HBmom's picture

Should my 1st-grader be retained or advanced?

I am struggling with a decision that I know many other parents are now facing. Should I retain or advance my six-year-old son? My husband and I want to do what's best for him in the current school climate, but we're not sure what that is. Much of the research I've encountered on retention was conducted before "No Child Left Behind" was implemented and school became harder. The situation has changed and the issues are not what they once were. My son's teachers and his principal all admit that school is significantly harder than it used to be. CA administrators, in an effort to increase school accountability and save failing schools have increased student expectations and made school more challenging. The kinder curriculum is now what first grade used to be and so on. Consequently, many parents, particularly those with boys and those with kids with summer birthdays, are delaying the start of kindergarten or enroll students in programs like "preppie-K". My son has no apparent delays or disabilities but he has consistently struggled in school, particularly with reading. He has had slow-developing but "normal" for his age fine motor skills which makes writing difficult. He didn't have a dominant hand for writing until the end of kinder. I've been told this is a developmental thing and he just needs to grow up a bit. He also struggles a bit with problem solving and critical thinking, again, something that comes with time. He was born at the end of June and is among the lowest 30% in age for his class. His teacher informed me that his test scores now would exceed the expectations under the "older" system, but are just under what they should be for benchmarks now. If he were to get a letter grade for 1st grade at this point it would be a D+. His teacher has not recommended him for retention, but I am considering it because school and homework is such a challenge. Doing homework involves 45 minutes of combat every day and I cringe at the thought of what second grade holds for us. He attends a very affluent school with high parental involvement and expectations. I've been told the school is a bit of an anomaly this way and that the expectations are not quite as high at other schools in the district. The class is extremely high performing and many of his friends are reading at a second grade level or higher, which he compares himself to. His confidence suffers. Do I advance him and hope that he will eventually catch up and that things will even out when he gets to middle school? Or, do I retain him and help him and boost his reading skills and confidence? We don't expect perfection. Not every child is a straight A student, but we want him to be confident and not feel such pressure. Any thoughts on this?

mayamay's picture

Break the homework session up. Shake a die before you start. If the die rolls a 5, do five problems or spelling words or reading pages, whatever it is, then take a break TOGETHER and burn some energy for five minutes. Do large motor activities with lots of laughing. Even if the die rolls a 1, do one thing and then take a one minute break. It is optimal to do no more than 10 minutes of homework per grade level. 1st graders--10 minutes, 2nd graders--20 minutes. So, if he can only get 3 items done in 10 minutes, then you have 3 minutes of energy burning, giggling break time together. After that, homework time is over and regular evening family activities commence.
Ask the teacher which worksheet he/she wants you to concentrate on. The attitude toward schoolwork is a really important factor in school success. If it is a battle, your child will hate school.

I learned something on these boards. Some lady, instead of focusing on grades, asks her kids these questions when teacher conferences come up: Did you turn things in complete and on time? Did you put in effort? Did you learn something?

jprice_85's picture

i agree with mayamay. But if you do retain him, I would make sure that you have a small summer curriculum for him. Maybe something that you two can work on 2-3 hours a day (broken up). I'm pretty sure his teacher can give you some worksheets and examples to help you. This way, when he does start school again, he will hopefully be on track with the regular curriculum and will not struggle as much. Also, it could just be his age, and holding him back a year could just even things out.