on retention should remain – if the student did not succeed and meet grade level expectations…why? Will another year of the ‘same” make a difference? For my son, it did not. He was severely behind grade level expectations after the second year in Kindergarten. Good luck!

  • 38 Jennifer 02/17/12 at 5:22 pm

    Retention does not and has never made a disability go away. However, in cases where children, especially boys, have July, August and September birthdays, I have seen that repeating kindergarten, or just waiting a year, has sometimes given them a boost. They still had the same learning issues, but had they also had another year to develop. I am absolutely against retention other than for the age and later than kindergarten.

    How I wish that no one could walk into kindergarten until the age of six!

  • 39 Kris 02/17/12 at 1:09 am

    My daughter has PDD-NOS. We lived in PA through my daughter’s first 2 years of preschool. Her birthday is in June. We had already decided that she would be better off waiting one more year to start kindergarten. However my husband took a temporary duty assignment in CO. The school district’s policy was that they don’t retain preschoolers for any reason. If I didn’t send her to kindergarten then she would lose her OT and Speech services. I felt these were essential for her I let them tell me what was “best” for my daughter. That was a huge mistake. She was behind for all of kindergarten, and has completely fallen apart in 1st grade to the point where now she will start receiving 4 hours of academic support for reading, writing, and math. One more year of preschool would have given her a better foundation for the years ahead.

  • 40 Wrightslaw 02/06/12 at 1:15 pm

    Ann R – Questions to consider:

    What specific “foundational skills” will your son benefit from if he repeats? What is the school doing now to help him in math and writing? If your son didn’t “get it” this year, will doing the same thing again make a difference? If he struggles now, what is the specific plan for next year if he is retained? Is there a plan for individualized special instruction that will help him master the basic math and writing skills he needs? Is this instruction/intervention research-based and proven effective? Does your son’s IEP have math and writing goals? Are the goals and the IEP appropriate and SMART? Has the IEP team determined what individualized services and supports will be provided to allow your son to participate in the general curriculum with his peers? Would tutoring or individualized instruction during ESY be appropriate to keep him at grade level?

    You may need to get an independent expert involved. This person can evaluate your son, help you realistically determine his unique needs and what is required to meet these needs. Data from the evaluation can help you make this important decision. Repeating a grade with no changes in services, supports, or how the instruction is delivered generally has the same affect. Good luck with a tough decision.

    Find more information on the Retention page at

  • 41 Ann R. 02/02/12 at 2:08 pm

    I have a first grade son who has an IEP and pretty involved with PT, OT, Speech and vision services. He is reading near grade level, but struggling in math and writing. Most literature seems to be against retention. Is there any literature to support it for children already identified who they think will benefit from one more year of the foundational skills? We would hate to seem him frustrated in second grade but do worry about the social implications…

  • 42 Melanie 12/11/11 at 3:16 pm

    I am looking into retaining my 4th grader. He will have his tri-annual evaulation in February and to my knowledge is still performing at the same level he was in 1st grade (mid-K for reading, writing, and math). He is just now (in the past 2 months) beginning to show some progress. He is in a therapeutic school that is year round and is mixed age (he is the youngest in his class, children up to 13 in the same group). I think it’s the perfect time to retain him as he is not aware of his grade level and peers aren’t changing at the end of the school year anyway. He is SO far behind that I feel this is the only option to give him a chance to get close to grade level. He has a 1:1 (for the past 2 years) and has been tested for learning disabilities with nothing ‘standing out’ for a diagnosis or direction. I think it’s the right thing.

  • 43 Ella 11/29/11 at 12:58 pm

    My son has finished HS when he was 17 and we regret for sending him to College after that. He did well and is working on his PhD now but he would have done so much better would he have a year off after HS. Kids need maturity and when they come to college and live on their own if they are not mature enough they get lost. I have done my Internship in a College counseling center and counceled numerous freshman who wanted to drop our of college just because they were not ready. I would not keep my son in 11th gr. for another year, that would only hurt his self esteem, but after he finishes HS don’t rush sending him off to college. He could find a job, take one or two classes, learn another language and take it easy.

