School Year

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The pros and cons of repeating a grade

The majority of students move up a grade each fall. However, some students may not be ready to move on to the next grade come the end of the school year.

Educators and parents often have to make the challenging decision of whether to have a student repeat a year — called grade retention — or to engage in social promotion. There are pros and cons to both sides of this debate, and oftentimes the decision comes down to parental preference, test scores and the recommendations of teachers and administrators regarding the best decision for each individual student.

Grade retention can be an emotionally charged issue, but having students repeat a grade is sometimes necessary. The following examination of the advantages and disadvantages of grade retention may help families make informed decisions and help them do what's best for the child.

Pros

1. If a student has missed a lot of school due to illness or a family situation, it may be in his or her best interest to repeat the grade and catch up on the lessons he or she missed.

2. Developmentally immature children might find that repeating a grade reduces their stress, which can increase as students attempt, yet fail, to keep up with the development of their peers.

3. Children who are nearly a year younger than their peers may benefit from attending school with children who are their same age.

Cons

1. In certain instances, students who repeat a grade may be as many as two years older than their classmates. While academic readiness should weigh heavily as parents decide whether or not to have their child repeat a grade, parents should also consider the potential impact on their youngster's self-esteem if he or she is asked to repeat a grade and attend school with much younger classmates.

2. Students may feel embarrassed by grade retention, especially if other students tease or pity them.

3. Kids who do not agree with their parents on the issue may protest by engaging in behaviors that make it difficult for them to benefit from repeating a grade.

Grade retention and social promotion are serious topics for parents and educators to consider.