Sunday, February 28, 2016

Pangs of Retention in Kindergarten

There are twenty-five little bodies packed into my all-day Kindergarten classroom.  I have seen five years of typical 5-year-old growth, have much experience with ELLs, and feel confident that my low performing students receive ample interventions and support throughout the day.  That’s why, as I sit across from Miguel’s apprehensive mother, I feel strongly about recommending retention for her baby.

It’s only Kindergarten.
He’s still young.
He won’t even notice if he’s held back.
It’s March, and he can only recognize a handful of letters and numbers.
He struggles at every activity, and I can safely predict that he will continue to struggle
drastically in first grade.

I know full-well that communicating about retention to a Latino parent can be different than a Caucasian parent because traditionally, teachers are very respected in Latino culture.  Many Latino parents simply trust that the teacher knows what is best for their child, much like a doctor is trusted to know the correct prescription for an illness.  I take this very seriously and only make these recommendations when I am certain that retention is what is best for the child.

Mom listens, agrees, and we move forward to make a meeting with the Guidance Team, which consists of our school counselor, school psychologist, reading specialist, ELL specialist, math specialist, Special Education teacher, and principal.   
When we meet, I present my assessments and observations.  I describe all the interventions the child has received in September.  All the teachers who work with the child speak on his abilities at this time.  I agree with it all, ready to wrap things up, and then someone speaks out on the negative effects of retention.

And then we don’t retain.

This infuriates me.  I group together with other teachers and grumble about it.  I shake my head about how we are failing this child.  I glumly imagine how much harder this kid’s life is going to be because he has not mastered kindergarten skills. I have kids leaving my class reading books and this one tells me 12/26 letters on a good day.  

Then I go home, and I start to read the research.

Stay tuned for my post on CORElaborate March 20th to follow up on this topic.

1 comment:

  1. So many things to say about this topic, I don't know where to start. Mostly, it just makes me extremely angry and sad that retention is such a taboo subject. In reality, teachers only suggest it to help the kids. Research shows that if a a child isn't a fluent reader by 3rd grade, they have a high probability of dropping out of school later on. Why wouldn't parents want to give their child the gift of another year to catch up rather than continuing to struggle, lose all confidence in oneself, and drop out?

    It's supposedly "bad for a child's psyche" to retain- but in Kindergarten, kids don't realize they are being retained. It is the perfect time to do it!