  • 44 Davette 11/28/11 at 3:45 pm

    My son just turned 16 and is a junior in high school. He was able to start school early due to his high test scores, so he has always been the youngest in his class. My son does not have a problem with academics as he is in AP classes and makes A’s and B’s when he really applies himself. The problem we have is his maturity level. Sometimes I feel bad that I allowed him to start school early. Please help! He is frustrated too because he just does not know where he fits in. My ex-husband feels we just have him repeat the 11th grade. Please advise as I want to make the best decision for my son.

    Thank you,

  • 45 Morning 08/21/11 at 1:43 pm

    I sent my child to kindergarten at six years of age. I knew that my child was not ready for kindergarten at five so I sent him to a private kindergarten. The school district knew about this and failed to use child find (that is a separate issue as I did not understand his rights until he was 12 year s of age.) Nevertheless not sending my son to kindergarten at 5 years was MY choice and my son is thankful that he has that extra year. He is doing great and going into high school. HOWEVER, I did work in a classroom where a kindergarten teacher, after the third week of school, already knew which students she would retain. Such followed the year as how much intervention and instruction those students received. Note to parents–monitor your child’s progress. Know what is going on and be AWARE.

  • 46 Karen 07/06/11 at 3:35 pm

    Our son with Down Syndrome was retained in First Grade per our request. I felt he enjoys and learns better in the setting with younger kids and he is still the smallest boy in his class. His behavior toward peers was very negative -spitting!. So he stopped that the next year and his new peers are much more positive with him. I too agree that he will get more out of the early years and will have his whole adult life to work on the skills he may be working on when he is 18-21 in school and he won’t graduate that much later than his typical classmates. I would not do it in later grades when he may be more likely to be aware of it.

  • 47 Michelle 06/29/11 at 11:46 am

    I really have to question the across the board negativity that seems to b the norm here around retention.

    I fought to have our our daughter held back twice in elementary and I think it’s the best thing we’ve ever done. She is mentally challenged and ASD and now at age 18 and Grade 10, in many ways she functions at the level of an 8 year old; but behaviourally it’s like having a semi-typical teenage with the emotional reguatation and communication skills of a pre-teen (or younger). Because she was so much younger cognitively and emotionally than her peers, it just seemed logical to keep her with a younger group of kids as much as possible. After all, she will stay in school until she is 21 and I would much rather have those extra years at the elementary level (where inclusion is much easier to pull off) than in high school.

  • 48 Anthonisha 06/28/11 at 11:18 am

    I have a set of 5 year old triplets with developmental delay. The IEP team has suggested retention because they are not reading on the correct level and my son is behind in maturity. I am trying to decide whether to accept their decision or fight it. What is the best option. They are in Kindergarten and would be returning to their same class. They will be 6 the week school starts.

  • 49 dorothy 06/28/11 at 9:48 am

    Interesting cases BUT the decision to retain a student is individualized. The following are several considerations.
    First, the student’s child development should to be the average of his/her peers in the classroom. As a Special Needs (Moderate) teacher, and now a private practice advocate, I have direct experience with both retained students who thrive on this placement; and, other retained students who waste the year developing lazy study habits and low self-esteem.
    Age is another important factor. Sometimes, even the size of the student needs consideration. Whether Special Education or regular education, it’s all about the whole child.

  • 50 El 06/28/11 at 6:47 am

    We retained our daughter in first to the objection of the principal and her teacher and it was the best thing we could have done for her. She thanked us at the end of the year. She really needed the year to mature further and she needed the academic basic work again. We are so glad that we hung tough. It was really worth it. You know best.

  • 51 Sharon L. 06/08/11 at 6:49 pm

    Ashlee – My husband was retained in first grade for the reason you have mentioned. His birthday is August and he was too young to do well. He is 59 years old, and remembers being retained to this day. His friends made fun of him, and he hated school until he finally graduated. He is still angry about it. It is better to hold the child back before entering school than to retain. I did this for 2 out of my 3 children and they never knew they were being held back.

  • 52 Ashlee 06/07/11 at 11:06 pm

    I work at a private school and while I wouldn’t say we use retention often, we certainly have and continue to suggest it for some parents. We have found that many students who find themselves on the young side of the age spectrum, do not have learning disabilities that are prohibiting them from being successful, they are simply to young to perform at the same level of their students. As a school, we feel that retention should be seen as “the gift of a year” for those children that will benefit from it, and the earlier on in their education as possible.

