Kindergarten Retention - Making the Right Choice

kindergarten retention
With Common Core coming into the forefront and as the rigor placed on five year olds increases, teachers are questioning the idea of retention for some of their students for a variety of reasons.

This is the time of year when many teachers start looking at the academic progress and the social/emotional growth of their students.  They may come to the conclusion that a specific student may not be ready for first grade.  So what does a teacher do?  As educators, especially if we have been teaching for a few years, we know when a student is ready or not.  We know what will be asked of them in the coming school year and we may question if what is in their futre after summer vacation is something that might not be right.

Now is the time when this conversation with the parents needs to occur.  Parents need time to think about it.  Retaining a child does not come lightly to any teacher.  It isn't the magic cure for all students  and for some it could prove to be more detrimental then promoting them on to the next grade level. From the parents perspective, no parent ever wants to admit that their child is struggling.  

Children who are socially or emotionally young may express their frustration through a variety of behaviors.  Many of these behaviors are undesirable and can cause the child to stand out from his or her peers.  You may notice one or more of the following behaviors.
  • Shows signs of not wanting to attend school
  • Does not focus or pay attention
  • Scribbles on classwork
  • Cries repeatedly or has tantrums
  • Continuously interrupts
  • Exhibits aggressive behavior towards other students
  • Wets their pants

Teachers need to present both sides to the parents.  Show them the growth their child has made.  Show them where their child should be and then show them what first grade expectations will be like.  If it is just academics that a student is lacking, retention might not be the answer, especially if a student is an older 5 year old. If they have already turned six, retention would make them be turning 7 years old in kindergarten.  This would surely not  be appropriate. Are they just young and imature but have the academics?  That too is a question that needs to be looked at.    

I actually held a retention conference last week.  The mom volunteers weekly in my classroom.  She is aware that her child is far behind his peers.  She finds it difficult to get him to do homework or sit and listen to stories or practice letters and numbers.  When I asked her how she would feel about having him repeat kindergarten her first words were "I would feel sad, but happy that he will get another chance to be successful" As his teacher I will continue to push him to succeed and to learn, but I can take some of the pressure off of myself knowing that we have another year to fit it all in.   As for his mom, she too will continue to support him at home, but doesn't need to fight him over practicing letters and numbers.  She can let him learn on his own to enjoy learning.  He has been given "The Gift of Time". 

As teachers, we always want to do what is best for the child.  We don't make the decision to retain a child hastily.  We ponder it, we think about it weighing the pros and cons, we discuss it with our grade level colleagues and our intervention specialists. Ultimately in the end the decision must be made by the parents.  It is our job as educators to give the parents all of the information regarding their child that they need so they can make an informed decision.  Once we present the information, we must continue to be there to support and guide them through this difficult decision.

Does your school offer support and guidance to help parents make this difficult decision?  How do you go about making this recomendation?

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