Should my child be retained in first grade? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 17 Old 05-17-2005, 10:21 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Our oldest daughter is in first grade at a Catholic elementary school. After a long decision making process we chose this school for several reasons. She has been struggling in reading and sees the Reading Specialist several time each week. Her teacher first brought up the subject of retaining her in first grade in January. I thought this was a little early to be making this decision, as her problem is definitely reading and not the entire curriculum. I am a certified teacher and in January I left my job to work at home as a Freelance Writer, in part to be there more to work with her in reading.

We had an instructional support team meeting in March. Prior to the meeting, I had my sister in law (a reading specialist) test my daughter. She did a range of things and ruled out any specific disability, such as dyslexia or auditory processing. My SIL sees the problem as word attack skills and fluency. My daughter tested very high in comprehension. Even in reading passages where she had over 12 mistakes, she was able to answer the comprehension questions correctly. Her stanine scores throughout were all in the "average" range of between stanine four and six. This basically means she is scoring in the average range for her age group. Her self confidence has deteriorated greatly this year. She has made a few comments that lead us to believe she thinks someone is mad at her if she gets words wrong when reading.

I need some advice from moms or teachers. I don't know whether I should leave her there and let her stay in first, or move her to public school. THe high school in our area isn't great, so this decision would mean we have to move before HS. Personally, I don't think her reading is that bad to require retention. In other areas, she is doing ok and I think she'll be bored repeating much of the curriculum.

Also, if your child was retained, how do I approach the subject with her. When I ask her how school is she tells me "fine". She tells me she doesn't find anything too difficult. I'm worried about her self confidence if she is retained. Would a totally new environment be best? I'm afraid she'll be teased if she's retained and that will further damage her confidence. I'd really appreciate any advice anyone can give.
Thanks
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#2 of 17 Old 05-17-2005, 03:21 PM
 
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I am a teacher and a parent...It doesn't sound like your dd needs to be retained to me.
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My SIL sees the problem as word attack skills and fluency. My daughter tested very high in comprehension.
As a teacher, you know that comprehension really is the most important part of reading...if that is in order then it is very possible the word attack skills will even out by third grade.

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Her stanine scores throughout were all in the "average" range of between stanine four and six. This basically means she is scoring in the average range for her age group.
If this is the case, it very well could be the reading program the school is usung doesn't mesh with your dd thought processing. Is it whole or phonics based?

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I'm worried about her self confidence if she is retained.
There are several studies that suggest that the affect retention has on self esteem and future school performace is not good...

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#3 of 17 Old 05-17-2005, 04:11 PM
 
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From what you have posted, I'd tend to agree with the pp that I would personally be hesitant to retain her. You mention that the ps highschools in your area are not good. It does sound like a change of schools might benefit your dd at this point, though. Is it possible to change to ps for now & go back to private later (like hs or whenever you are no longer comfortable with the ps)?
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#4 of 17 Old 05-17-2005, 04:24 PM
 
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Another vote for not-retaining.

IMO, there are *generally* only negative results from repeating a grade. Your DD does not sound like an obvious choice to repeat, just someone who is a bit behind in one subject.

I would look into the 2nd grade teacher and see if you think she would be more supportive of your DD next year. I would not leave my DD in a situation where she is being convinced she is just not good enough.

 

 

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#5 of 17 Old 05-17-2005, 05:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the responses. I needed that reassurance before I go to the meeting scheduled for Monday. The curriculum is heavily phonics based. The problem is our local public school teaches reading in much the same way from what I've heard. She is definitely not phonetic and her main problem has been with vowel sounds. When we lived in Florida, I taught in a holistic school that she would have thrived in.

BTW, I mentioned the research against retention in a recent conversation with the school psychologist. I recently heard a statistic that said kids held back have a 50% chancae of dropping out. She pretty much blew it off and said that only happens if they're held back AFTER first grade. This doesn't make much sense to me.
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#6 of 17 Old 05-17-2005, 06:54 PM
 
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What have your interactions been like with the school? You mentioned the school psychologist - what about the administration and her classroom teacher? How do you feel they have been dealing with your daughter's reading experiences? It sounds a bit like the school has a rather narrow, lock-step attitude to the learning process, which may not be doing justice to your daughter. If you asked for her to be promoted rather than retained, would they respect this? Do you know the second grade teacher, and whether s/he might work well with your daughter?

