Children's Health

Back to School and Back a Grade

Back to school means new clothes, new supplies, and new friends but what if back to school this year means the same grade for your child? A parent survey from the National Center for Education Statistics states that as of 2007, 10 percent of children in US schools had been retained at some point in grades K-12. Grade retention is heatedly debated among parents and education professionals, but the truth of the matter is that it is occurring in schools across the country each year.

Your child may be in that 10% repeating a grade this fall, and it is not the easiest road to be on. You are going to be an important player in this upcoming school year so read these tips for guiding your child to success.

Be honestBe clear with your child when explaining the reason for retention. Use positive terms, however, to set the tone. Instead of saying "You had a lot of trouble with your math work last year" say "You have another year to learn these skills." Being clear, honest, and positive helps your child understand what is happening.

Be supportiveI haven't met a child who was excited about repeating a grade. Offer comfort and support to your child. Tell him you are proud of how brave he is being. Tell him you understand his concerns. Cheer him on throughout the year as he strives to learn. Most importantly, hug him tightly when he gets home from school that first day- he's going to need it.

Be proactive Establish a method and timeline for communication with the classroom teacher, guidance counselor, and principal. Retaining your child was a team decision to make and it will be a team decision to support. Get specific goals from the teacher in regards to subject matter and overall organization and study skills. "She needs to work harder" is not an acceptable goal. "She needs to meet with the teacher two days a week after school for extra help" is a clear and measurable goal that is productive. Make sure there is follow-through on all ends- at home and at school.

Retaining a child is a difficult decision to make- hopefully one that was made with careful consideration and respect for the learner. Moving forward will require you to be aware, supportive, and dedicated in order to make the best decisions for your child and guide him on his journey.

Jennifer Cerbasi teaches at a public school for children on the autism spectrum in New Jersey. As a coordinator of Applied Behavioral Analysis programs in the home, she works with parents to create and implement behavioral plans for their children in an environment that fosters both academic and social growth. In addition to her work both in the classroom and at home, she is also a member of the National Association of Special Education Teachers and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Jennifer is an educational consultant who works with families and educators to establish healthy and productive routines in the home and school. Adapting behavior management techniques she implemented for years as a special educator, she helps parents and teachers adopt these tools to fit their unique needs and priorities. Jennifer also speaks to parent and education groups on current topics in education and children's health. Visit