Ask Dr. Blank: Should You Consider Holding Your Child Back Next Year?

The question of holding back a child when schools re-open is important and one deserving of careful attention. If one’s focus is solely on mastering academic  content, grade retention seems appealing since it allows students the opportunity to learn material that has been missed. However, studies of long term outcome indicate that the results are generally not positive. Children’s self-esteem plummets, causing a negative impact on both academic achievement (in reading, math, and language) and on socio-emotional adjustment (in terms of peer relationships and problem behaviors). Students who are retained are also more likely to be the ones who drop out of school. If it is at all possible, parents should aim to find other ways of helping their children master the material that was not covered. To do this, they can consult with school officials, turn to internet sources and find tutors to work with their children before the schools re-open. A good source of tutors is available via competent high school students. The costs then are not high and younger children find working with teenagers to be a special treat. If quarantine measures are in place, the tutoring can be carried out via zoom or other video communications. Parents should explore the resources that their school system and town make available. In addition, parents might find it valuable to create advocacy groups that meet with school officials to work out ways in which the schools, once they re-open, might offer extra time and additional materials to bring the students up to speed.

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