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Why Retain? - It Didn't Work the First Time
by Sue Whitney, Research Editor, Wrightslaw

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Michelle Asks:

"The school wants to retain my son. He is in kindergarten with an IEP. His latest DIBELS test shows him to be at moderate risk of failure in some areas and high risk in others.

I've read that retention is not a good option and that any short term gains disappear in the long run.  

The principal says that he has 'recent' research that shows the benefits of retention. He says the recommendations for phonological awareness instruction is too new to show the long term benefits of retention."

Sue Responds:

The reason for progress monitoring is to know if and when more intensive reading instruction is needed, not to see who should redo the same unsuccessful reading instruction all over again for a second year.

Ask the person who is quoting the retention "research" for a copy of what he is talking about. Otherwise, ignore it.

The Real Issue

If your son could have learned to read with this type and level of instruction he would have already learned to read.

The principal is just attempting to take the focus off the real issue.  Your son has not learned to read even after several tiers of increased intensity of instruction.

1. You should copy the National Association of School Psychologist's (NASP) position statement on grade retention to clarify the retention discussion.

2. Write a letter requesting a complete evaluation to determine if your child has a disability.
Go to this Parent Information Center website to find a sample letter requesting an evaluation. On the left hand column, click on "Special Education." Under "Resources/Publications" you'll find a listing of "Sample Letters."

Definition of Reading

The term 'reading' means a complex system of deriving meaning from print that requires all of the following:

(A) The skills and knowledge to understand how phonemes, or speech sounds, are connected to print.

(B) The ability to decode unfamiliar words.

(C) The ability to read fluently.

(D) Sufficient background information and vocabulary to foster reading comprehension.

(E) The development of appropriate active strategies to construct meaning from print.

(F) The development and maintenance of a motivation to read.

20 U.S.C. § 6368 (5) No Child Left Behind

Florida Center for Reading Research

This is information on what an appropriate reading evaluation should contain

The National Center for Learning Disabilities has an excellent checklist to use to refine your concerns and to help you ask the referral team to investigate all areas of concern.

The American Federation of Teachers website has an excellent article about the need to avoid delay in getting appropriate instruction, Preventing Early Reading Failure
Framework for Informed Reading and Language Instruction: Matrix of Multisensory Structured Language Programs. This publication from the International Dyslexia Association explains different reading programs and what they cover. These programs, when properly implemented, have been successful in teaching students to read, write, and use language.

If you get the run around please do not hesitate to check in again for additional information or links.

Good Luck,

Sue Whitney

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Created: 02/25/09
Revised: 01/14/11

Meet Sue Whitney

Sue Whitney of Merrimack, New Hampshire, is the research editor for Wrightslaw.

Sue is the co-author of Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind (ISBN: 978-1-892320-12-4) that is published by Harbor House Law Press.

In Doing Your Homework, she writes about reading, research based instruction, No Child Left Behind, and creative strategies for using federal education standards to advocate for children and to improve public schools. Her articles have been reprinted by SchwabLearning.org, EducationNews.org, Bridges4Kids.org, The Beacon: Journal of Special Education Law and Practice, the Schafer Autism Report, and have been used in CLE presentations to attorneys. Sue Whitney's bio.

Sue has served on New Hampshire's Special Education State Advisory Committee on the Education of Students/Children with Disabilities (SAC) and has been a volunteer educational surrogate parent. She currently works with families as a special education advocate.

Copyright © 2002-2015 by Suzanne Whitney.

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