Holding a Child Back: Who Decides?

I think my son needs to repeat the third grade. He is receiving Ds in both reading and mathematics. These marks are pretty consistent with what he has received since first grade. Although I have tried for the past two years to have him held back, the school system keeps pushing him through. Who decides whether or not it's in the child's best interest to be held back a year?


Consistently low grades do indicate a need for intervention. The nature of the intervention depends on the particular needs of your child. Those needs may need to be identified before they can be addressed.

The most common method for identifying deficiencies in learning is through a Student Study Team or SST. The team usually consists of a child's parents, teacher(s), principal, school psychologist, special education instructors and other support personnel. During the SST meeting, the group will examine a child's strengths and weaknesses. Some screening tools may be administered by special education teachers prior to the meeting in order to provide more information. The meeting usually concludes with recommendations made by the team for further action, assessment or investigation.

Speak with your child's teacher about your concerns over his consistently low grades and ask about the possibility of having his situation considered by the SST at your child's school. Let the teacher know that you feel strongly about providing interventions to help your child be more successful in school, and that you think that assessment is necessary in order to get him the most appropriate instruction.

Retention is not necessarily the best course of action in your son's case. He may need some remedial instruction or may have a previously undiagnosed learning disability that has kept him from reaching his full potential as a student. The assessments that the special education instructor and school psychologist will administer will give you the kind of information that you need in order to make an informed decision about your son's education and whether retention would in fact be in his best interest.

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