Social concerns, small physical stature, struggling academics and emotional immaturity are common reason cited for kindergarten retention. The decision to retain a child for an additional year of kindergarten can have long-term impacts on self-esteem, social skills and academic achievements. Parents must consider both advantages and disadvantages to kindergarten retention before deciding what is right for their child.
Kindergarteners have not had time to form the bonds and friendships that develop as students progress through grade levels. There is also less stigma associated with kindergarten retention than when students are retained in higher grade levels. Kindergarten retention can give young children an opportunity to develop, both physically and emotionally, and their critical early learning foundation can be strengthened when students have a second opportunity to master early reading and math skills.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who repeat a grade generally do not show significant improvement in academic achievement or learning. The Academy also contends that a child's self-esteem may suffer if retained in kindergarten. Additionally, if a child is falling behind in kindergarten due to a learning disability, retention will not help, especially if the child is not given special services to help meet special needs.
Preparing a Child for Kindergarten Retention
Children need time to mentally and emotionally prepare for repeating kindergarten. Parents can help their child think of healthy responses to questions asked by other children about why the child is repeating kindergarten. Demonstrating a positive attitude helps your child feel reassured about the decision. Enrolling the child in a new class or even a new school ensures that his second learning experience is different than his first. Explain that the child will have an opportunity to make new friends and if he is concerned about leaving a particular friend, you can look for ways to encourage the friendship outside of school.
If a child's early development gives cause for concern, parents can opt for an additional year of preschool. The Public Policy Institute of California reports that children who have delayed kindergarten entry for one year are far less likely to be retained in school. Some schools offer transitional options for children who have completed kindergarten, but are not yet ready for first grade, such as a “pre-first grade” program. Some children may thrive in an alternative schooling method, such as homeschooling. Montessori schools use multi-age grouping in their classes, allowing struggling students to work at their own level while remaining with friends. Tutors are also an option.
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Repeating a Grade
- Scholastic: Kindergarten Retention -- A Difficult Decision
- Parents Magazine: Should Your Child Repeat Kindergarten?
- Public Policy Institute of California: Early Grade Retention and Student Success
- Robert Brooks, Ph.D.: School Retention -- A Common Practice but Is It Effective?
- The New York Times: A New Breed: The Pre-First Grader
- Photo Credit Thomas Northcut/Stockbyte/Getty Images