Retention seems drastic under the circumstances - your daughter's fluency and word attack difficulties sound to me like the usual type of challenge with which a primary grade teacher would expect to be faced. If she is already seemingly showing stress and self-esteem problems around reading, the negatives about retention might well outweigh the positives, particularly if she is retained in a class where the teaching method isn't working for her anyway. What would doing it all again the same way accomplish?
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#7 of 17 Old 05-17-2005, 09:59 PM
 
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I have to chime in against retaining her (I guess that's the new word for it, but I don't see how its any better than "held back").

Have you considered an ungraded school, like an "open optional", or possibly a Montessori? They are fantastic for just this type of issue, because if one 7-yr-old is at (arbitrarily set for the purpose of discussion) level 8 in reading, 4 in math, and 5 in writing, and her friend, also 7 yrs old, is at level 2 in reading, 9 in math, and 6 in writing -- that's okay, and they're still in the same class.

My dd is in a school that clumps 2 grades together in each class, and it works great for that.

Good luck.

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#8 of 17 Old 05-18-2005, 08:49 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Don't you just love the word retention, like it's somehow better than "held back." At our last meeting, the school psychologist said she didn't see much evidence for retention. During our last phone conversation, she seemed to be changing her tune. They are using "maturity" as a justification and say thing like "it may be good for her to have some more time with reading in first grade." I am wondering if the psychologist isn't feeling pressure from within the school.

I taught in a school in Florida that uses multi age grouping. I taught in a K/1 class and once had a boy who had been recommended for retention in K. By January, we realized he was doing first grade level work and we moved him up to first. He did great. For this reason, I think "maturity" will come without being held back. My SIL worked in a Montessori school for years, but from what she's told me about tuition, that just isn't an option for us right now.
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#9 of 17 Old 05-18-2005, 10:46 AM
 
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I agree with the other posters. It doesn't sound like retention is the right plan, but perhaps more emotional support and less pressure from the school. Given that she sounds like a fairly sensitive child (self esteem issues you mentioned from her experience this year) she is likely to be quite upset about being held back. I'd be likely to fight for a more supportive approach and moving her on to 2nd grad.

Edited to add: Is the school aware of the testing results from your SIL? If she could put them in writing this might help. Or you could ask them to do some testing in school while there is still time, and compare the results to the ones your SIL got.

 
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#10 of 17 Old 05-18-2005, 11:50 AM
 
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From what I have read, I'd tend to disagree with the school psych's assertion that the negative consequences of retention only apply to kids who are retained in later grades (e.g. - it doesn't apply to first graders who are retained). This article: http://nces.ed.gov/programs/quarterl...ndergarten.asp
deals with retention in kindergarten &, although not conclusive, does raise some concerns with later performance of kids retained in kindergarten.

This article: http://www.journal.naeyc.org/btj/200...yingKEntry.pdf again deals with delayed kindergarten entry (I was researching that subject b/c both of my children are within a few days of the cut-off), but also addresses retention. It does cite that study that you mentioned about higher drop-out rates for retained children &, as far as I can tell, it is not only applicable to children who were held back in upper grades.

This one: http://www.nasponline.org/publications/sprsum283.html deals a lot with children from low SES backgrounds (not meaning to imply that is you!), but I found this quote interesting: "While between 2 and 10% of children are retained in kindergarten [again, I know you're not talking about kindergarten] each year, there is no clear evidence that retention is beneficial and there is some evidence that children's self-concept and academic motivation may be negatively effected. Some children are enrolled in transition programs in between their Kindergarten and 1st grade year, but make less academic progress in these programs than similarly at-risk children enrolled in regular programs."

Good luck at your meeting. I have been very frustrated in dealing with our local school when I try to present research to them that contradicts what they believe b/c I am not the "expert." : I hope that you have a better experience.
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#11 of 17 Old 05-18-2005, 02:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the links, Christa. I looked online today and printed out some of the research against retention. I will check your links for more supporting evidence. Low SES isn't the problem, but her school has a fairly typical private school population of middle class to upper middle class white students. Schools like this typically don't have as many of the lower end kids on the achievement scale, which would explain why she stands out even though her scores are within the "normal" range for her age.

