Friday, May 25, 2012

Retention Pains

One of the pluses of teaching in the upper grades, as I did for ten years, is that retention is not an issue you face. The only time I ever considered retaining a student was a sweet boy who had not had glasses for many years and, we realized in fifth grade, had hearing issues so he had not been able to access most of his schooling. We didn't end up retaining him but did require summer school. (Not a perfect solution but retention would not have been either.)

As a first grade teacher the possibility of retention is something I face more often. This year, however, was the first time I've seriously considered it for a student. He is young, a June birthday, and struggling academically. He is also very mature for his age, a factor that ultimately made me argue against retention and he will be going on to second grade. I hope that is the right decision for him.

At the end of that day, my brilliant colleague wrote about our retention committee. Her thoughts are, as always, well worth reading but this question struck me hard:
Would it give a student confidence and build them up or would it send the message that her hard work was being rewarded by being held back?
 A couple of days later I read a piece by Diane Ravitch on this same topic. Her post is titled, Is School Retention Child Abuse? so you can see her thoughts. Again it is worth reading. She writes about the school psychologists' perspective on retention and it isn't pretty.

My colleague's question and Ravitch's thoughts are driving my stand on retention. I have been against it (not across the board but in general) for years and now I feel more strongly.

1 comment:

Tom Hoffman said...

I think it is clearer when you consider that the cost of retention is equal to the full cost of educating a student for a year. Surely there are more cost-effective interventions without the various other unpleasant side-effects.