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

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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.

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131 Comments on "Retention or Promotion? What’s best for my child?"

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My son got held back and he is very sad can you change the BOE mind and he can go to the 6th grade and if you can how long is it until your not able to

There can be different rules on retention between states. Your state parent training & information center can assist you.

My child has passed his subject level but based on a star test, the school wants to keep him behind. HELP

The STAAR test I am familiar with is used in TX. If you live in TX, the organization I work for can assist you. You can find staff in your area to assist you. You may not be able to stop them from holding him back, but there are actions they are required to take to help him catch up.

what resources were used for this parent’s position? we want our student retained for similar reasons. please share your resources. thankyou!!!

Both my children were retained and my daughter is a national scholar student and my son makes straight A’s in middle school. Best decision we ever made.

Glad to hear. Congratulations to your children

In what grade were ur kids retained? We are in a dilema as well, my son is in 5th grade and is struggling in the sense that he’s the youngest and feels out of place. His does good in school. He looks and feels frustrated everyday. And he turns 11 till aug28, so he would be still 10 when going to 6th grade. Any suggestions??

My son will be 5 in August. He’s in PAC and I want to retain him one more year because his VB MAPP places him at 30 months in development. He has health issues and still requires naps. I had 1st transition meeting where I was denied Retention. I’m going again Wednesday and don’t have high hopes. Any input will be awesome to prepare me for this. Am I doing the right thing retaining him?

What grade were they retained and did they remain at the same school?

The national school psychologists’ association has taken the position that generally retention is not beneficial to students. You can read their statement, & consider it in light of your child. Wrightslaw has an article on this.

My daughter is 8 yrs old and is currently in the 3rd grade. She has just recently qualified for an IEP(Special Education) help. We switched schools this year to a bigger and educationally solid school compared to where she had been going to school. With this switch she has made a tremendous turn around in all her classes, plus she made the principals honor roll for the first time this semester. With that being said, we have also came across a set back. She is testing at a 1st grade level on reading comprehension. She even had the state testing person baffled by how she tested. She is on the verge of being gifted in math, and reading fluency, but in comprehending what she has read or to concentrate she scores at a 1st grade level.
Her school is wanting to retain her for this?

My son is going through the same thing, what steps or measures have you taken?

Hello, My 6y/o son is in 1st grade in an K-2 SDC class; however, he identifies himself as a kindergartner. His daily recess is with the kindergartners. He also mainstreams with a kindergarten class for about 30 minutes daily. His SDC class is composed of 6 kindergartners and 1 only other first grader. In previous years, the IEP team had discussed retention but it was not recommended at the time. For this upcoming IEP, I am requesting that he continues with first grade again next year, with additional opportunities to mainstream with the peers that he has developed relationships with this year. I found the feedback that highlighted gaining addition expert opinions to be helpful. I plan to seek advice from my son’s physician and psychologist asap. Any feedback would be appreciated.

My son is a rising 9th grader. He has a specified academic plan (504) for ADD and a learning disability. As of his most current testing, his reading level was 4 grade 6 month. He is a tremendously slow reader who struggles with basic phonemic awareness. While he continues to “survive” in class, with a lot of support from his resource teacher at school and myself at home, we are concerned that with is reading level lagging so far behind, he will get to high school and find it much tougher to to keep his head above water despite continued support at school and home. We are looking to retain him and hopefully give him another year to close the gap in his reading deficiencies. His current school (private) is against him being retained due to the fact that he is passing his classes.

Is his reading remediation program working for him? Another point is where is the assistive technology? There is some great assistive technology out there to help him keep up with course content. I don’t think retaining a 9th grader is wise. In many ways, it is humiliating at that age. The school has made it clear that they do not want him retained. Retention will not address this issue. He will still lag behind. The issue is to look at the progress, goals, needs, etc. High school is also a big leap for many students and can be difficult. The local high school may have a better remediation program than what he is currently receiving. Instead of retention, look at the many summer programs that may also benefit him and help him transition to high school.

