Social promotion never works for anyone. But is retention always harmful? If the school is going to give the child extra services which were never given before, wouldn’t retention be a good idea?
We get hundreds of emails about retention every year. I don’t recall one in which the school proposed to provide more intensive services.
Pete and I teach a special education law and advocacy course. One of our law students is typical.
The school proposed to retain his daughter in the 1st grade. The school would not change her program, but said retention would give her “more time to learn 1st grade material.”
When the parents met with school officials and requested that the school evaluate her to determine if she has a learning disability or another problem that is contributing to her reading problems, the school refused to evaluate. On the prior written notice (PWN) was this statement: “student is making some progress in one-to-one Reading Recovery sessions.”
So they want to retain because:
- she needs “more time to learn the material”
But they won’t evaluate her because:
- she is “making some progress”
We know how this story usually ends. Evaluation for special ed in 3rd or 4th grade – reading skills still at the 1st-2nd grade level. Most special ed teachers don’t know how to remediate or don’t have time to provide remediation. So there is a good chance this youngster will become another Shannon Carter, illiterate when she enters 10th grade.
You’ve heard us say before, Reading Recovery is not designed to be used for children who may have a learning disability. There is very little research that supports its use with any population. If a child drops out or is withdrawn, that child is not counted in the success rates. If children make gains in the program, most or all disappear by 3rd grade.
We also get emails that are somewhat pro-retention from parents whose children have more severe disabilities and are very far behind their peers.
I don’t believe in one-size-fits all solutions to problems. I think there are children for whom retention may not be harmful. I also think these kids are a very very small minority.