Schools are beginning the process of student placement for next fall – In March you may have the opportunity to meet with your child’s teacher to evaluate your student’s readiness for advancement in the fall. If your teacher has recommended that your student repeat his current grade level – here are some tips to handling that information and understanding the teacher’s reasoning.
Remember that the calendar year is long, especially for three, four and five-year-olds. A child born in December may be at a very different skill or maturity level than a child born in August or September, yet they are all still measured together in one class. Students born closest to the cutoff dates may be more likely to be asked to repeat a year as developmental and physical milestones appear at six-month intervals so some students in the classroom may be far ahead of others. Some children develop relatively evenly, so their motor development, cognitive development, academic, social and emotional skills sync up and are typical. However, some children’s development is more uneven. Although they may be high achievers academically or physically, social skills and self-regulation may be behind the curve. For those students, that gap in ability can be a recipe for frustration, both for them and for the classroom.
Know that schools are looking at your child holistically and their recommendations are generally not made lightly. They may even be brought up reluctantly. There are many skills children need to succeed in the classroom environment and if repeating a year or waiting a year before entering their next level of education is right for your child, rest assured that everyone is invested in your child’s
Here are some reasons that your teacher might recommend that your child repeat the current year in order to master more skills.
Academic readiness – This is obvious. If your child isn’t mastering the current work then requiring him/her to master harder material for which the current work is foundational is a recipe for frustration. Children always do better when they are confident in their skills.
Social Maturity/immaturity – This is more subtle. You may think that as long as your child is smart and can keep up academically that social and emotional maturity are irrelevant. However, as school settings have moved to mirror adult work environments our kids are asked to do more and more collaborative work and learning. This requires them to master their emotions and behavior and function in a collaborative community in a different way than years ago. Kids who have difficulty working in a team are far more challenged in school.
Student Skills –There is a difference between academic skills and “student skills” and both are important for school success. Academic Skills, include an understanding of math and reading comprehension, map skills, etc. Student Skills needed to open your child up to learning include: the ability to sit, focus and attend, regulate behavior, be a respectful member of the classroom community, and the ability to work collaboratively. Success is no longer attributed to individual academic acumen, but also to the success of the team.
As a parent hearing for the first time that your child might not be ready to move with his/her class may be alarming. The first thing you should do is ask the teacher for examples so you can understand the impact the issues she brings up may be having on your child. Kids who are successful academically but have emotional, social or behavioral challenges are often unhappy in school. They may receive negative feedback and resist going to school. As children get older their behavior may directly impact their academics. Kids who are unable or unwilling to follow directions, work independently, transition, focus or to get along with their peers will have a tough time being successful in the classroom. While they may coast for a while on pure intellectual prowess, they might hit a wall when more advanced academics require them to focus and attend for longer periods to acquire information.
Ask the Teacher
What data have you collected that identifies that my child is not up to par?
Where should my child be socially, academically, emotionally?
What strategies have you already put into place to improve things? How did that work out?
How do you plan to help my child narrow the gap during the rest of the year?
Are there strategies that we can access to mitigate the challenge? Can we reinforce or introduce any strategies at home?
Have you had similar situations in the past?
Problem solve with the teacher on how to raise those skills.
If you have a good working relationship with your child’s school and teacher can probe using phrases like, “tell me more…” so that you can understand the teacher’s concern.
Some Considerations about Repeating the Year
Boredom: If my child doesn’t advance, he will be bored academically. This is a real concern that you should discuss with the teacher.
Size: If my child is physically much larger than his peers, this might be consideration. Often adults inadvertently expect more mature behavior from a three-year-old who looks five then from his three-year-old classmate.
Some Pros for Repeating the Year
Being the oldest in the class it is often an advantage for the child. Children who are older especially in the youngest grades are often top performers because they have an edge developmentally and are thus more confident. Children who are confident in their skills will take more risks with materials and activities to expand their knowledge. In older grades this might not play out so dramatically, but for children in a three or four-year-old class, there may be considerable differences between students at the younger end or the older end of the scale.
No matter your ultimate decision, as a parent, helping to navigate the path for your child’s future can be stressful. If our POTs team can help you as you weigh pros and cons or as you work to narrow the gaps, we are here, always with the best interest of your child in mind and ready to partner with you and your child’s educational team.