I debated enrolling my daughter into Kindergarten b/c she’s turned 5 on the cut off date (Sep1). Her preschool teacher said she could benefit from another year of preschool, but would also do fine going into K. I really was torn, but decided to give it a try and we’d just watch her closely throughout the year. She did very well in the beginning but now in the 2nd trimester, her lack of focus or frustration when she can’t complete a task are starting to show through. She’s also having a little trouble socializing – where she withdraws some days from her friends or gets a bit possessive with her close friends when others want to play. I’m not sure if I should retain her one more year as some of those things might be helped with added maturity.

My daughter is a young first grader. In K she was placed on an IEP for socialization and communication skills as well as speech and OT. We considered holding back then, but we’re convinced to move her forward. This year they diagnosed her with autism, sever socialization deficits. We’ve adjusted her IEP to include help in reading comprehension and math computation, areas where she is really struggling. Her main problem with autism is socialization, so we are concerned about holding her back and putting her with a whole new group of kids, but don’t want her to struggle academically and fall further behind. She says she wouldn’t mind to stay in first grade after explaining her friends will be in 2nd and she can make new friends.

Autism is a neurological problem, not a matter of maturity vs. immaturity. If you hold her back, she will continue to have the same issues even if she repeats first grade.. That she’s even with normal kids and not in a special education setting is a huge plus. You should have her evaluated by an outside expert (check with the local university) to see if he concurs with this diagnosis. Schools can be mistaken. It sounds like everything is being done that should be done and you are right on track with your decision. You know your daughter best.

After much deliberation, we are getting her re-evaluated by an outside developmental team at the university. She doesn’t meet all the criteria of autism from our perspective. Hopefully they will be able to give some guidance on the holding back issue. We also have a meeting set up with our daughter’s teacher a couple days after her appointment. I’m looking forward to getting this all sorted out!

My daughter is a young 7th grader, who is an average student academically. As parents we are highly concernd that socially she is not where her peers are. She does have friends in her grade and a grade below. But she struggles to follow “teen” conversation and is very irresponsible in all areas of life. Ex: forgets homework, leaves and looses lunches, doesn’t turn on classwork even when she’s present, has to be told daily to brush teeth etc..When around cousins of the same age she becomes a follower because she doesn’t want to Admitshe doesn’t get it. We have thought about retention in the past but now see it as necessary. I’m welcoming all opinions. Is this a good reason for retention? Any similar situations? Please advise

If your daughter is served through special ed, you can request that she be evaluated for executive functioning issues, & provided social skills training. The national school psychologists’ association has taken the position that retention in general is not beneficial to students.

As I parent, I feel related to your issues. How is her attention level? Does she has difficulty with focusing? Issues with short attention could be a problem in following conversation and making friends. Your description sounds like there are some problems related to “executive function” (which are related to things such as chronic lateness, missing deadline, forgetting to turn in assignments, poor organization and time management). You may find helpful doing some research on this topic.
I am really not in favor of retention as I don’t think that this is a solution to the problem.

It sounds like she has bad work habits. Repeating a seventh grade won’t help. Instead, you should help her to develop better work habits. Behavior modification in the form of punishments and rewards could work in this situation. Make a chart and keep it on the wall in the kitchen. The chart should show her progress with check marks. You can put things like, “How many times forget lunch?” with a space for check mark. “Did homework on time and turned it in”, etc

For socialization, that’s just something she has to work on herself, no one can make it easier. Finally, make sure your daughter takes advantage of any tutoring that is available, either on campus or off. Call the principal and see if her school offers any; if it doesn’t call the local high school.

I have nine year old boy girl twins. My daughter is in the summer reading remedial program to get promoted to the fourth grade. My son stated that if his twin is not promoted he is not going to fourth grade. He wants to stay together. I am a firm believer of promotion with intensive intervention as opposed to retention.

Unfortunately I had a son that was retained in the third grade and he only regressed.

Also, unfortunately, my husband had a twin sister and she was retained in elementary school. It severed the bond between them when they were separated by grade level. His twin was referred to as the “stupid one”. It was and still is devastating.

I feel that my daughter will catch up as she is not far behind and I have the backing of the school adm but district won’t waive.