  • 53 Sharon L. 06/07/11 at 7:29 pm

    Rashita – Based on what you told me I would not want to retain your son either. Yes, you can request that the school promote him and they should followup with more supports for the reading. IF your son is on an IEP then you should meet to have more supports or tutoring, etc put into place. The school can offer ESY (extended school services) to help with regression issues and they must provide transportation as well. My son had reading problems and had ESY every single year for reading for regression and compensatory time. Check into the policies for extended school year so you do not have to pay out of pocket. Many parents do not know what is in place to help their children.

  • 54 Rashita 06/04/11 at 11:04 am

    I have a 7 year old son. His teacher wants to retain him in 2nd grade because of his reading. Someone told me that i have the right to request that he be promoted to the 3rd grade. He passed all other subjects and he even passed all parts of the CRCT. I don’t want him to repeat the 2nd grade. I am putting him in a summer program that is focused on improving his reading. What can i do?

  • 55 Sarah 05/24/11 at 11:05 pm

    My daughter is 5 1/2 with Asperger’s. She is high functioning and has been tested at an above average IQ with age-level or above age-level academic knowledge. Academically, she struggles with handwriting and reading. Since these are emerging skills in kindergarten, she is still age appropriate in these areas. Her main issues are with social skills and focus. We are in the process of getting emotional and behavioral therapy and paying for one-on-one tutoring. She has an IEP. She misses the local school district’s cutoff by 31 days but has completed a state certified kindergarten where her teacher graded her at meeting age level expectations, except in focus and other areas that are directly linked to her diagnosis. The question is: repeat kindergarten or go to 1st grade with supports for her Asperger’s?

  • 56 Patricia 02/24/11 at 4:36 am

    I have an IEP meeting next week with school teachers, psychologist, and my child. My child has beed diagnosed with ADHD – grades all F’s and is academically behing 2 yrs. The school psychologist and counselor stated they will not retain my child, because charters school do not do it. My child explain every child is money and the sooner the institution moves the child out of the education system new students come more revenue. It is really sad that most schools are in the profit business instead of teaching our youth, tomorrow’s leaders with learning disabilities. I believe my child will get lost in the system if I do not change school or contact a children’s advocacy agency to provide me with assistance.

  • 57 Tansu 11/08/10 at 11:03 am

    Thanks for the awesome blog post! subscribed!

  • 58 Julie 09/25/10 at 8:30 am

    As a teacher I am faced with this choice almost every year. Most often our small private school does NOT retain our struggling students. We do not have Special Ed. services available so it comes down to the classroom teacher and parents to differentiate the instruction to best meet that child’s needs. The problem is when the child leaves our elementary and still is not preforming at a level relative to his/her peers. The next school is faced with the same issue, by then retention is not an option.
    I have experienced situations where it was not an academic issue, but a maturity issue and eventually the student understood social ques and caught up to his peers (8th grade) .
    I have also experienced situations where it was and continued to be an academic issue and the student never caught up.

  • 59 amber 08/30/10 at 11:53 pm

    I am having a serious problem reguarding retention. My daughter is 8, she is now in the 3rd grade. she was in a typical mainstream k class. She was then placed in a mild/moderate class for 1 and 2. This year she is a mainstream 3rd grade class with a para for her and 2 others. She is only functioning on a k-1 level. Her work is modified for her and the spec ed teacher works very closely with the reg teacher, however, I feel that she missed out on many of the basics that she needs to move forward. I looked into a private school with a 1:5 ratio with classes specifically for learning differences.They want to put her back to 2nd grade and put her with k for reading to catch her up. she does seem to be missing the fundamentals for reading. she spent the day and loved it, I just don’t know which approach will be best????

  • 60 Linda115 05/27/10 at 4:39 am

    Sharon, what specialist or support group should I be looking for? My boys do not have a regular psychologist or anyone they are currently seeing. Wait lists and insurance companies. I am not sure who to contact.

  • 61 Sharon L. 05/25/10 at 8:24 am

    Linda – It is always a tough decision to retain or not. We had opted not to retain either of our sons when we had the opportunity. You must do what you feel is right. When we are in a bind we always seek professional outside help from a specialist or a support group. Perhaps you can look into that.

