Twins: one is having problems in first grade

I have six-year-old twin boys in first grade. One is doing okay in school, but the other one is having a rough time. Do you recommend keeping one back in the first grade and sending the other one to second?


Dear Tammy,

I appreciate your efforts on behalf of your sons. You have some big decisions ahead of you. I hope that I can offer some helpful advice.

Retention is a controversial issue. Some schools are very adamant about utilizing every other modification available other than retention, while others look at retention as a saving grace for some children. Retention can help some children, but not others, so some educators are hesitant to support retention. Before discussing retention for your son, you will need to work with school personnel to determine the following:

  1. Could your son have a learning disability?
  2. Has he been assessed for learning disabilities, including ADD and dyslexia?
  3. What are his strengths and weaknesses in the classroom?
  4. Did he struggle as a kindergartner?
  5. What modifications have been used to promote his educational success?
  6. What interventions have been used with him by teachers and support staff?

Usually these topics are discussed at an SST, or Student Study Team meeting, where teachers, the principal and special-education staff members brainstorm ideas for helping children who are experiencing difficulties in school. Retention may be presented as an option, but not usually until after all other alternatives are exhausted.

Because your son has a twin, you have that to weigh in your decision-making process. Certainly you want to give your children every opportunity to feel successful in educational pursuits, but you also don't want to hurt their self-esteem. Still, I think that you will need to do what is best for each child, despite the fact that they are twins. Your letter states that your other child is doing "okay" in school. Does this mean that your other child is also experiencing some difficulties? Discuss the potential for each child to succeed in second grade with their teacher(s). You may be able to pass them both on to the next grade level with the support of a tutor for the son who is really struggling. That would allow them to be at the same grade level in school, but help the struggling child to "catch up" to the rest of the class. Summer school may be helpful, too. I would try to keep the kids at the same grade level, if possible, but only if both kids have the potential to succeed. If one is really struggling and school personnel strongly recommend retention for him, you may have to look at the possibility that the two kids will advance through school at different rates. With loving support from the family and school staff, both children will feel happy and secure. However, I recommend that you exercise all other options prior to considering retention.

I realize that this response does not tell you one way or the other how to definitively handle this situation. There are many other factors involved that need careful consideration before you make any permanent changes. With the guidance of the school personnel, your family will be able to make the decisions that you will need to make in order to promote success. I wish you the very best of luck. Please keep me informed.


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