Alternatives To Retention

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Holding your child back a grade is rarely the answer to school woes. Social promotion solely for the sake of keeping your child on track with their peers can also backfire.  If your child is struggling now, advancing them a grade when they haven't mastered their current grade level means they won't have the expected skills they are supposed to be expanding on in the next grade level.

If you shouldn't hold them back, and you shouldn't advance them forward, you might feel like there is nothing left you can do.

There are several strategies you can try.

Each child who struggles in school has their own unique situation.  A one size fits all answer to the retention dilemma can't be given, but there are several different strategies you can look at instead of holding your child back a grade level.  Most likely a combination of strategies will help to bring your child up to grade level skills so they can advance a grade successfully.

Check For Learning Disabilities 

If your child has consistently struggled with particular learning tasks, you may want to check with the school about having your child tested for learning disabilities.  Learning disabilities do not develop suddenly, so if your child has struggled with the same task throughout their time in school it is a good indicator that there may be an underlying learning disability.

Extended Deadlines

If your child faced a temporary setback due to an injury or a life changing event, speak with the teachers to see if some extra time to complete and turn in assignments would help.

 Extra time to complete assignments may also be a good strategy for children who have been identified as having a learning disability or accommodations through a 504 plan or IEP.

Classroom Accommodations

Does your child need more of a hands-on learning style?  Do they need extra repetition?  Today's teachers are constantly learning new methods and ways to engage their students.

 Creative teachers look at what their students know and how their students learn to create a learning program that reaches all of their students.  Still, some students may have deeper needs that the teacher is not aware of.  Does your child frequently lose school work? Then a special place in the classroom to keep supplies and school work may help them.  Does your child get distracted easily?  Moving to a quieter area of the classroom may help.  

Homework Club or After School Program  

Today's families are busier than ever.  Most families have two parents working outside the home, all while trying to manage getting children to and from various activities.  Having a consistent time and space outside of the regular school day is particularly challenging for many parents to provide.  This is where homework clubs and after-school programs can help children excel.  These programs provide a the consistency needed to get work done, with an adult present who can help out with homework as needed.


Summer tutoring  

Use the summer break to fill in the gaps.  For summer tutoring to be effective, you need to have a clear understanding of what specific skills your child needs to work on for them to be at grade level.  Be sure to get copies of standardized test scores, school work, and find out from teachers the specific of what your child is missing.  Use this information to find tutoring help that will bring your child up in grade level.  

Some school districts offer summer school programs for children who meet their retention guidelines.  While the school district policy may state that a child who has earned poor grades or standardized test scores is required to attend a program before they can advance a grade, these programs do not always address the specific learning gaps that a child may have.  Some school districts offer very generalized programs that may help a little, but won't be enough to fill in each individual child's unique learning gap.  Talk with the school personnel about what the summer program will and won't provide, and what other resources you can use to fill in any remaining gaps.

Study and Learning Skills  

Sometimes a child or teen simply needs to learn better skills for studying and learning in the classroom.  Once these children learn how to learn, they can glean the missing pieces as they continue forward.  Without these skills, they continue to sink.  Parents can help by ensuring children have a good place to work on homework and a consistent schedule and plan to do so.  Additional study skills can be gained by going to tutoring or summer programs designed to help students gain these specific skills.  

Social Skills  

What really makes a child a good candidate for being held back is their overall development compared to their grade level.  Their social skills and behavior with peers is a huge part of the overall picture. Some children who act immature for their age may need some specific help in social skills.  Children who are on the autism spectrum often need specific teaching of social skills.  Sometimes children who are not on the autism spectrum may need a little extra social coaching as well.  Many communities have resources and programs available.  Where and how parents can access this help varies greatly between different communities  Your child's school teacher or school counselor should be able to help you find referrals to local agencies or programs that can provide social skill support for children and teens.

Two strategies that every parent should pursue when their child is struggling are to Get Involved Early and Increase Communication With Teacher.  If your child is struggling in school, the earlier you  start to work with the school to find the solutions the faster problems can be addressed - before the situation worsens any further.  If you have concerns about your child's grades or progress in school, talk with the teacher to find out what you can do to help your child.

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