  • 62 Linda115 05/24/10 at 1:58 pm

    My twin boys were also born 12 weeks early. I have been told both yes and no to autism. The son I want retained spent ages 3/4 and 4/5 in a special ed program, kinder in the autism program. At the end of kinder we changed states, and he was tested by the school as not having autism. They decided to put him in the 1st grade with the resource room for english, math and kindergarten for an hour a day for hands on learning. After a month he was shutting down in the 1st grade room, so he then spent all instruction with the kindergarten class, and went to the 1st grade for the extras, art, music, spanish and PE only. He has relationships with both ages of kids but he is a kindergartner in practice and a 1st grader only on paper. testing, he is an average kinder. The IEP team said retain, principal said no, do the same next year. Opinions?

  • 63 Jacquelin 05/03/10 at 4:06 pm

    I am having issues with my 6 year old son, who is in 1st grade. He was born premature (12 weeks early), his birthday falls on Aug. 8, the district cutoff date. He struggles with Math, but is doing well in reading and language. He has issues with paying atttention in class, and doesn’t see the point and importance of doing his classwork, but when he does do it he makes A’s. His teacher feels that he is not mature, and feels that another year in 1st grade would give him a chance to catch up on an emotional level with his peers. I am so confused right now, because he has established relationships with his classmates, and I do not want to futher discourage him by hold him back. Is there anyone that can give me some advice on what I should do in this situation. Would another year in 1st grade really help??

  • 64 Sharon L. 04/29/10 at 6:08 pm

    You know what is best and should push for that.

  • 65 Margaret 04/27/10 at 1:01 pm

    We are in a situation more similar to Stacey. We want to retain our daughter. She is the youngest in 1st G. Her birthday in 10/1, the districts cutoff date. Also, she was adopted from China at 20 mos. old and had virtually no social interaction prior to adoption. My husband and I are convinced that we made a mistake putting her into 1st G this year. I think we were just so proud of her and how she has grown that we didn’t see her lack of maturity compared to other kids going into 1st Grade. Now, we see it and the accompanying drop in performance and focus. However, she still tests at grade level and although we have her teacher’s support the school is pushing back citing research against retention. But that research focuses on retaining “failing” students. We want to place our daughter in the most beneficial environment. Help.

  • 66 Stacey 04/20/10 at 12:57 am

    We are considering retaining our son who is struggling in reading & writing in 1st grade. I am a 2nd grade teacher, so I know exactly what will be expected of him. I fear he will reach a frustration level and shut down. I know the research shows retention isn’t beneficial – often, but I don’t want his confidence to be crushed. Half the battle of teaching children is convincing them to try. If they keep failing they give up. This is why I DON’T want to send him on to 2nd grade. Any advice, would be appreciated. (We have seen his doctor about ADD, and are seeking tutoring.)

  • 67 Aimee Marie 03/22/10 at 4:04 pm

    I am a teacher at a local private school. I work in first grade and deal a lot with ‘readiness’ issues. Some kids are simply too young and they haven’t had the time to develop socially, emotionally, or academically. There are a number of frightening statistics out there, but I don’t find that they correspond to the children I am discussing. What I am saying is that while retention will most likely not help a child who has a academic delay or learning disability, I have witnessed it bringing a world of good to kids who are simply too young. These kids need the gift of more time to develop physically, emotionally, socially and academically! As a teacher in the ‘ranks’ so to say, I have seen it work many, many times. Some kids have risen to graduating with honors! So, I don’t think that retention can so easily be dismissed as ‘bad’ – one needs to look at WHY the child is retained, and the child must have supporting parents willing to do whatever it takes to help them succeed. There is a lot of literature out there that says that kids need to be ready to learn, so if they’re not ready…you just send them on?? No, each child walks at a different time, talks at a different time, grows in a different pace – we are all unique and one ‘test’ or ‘statistic’ cannot tell someone what is best for their child!

  • 68 Tom 03/16/10 at 11:13 am


    Our son is severely mentally retarded. He is 12 years old and in the 3rd grade. He spends most of his time in the special education classroom but has inclusion time with his 3rd grade class. His teachers agree that he learns best and is most motivated when surrounded by his typically developing peers. This year he has made tremendous progress. We want to capitalize on this progress and retain him in third grade. Our school system is demanding that he be promoted. They give no other reason than, “That is our position”. Our son has been retained before and has always made new friends among his typically developing peers. He is the size of a 5 year old and looks younger than all of his peers. He lacks the understanding to be hurt by retention. A retention decision will not affect his special diploma status. What are our options?

