Ask the Teacher: Is retention the answer for child who can’t keep up?


Q: My daughter is in the second grade, and she cries because she can't keep up with her classmates. Is this a reason to hold her back next year?

A: We rarely favor retention, because it does not help most students. Instead, we like to see interventions done as early as possible to bring a child up to grade level. Meet with your child's teacher immediately to get the teacher's perspective on your child's ability to handle the work. Find out what the school can do to get your child on track. Find out whether a tutor would be a good idea. Find out what good opportunities there are in your area for more help this summer: summer school, college remedial programs, learning centers. Also, find out what you can do to improve your child's skills.

Your daughter would appear to be young for a second-grader. On the positive side, young children change fast. Your daughter may suddenly catch up with some help.

Parents do need to think long and hard about enrolling very young children in kindergarten who just make the cut-off date. This decision becomes important later on if the young child encounters a lot of difficulty in the early grades and retention is considered. Retention is almost always a traumatic event for children.

Parents should send questions and comments to or go to

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