This is a question I hear often at the end of the school year. My professional opinion…sometimes.
To help you decide, a few questions, and some answers. First, who thinks this is a good idea—parents, teachers, or the child himself? Second, why does it seem a good idea? And third, what are some other options?
Parents know their children best, and are often accurate about the need for another year in the same grade. Teachers sometimes recommend this if a child is struggling in academic or social areas. And sometimes the child himself will say he is “not ready” or will express significant worries about moving on.
- Is the child less mature in social skills or behavior or attention span?
- Does she have a summer birthday?
- Was he a premature baby?
- Does she have a history of taking longer to master tasks such as walking, toileting, talking in full sentences, using scissors, learning letters or numbers?
- Has he struggled with expectations this year in school?
- Does he have frequent “meltdowns” because he’s exhausted from the day, doesn’t want to or can’t do the homework?
Next, do these problems seem to be the result of a learning disability? If so, and if this disability involves one or more major academic areas, and the child is on an IEP, then repeating a grade is not likely to be much help. A child with a learning disability does not need more time to “mature”. He learns in a different way. He needs specially designed instruction to access the curriculum.
There may be an exception for a child in Kindergarten or first grade who is getting the right instruction, but you think he could consolidate his skills to a significant degree with another year of focused help with that curriculum. But in most cases, children with learning disabilities need to move on with their peers and continue to receive remedial instruction that is adapted, specialized, and designed for their individual needs.
A child who does not have an appropriate IEP should never repeat a grade unless he has failed to meet expectations (measured by grades and skills) and now a significant remedial program is being put in place.
I have written a lot about mastery, in my blogs and in my book for parents, and I think it is the benchmark we should all be using for most children. However, if we wait until a child with special needs reaches “grade level” skills, they may take 2 or 3 years—or more—for each grade. This is not realistic.
Repeating a grade, with the same curriculum and the same type of instruction, is only appropriate in a few cases—when there has been a very poor match between expectations and performance, due to real “developmental immaturity”. Schools will sometimes suggest it for a child whose learning difficulties have not yet been diagnosed. A good independent evaluation will help parents and schools decide.
As always, I welcome your comments and questions. Please share this blog with other parents and professionals who might find it interesting. Enjoy the rest of spring!