  • 69 Tami 03/13/10 at 5:04 pm

    Our 8 year old daughter has attended the same private school since kindergarten and is currently in the 3rd grade. At the recommendation of the principal we were told that she would need to be retained next year and repeat the 3rd grade. She has struggled this past year with reading, grammar, math. She seems to be frustrated with herself and according to her teacher requires a lot of one on one attention and instruction. This school makes no accommodations and provides no free tutoring. We are unable to afford outside tutoring and have helped her as much as we can. What should we do about the retention? She is a very sensitive child and has a shy nature about her. I know we can not keep her at this same school and retain her. I just think it would be devastating to her and her self esteem. Any suggestions?? Thank you!

  • 70 Cassie 10/12/09 at 9:28 am

    Not even 1 month into the school year and talks of retention and demotion (moving my son from first to kindergarten right now) are happening.
    My son is 6 and does have an IEP for his speech delay, which I feel is going against him. His teacher sited this as an indicator that he should be retained. She said that, while he’s bright and an extremely fast learner, he exhibits immature behavior. A few examples she gave me are taking extra time to go between different work stations, not changing shoes in a timely manner and having to be reminded, when told to do a specific task he delays for several minutes, and when getting his work done before the other children he wonders and creates a disturbance. I’m really not sure what to do but I really feel holding him back will make it worse. Any help would be great. Thank you.

  • 71 michelle 08/19/09 at 11:09 pm

    I am very serious about retaining my autism PDD son in 2nd grade. I didn’t know that I could, that if there was an iep they have to pass them. My son did not get the basics in first grade, math, reading comprehension, patterns, money (coins) telling time. He was very depressed because he was getting no help and they were taking his unfinished work away from him, not helping him and not sending it home. He started picking the skin around his finger nails. He said I had to come to school and help him since they wouldn’t or send his papers home. The school would not allow this. Now in second grade, they help him on the tests, they help him find the answers when they have him retake tests since his score was not high enough. He still does not know the basics, but their tests say he does> He was tested at sylvan and is equivalent to a 6 yr old.

  • 72 Wrightslaw 06/07/09 at 6:03 am

    Gerrie: Do you know if your son’s reading/language skills have improved this year? Where were his skills at the beginning of last year and end of last year? Are his skills on grade level? You mention help you are providing. What is the school doing to improve his reading and language skills?

    If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you need to get a psycho-educational eval by a psychologist or educational diagnostician in the private sector. A good evaluation will help you make wise decisions on your child’s behalf. If you haven’t done so, read our book, From Emotions to Advocacy. Read the two chapters on educational testing at least three times.

  • 73 GERRIE 06/05/09 at 11:46 pm

    My son is 8 yrs old. He has struggled thorughout the year in the language arts curriculum. We receive extra reading group help, private tutor and famiy reading. We have grown tremendously, but still behind. However, I am still leary… Help
    Lost in North Carolina

  • 74 Wrightslaw 06/05/09 at 10:05 pm

    Cindy: You are right. Retention will not help this child, especially since the “reason” to retain is to keep him away from a particular group of kids. Please go to our Retention page at

    Scroll down to “Ammunition-Resources from Others.” You’ll find articles and position papers about Retention, including the “Position Statement” from NASP and a report entitled “Grade Retention – Achievement and Mental Health Outcomes” from the National Association of School Psychologists. In “Grade Retention,” 6th grade students rated grade retention as the single most stressful life event, higher than the loss of a parent or going blind.

    Make copies of these papers and provide them to members of the child’s IEP team. A child with Asperger’s Syndrome is going to have a hard time in school without the added humiliation of being retained.
    IEP team.