This is one reason we think she may do better in a public school. (or not stand out as much.) DH has a co worker who had the same problem with our daughter's school. They wanted to hold back his son, but the opted to move him into public school. Apparently, he is thriving there and has never been left back. I just don't want to give her the impression that it's ok to take the easy way out. One of the reasons we opted for Catholic school in the first place is their ability to prepare kids better for college. The friends I had in Catholic school had an easier time in college than my public school friends, and more of them graduated.

It's so difficult to know the right decision. I told DH I wish I had a looking glass ten years into the future to know what the best decision is for her.
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#12 of 17 Old 05-18-2005, 02:54 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by writermommy
I just don't want to give her the impression that it's ok to take the easy way out.
We had a tough time with that one, too. My older dd is currently a first grader, too. She is doing great academically (they tested the kids for grade level equivalency for reading & math apparently & she is 2-4 grade levels above her current grade for everything), but this year was awful due to the pressure & a drill sergeant of a teacher.

We didn't want to give her the impression that it was okay to quit (i.e. - change classes, homeschool, etc.) b/c things were hard. However, her self esteem was being completely destroyed. Despite the fact that she was doing well, it was never enough & she would come home saying things like, "I'm so stupid; I wish that I had never been born." It really scared me. I don't want my dd to be depressed & I don't want her to hate learning. It is significantly more important to me that she likes to read (for instance) than that she can read above grade level.

We ultimately decided to take her out of school & homeschool for the rest of this year (not suggesting that you should do this). Rather than teaching her that she can quit, it seems to have taught her that she should do the best that she can, but if it isn't working, that it is okay to move on. She has also very clearly articulated to me that she is aware that I will support her & stand up for her, which makes me feel just wonderful. I want her to know that I am in her corner.

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It's so difficult to know the right decision. I told DH I wish I had a looking glass ten years into the future to know what the best decision is for her.
I want that looking glass, too :LOL !
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#13 of 17 Old 05-18-2005, 02:54 PM
 
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High school is so far into the future at this point that it shouldn't be a consideration in this decision. You can switch her into the catholic HS later if you feel that is better.

It sounds like moving her into the public system for now would be better. It is not taking the easy way out. Why leave her in a system that isn't helping her learn the best she can? You mentioned she isn't phonetic, could you work with her over the summer in a way that she learns better so that she has an easier time in Aug/Sept.
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#14 of 17 Old 05-18-2005, 07:21 PM
 
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I wonder why they think her "maturity" level would benefit from spending a year with children younger than her, doing the same work as the previous year? I would think the opposite.

It certainly makes sense that if she has great comprehension despite problems with individual words, a more holistic approach to reading would capitalize on her strengths.
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#15 of 17 Old 05-20-2005, 12:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all your great advice. I appreciate it so much. I have one more question, how much say do parents really have in the decision to retain a child? If I go in to the meeting on Monday and they say they want to hold her back, what can I do? Do public schools do what Catholic schools suggest? or will they independently evaluate the child? I know there are a lot of teachers here, so maybe you can give me some clues as to how it all works. I taught in a multi age level grouping school, so she would have been placed in a first and second combined class and the teacher would evaluate how she is working. As far as I know, there aren't any schools who group this way near us.
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#16 of 17 Old 05-20-2005, 06:26 PM
 
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In our district, at least in elementary school, I am positive that the decision is 100% the parents'. The school/teacher can tell you that they think s/he should be held back, but the parent can say "no," and there is nothing that the school can do about it. As to whether that is the case elsewhere, I do not know .
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#17 of 17 Old 05-20-2005, 09:12 PM
 
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It's also the case in our PS district that it's up to the parents. However, a couple of kids who went on to first grade against the school's advice were sent back to kindergarten after trying first grade for awhile, which makes me wonder if the school really supports the parents' decision. I think moving into PS from private school you'd be in a better position- the PS would hopefully be more open-minded and would evaluate your child independently.
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