Retention! Special Ed Teacher
Sue Whitney, Research Editor, Wrightslaw
am a third year special ed teacher in California. I am having a big
disagreement with my mentor about retention.
I say research shows that retention is not successful. It is inappropriate
to suggest retention for students with IEPs. (I
believe it violates the spirit of IDEA, if not the letter of the law.)
Can you suggest any resources or caselaw that is relevant to this
P.S. My mentor teacher says I feel this way because I am "new"
but after I have taught as long as he has, I will see things differently
. . . I hope not!
Your mentor teacher is wrong on this one. As you will see in the articles below, many respected organizations and departments of education do not support retention. What research is your mentor relying upon to support his position?
Regardless of whether a child has a disability, retention is not an educationally sound practice.
Association of School Psychologists speaks against the use of
retention. The American
Federation of Teachers opposes it. The U.S. Department of Education
does not support it.
The definition of special education is "specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability." 20 U.S.C. 1401(29) (Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, page 55)
It would be difficult for a school to successfully argue at a due process hearing that they provided a program of "specially designed instruction . . . to meet the unique needs of a child," while also acknowledging that they did not teach the child the information he needs to know, so they want to retain him.
If retention is a problem at your school, you may want to pass these
publications on to the principals and parent groups. You can also
print and distribute the Wrightslaw Retention
will provide plenty of support for your position!
Statement on Student Grade Retention and Social Promotion (National Association of School Psychologists) "Through many years
of research, the practice of retaining children in grade has been
shown to be ineffective in meeting the needs of children who are
Two Wrong Solutions (American Federation of Teachers)
"Social promotion and grade retention are mechanical responses to
an educational problem. The scandal is how little attention they
give to preventing failure in the first place."
Primary Interest (Published cooperatively by the Colorado
Department of Education, Iowa Department of Education, Missouri
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Montana Office
of Public Instruction, Nebraska Department of Education) "For the
vast majority of students, retention has a negative effect on their
academic achievement. Children who are overage for their grade are
more likely to drop out of school."
Grade Retention Fallacy (Harvard Civil Rights Project [now The Civil Rights Project UCLA]) "Research tells us that fear and humiliation are not the strongest
motivators for struggling students."
Ending Social Promotion (U. S.
Department of Education) "Neither social promotion nor retention
is appropriate for students who do not meet high academic standards."
Intervention Works, Grade Retention Doesn't (
Exploring the Association Between Grade Retention and Dropout
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Meet Sue Whitney
Sue Whitney of Manchester, New Hampshire, works with families as a special education advocate and is the research editor for Wrightslaw.
In her column, Doing Your Homework, Sue writes about reading, research based instruction, and creative strategies for using education standards to advocate for children and to improve public schools.
Sue's 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 is the co-author of Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind (ISBN: 978-1-892320-12-4) that was
published by Harbor House Law Press, Inc..
She also served on New Hampshire's Special Education State
Committee on the Education of Students/Children with Disabilities
Sue Whitney's bio.
© 2002-2020 by Suzanne Whitney.