Is there Wisdom in Making Students Repeat the Year?

It is interesting to read that after shelving their policy of holding students back, schools are starting to revisit the notion of making students repeat the year.

Whilst I’m not an advocate of such a policy and up until now research seems to suggest if anything, it will do more harm to a child than good, I am open to it as an option. There is simply no point moving certain children up a grade. It is unfair to a child to be promoted to a grade based solely on psychological impact rather than academic necessity. I wonder whether the past research has proven so negative against the notion of holding back students because most schools do not have the support structure to make such a move accommodating and palatable for children.

The shift in thinking has come about, partly because recent research into this area has been far more supportive of retention policies:

Thousands of third-graders may have a sense of déjà vu on the first day of school this year: The number of states that require third-graders to be held back if they can’t read increased to 13 in the last year.

Retention policies are controversial because the research is mixed for students who are held back, but a report published on August 16th by the Brookings Institution suggests that at least for younger children who struggle with reading, repeating a grade may be beneficial.

The report, which examined a decade-old retention policy in Florida, was authored by Martin West of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He argues that “the decision to retain a student is typically made based on subtle considerations involving ability, maturity, and parental involvement that researchers are unable to incorporate into their analyses. As a result, the disappointing outcomes of retained students may well reflect the reasons they were held back in the first place rather than the consequences of being retained.”

West comes to the following conclusion:

“Retained students continue to perform markedly better than their promoted peers when tested at the same grade level and, assuming they are as likely to graduate high school, stand to benefit from an additional year of instruction.”

There is no doubt that the psychological impact of the child should be our number one priority, but I believe that good, supportive schools can help effectively transition children to make repeating a year a far more positive experience.

Click on the link to read Teaching Children to Deal with Embarrassment

Click on the link to read What our System Does to Children Without Attention Spans

Click on the link to read Lessons Children Can Learn from the London Olympics

Click on the link to read A Class Full of Class Captains

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