  • 75 Cindy 06/04/09 at 8:09 pm

    Our IEP team will be discussing retention for a 4th grade student with Asperger’s syndrome. Our team is split on retention. I am very against it for this student. Emotional issues alone are my biggest concern. He is extremely behind (reads on mid first grade level and same with math skills) and behaviors are impacting his learning. He has been fixating on a young lady and another student in the room who he feels is trying to take his girl (totally one sided by the young man). The team that is pro-retention feel that another year in 4th grade would keep his away from this group of students.
    Comments please

  • 76 Jennifer 03/17/09 at 8:09 am

    I have concerns about *retaining* children. I am trying to learn what I can. My son is not on the special ed spectrum for learning disabilities – in fact it is the opposite- he is extremely bright (IQ 133 and tested at or above 99% nationally across the board and he is 6 1/2) the issue I am facing is that he is bored. Yet the school (private school) wants to label him ADHD because he won’t pay attention due to curiosity. He figures things out by just looking at it (whole different issue.) I have had him formally evaluated per a request by the school – and the school is not happy with the results because it shows a lack of teaching, not a learning issue. i am concerned that the school will want to retain him. He will be at a different school next year, but does the current school have a right to suggest retaining him?

  • 77 christine 01/27/09 at 12:13 pm

    I am coming up against this very situation with my kindergartener. She is old for her grade but has a global develomental delay and her cognative scores are very low at this point. She is making GREAT progress and her language skills are only about a year behind now. However, her writing and pre-reading abilities are VERY low and the current cirriculum is greatly modified for her. She learns best 1:1 and with much repetition and overlearning. I’m thinking of holding her back in K or 1st grade to give her an extra year to make progress in learning fundamental skills. School is telling us to keep her with her peers. How can I make the best decision? She’s very social but wouldn’t it be better to close the gap as much as possible on the fundamentals. What are the ramifications if you are a year older in high school?

  • 78 Erin 08/04/08 at 1:29 pm

    This question is everywhere! Parents of kids who struggle often wonder if this is the answer. Usually retention doesn’t seem to be the best long term solution, but there are cases where it’s been the best thing for the child. It’s really a tough call to make and a lot of factors should be considered.

  • 79 Pam Wright 07/04/08 at 1:01 pm

    Denied: You ask, “If the child is struggling and behind, and wants to be retained, why does the school have an issue with this?”

    I’ve worked with kids and families for 30+ years and have met very few kids who *want* to be retained. Children do not have the knowledge, experience or wisdom to understand the ramifications of this decision. If a child wants to be retained, the adults responsible for making decisions that are in the child’s best interest need to find out why.

    The decision to retain a child has ramifications that go far beyond the school year. At least 50% of children who are retained once drop out of school. Ninety percent of children who are retained twice drop out. In “Grade Retention: Achievement and Mental Health Outcomes,” researchers learned that 6th graders rated retention as the single most stressful life event, higher than the loss of a parent or going blind. Click here to read the paper –

    As Harmonee points out, when a child is retained, he or she will lose supportive relationships with peers / classmates. The child is unlikely to form close, supportive relationships with a new group of younger students.

    We built a topics page about Retention that has Q&As, articles, and Position Papers.

    As we advised in the original post, “Read the research, educate yourself, get an expert involved.” ~ Pam

  • 80 DeniedA504ByMySchoolNoLonger 07/01/08 at 8:36 pm

    I don’t get the hesitation by schools. Families move all the time, and kids adjust. I think being confident with school work is VERY important to a child’s success in school and life. If the child is struggling and behind, and wants to be retained, why does the school have an issue (after all, wouldn’t they score better on standardized tests?!).

    Plus, if you move and change districts, can’t you repeat a grade pretty easily?

  • 81 Harmonee 07/01/08 at 5:31 pm

    As a special education teacher, I have had many conversations with parents regarding retention and have felt that retaining the child was not in the child’s best interest for the following reason: your child has established relationships with his/her peers that he may not have with the class below him, so he would need to establish a whole new set of peer relationships prior to starting the new school year. In addition, his peers not only know him socially (including activities outside of school), but kids are smart and they also know where their friends struggle academically, and by and large, I have seen most children lend a helping hand to others who are struggling. This is not to say that the younger children would not assist your son, just that he would need to start over to some extent with the other class. However, and this is a biggie…you know your child best and how he might react to such a change. As a parent, you have the last word on decisions regarding your child. If you feel strongly that you should retain your child, open a conversation with the school principal and explain your position using the tools available to you through “Wrightslaw”. and make sure the principal knows that you will expect this to be a positive change for your child. Good luck!

  • 82 Ann 07/01/08 at 10:22 am

    I agree with Wrightslaw. Making the right decion on retention of your child requires doing your homework. I’ve written an article on the topic you may find helpful at: