Imagine that you are a second grade teacher. Your principal suggests that one of your students who performed poorly this year repeat second grade next year. Given what you know about the research on retention, how would you respond? I would ask the principal to reconsider his decision and to examine the student’s situation more carefully to make an informed decision. First I would present the scientific results on retention students. According to the scientific study, retention has negative effects on students rather than positive.
It’s a misconception that many think retention will solve for the poor performance because they are learning the same material all over again. If the student is having poor academic skills, he will continue to have poor academic skill if it’s not being addressed appropriately. Retention will not address the cause of the student’s poor performance. On the contrary, when students are kept back, they are more likely to exhibit reactance — displaying social and mental health problems, such as negative attitudes toward teachers and school, misbehavior, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and so forth.
Also scientific research show retained students are 40 to 50 more likely than nonretained students to drop out of school. Moreover, low achieving children who are promoted learn at least as much, if not more, the following year, have a stronger self-concept, and are better adjusted emotionally than similar children who are retained. Second, I would present my suggestions and recommendations as to what to do with the student. I believe it’s more important to find ways to provide the learning supports the students need when they are not doing well at school.
We need to figure out the root cause of the student’s poor performance in school and then address it accordingly. Was it due to inappropriate forms of instruction or would it be due to outside stresses. If it’s due to inappropriate instruction, we can find ways to adapt to the student’s learning style and then instruct accordingly. If more support is needed we can also provide one on one help after school as well. If it’s due to family stress, we will schedule a meeting with the student’s parents and address it at the meeting.
At last, I would also convey to his third grade teacher about his situation and what he needs to work on in order to catch up with his peers. If the root cause is not addressed properly, retain the student for one more year might show some temporarily academic improvement, but the student is most likely to lag behind again in subsequent years. I suggest we look deeper into the student’s situation and provide the necessary support needed to do well in the class.
Thirdly, I would like to schedule a meeting with the student’s parents and make sure the parent is aware of the current situation. We will inform the student’s parents of his poor academic performance and offer them the options we have to help the student. At last we will ask for the parents’ inputs and thoughts on the situation. I believe working as a team, the school, teacher, and parents will produce the best result. At the end I would sincerely ask the principal to allow sometime to rethink the situation to come up with a solution that is best for the student in the long term.