My child was placed in a Language Based Class for her mixed expressive recessive language disability / dyslexia.
It turns out she was repeating prior years and lower then last years curriculum. She is already 3 years behind in reading. I agreed to place her in The Language Development Class because she should have her classwork delivered the way kids with dyslexia need it. My daughter complained she was not studying what her peers studied for social studies. The special education teacher has refused to provide curriculum information and the principal told me it would have been unfair to the other students in same class if my daughter received 1:1 instruction at her grade level social studies class work. The principal later said he spoke out of content. Please advise.

My grandson started 3 grade in Florida six months ago after moving from Georgia. they want to retain him because of reading, mind you all the other subjects are A and B. I’m not agreeing with this, only because he hasn’t had sufficient time to progress. the teacher did offer help, that was only for a month of after school classes twice a week. Talking to him about the possibility of being in the 3rd grade again is horrific, he’s really devastated and doesn’t want to go to school. what do I do?

My son was held back due to the lack of work from teachers, due to he has a disability. what do i do?

My son is autistic and is on six grade, he is very small he is the size of a seven year old boy hardly verbal he is not ready for middle school physically or emotionally. We requested the school to retain him for one year, since he has never been retain to give a chance to mature little, but the school refuses. What are my rights and what can I do?

Please help. my son is 18 years old, he is still at grade 10, he repeat this class for the second time. he still likes to go to school, so am worried about the age.

Law states that students with special needs can stay in high school up until the age of 22. Every child is different. If he does not feel insecure about himself than he should be ok. He can also take an online class if he failed a particular subject.

Do not retained your child, Help your child and get them a tutorial. work with them at home. Make sure their in an after school tutorial for extra help. Dont ever retained your kids. I am an High school Junior thats suppose to be a graduating senior this year. I have gotten retained in the third grade. Don’t retain your child. Don’t hurt them. Eventually they will or try to hurt them selves. Its been plenty of times where I wanted to drop out or commit suicide. Too many times. Retaining doesn’t affect everyone the same way so dont retained your child thinking it will help. But it will only tire them.

ooh thank you so much for that,exactly my thoughts.

I’m in Mississippi the public county school is somewhat independent and you have to fail by a certain grade to take summer school or your child would just be retained!! an there is nothing you can do as a parent I’ve been fighting this for 2 months does anyone have any suggestions?

If you feel your child should not have been retained file an OCR-Office of Civil Rights Complaint

I retained my daughter in the 5’th grade She was always the youngest in her class and always struggled, about one year behind, The school talk me out of it for two years saying she doesn’t need to be retained, and basically NO! Honestly I didn’t know then..but it’s the parents decision. I’m glad I did it, turned out to be a positive thing for her

I’m so glad to be reading this. FINALLY, someone on my side. lol Yes, it is ultimately the parents’ decision. We are moving schools to an Arts School and my son will be repeating 1st grade. He has a full IEP and is VERY behind his peers. I can’t POSSIBLY imagine him succeeding at all as a 2nd grader next year. Research shows it’s not beneficial, that it won’t help…but what if it DOES? At least I will have tried everything. He is so far behind in all subjects and in the 1st percentile for math and the 3rd percentile for reading….what IF an extra year boosts him up? If even just in his confidence. I need to give it a try.

Where does it show it is the parents choice? No one will let me hold my son back!! He started kindergarten early and is too young to move to 6th grade middle school we moved specifically so he could redo 5th!

Always email your state board of education when you are confused about something.

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?

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.

May I ask how to do the process of home school?

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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?

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

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 .

I’m going through my little girl being retained myself and she can do everything that your child can do I cannot understand how this could help my child either but it looks like I have no choice because the principal is going to do whatever the teacher recommends so no matter what I say or or try to prove he is going to back his teacher up no how smart my little girl is?

They tried this with my grandson in K-5. I wrote the teacher a note saying I disagree and will not let him be retained. I had to go to the district in SC. The principal tried everything. She was even rude to me about it in the summer. She said two weeks into first grade I fear the teacher will come to me and say he needs to be in kindergarten. It didn’t happen. I took him to a pediatric doctor in behavior beds. He said he read the K-5 teacher questionnaire. She made it sound like he does not know anything but he surprised me because I didn’t know what I was getting. My grandson has high anxiety and ADHD along with learning disabilities. The doctor said he will shut down if he gets anxious and they want get anything out of him. He may have to be taught something 40 to 50 times.

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.

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!

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

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.


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,

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.

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.

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

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