Bad report cards, behavioral issues or difficulty fitting in may all contribute to your child getting a recommendation to repeat a grade. If students are struggling, pressuring them to move to a higher grade may exacerbate the problem. Academic issues, problems outside of school or a lack of maturity may encourage educators to hold students back on the assumption that this will allow the child to grow and catch up. Unfortunately, studies do not back up the colloquial belief that repeating grades is beneficial to students.
When students aren’t coping with the workload or with social responsibilities, it seems logical to give them some extra time to catch up. However, psychological studies conducted on students who repeated a grade suggest that this may have damaging long-term effects on them both socially and academically.
What the Studies Show
A study by the National Association of School Psychologists showed that students who were held back performed worse than those who had the same grades and were allowed to graduate. Repeating a grade does initiate an improvement in grades in the first year, but the improvement is short-lived and peters out after a year or two.
Holmes and Matthews (1984) reviewed 44 studies that looked at the long-term effects of grade retention and found that promoted students had higher grades, better personal adjustment and more positive attitudes toward school than students who had been kept back a grade.
Long-term studies show that students who were kept back perform worse than students with similar grades who were moved forward in reading, math and language skills with reading suffering the most. Not only do these students experience deteriorating academic performances, they also have higher instances of social and behavioral issues which increase in frequency through adolescence and result in a much higher dropout rate.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 2006, students who drop out are five times more likely to have repeated a grade.
What you can do to Help
If your student is experiencing social or academic loads that are beyond their capabilities, moving them forward into the next grade unassisted may only exacerbate the problem. Enlist help in dealing with these issues so that your child has a support network outside of the school system.
For academic assistance, turn to an in-home private tutor who is able to find the missing building blocks in your child’s knowledge and fill these so they have a great foundation to build on. Ensure that your one-on-one tutor also teaches executive skills; those vital organizational and study skills that give your child the tools they need to succeed.
Use the summer to help them to catch up and then monitor their progress in the new academic year. Get more involved in your child’s school and form a positive relationship with your teachers. Your teachers are the very best source for advice on how to help your child and provide an academically supportive environment where they can learn and grow.