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Robertson, Anne S. - When Retention Is Recommended, What Should Parents Do?, May 97.
At the end of each academic year teachers face the issue of retention. "When Retention is Recommended" discusses the characteristics of children who may be retained, the effects of retention, the reasons schools retain children and options other than retention. Robertson suggests two main reasons why school retain. One is that many teacher believed that retention in early grades prevented problems or the stigma of failure later on. The other reason is that schools feel they are being accountable to the child and the public. Robertson states that cummulative rsearch shows that the negative effects of retention outweigh the positive. These negative effects include the fact the most children do not "catch up" when held back, these students also fall behind again in later years, and these students generally feel bad about themselves.
Robertson offers some alternative to retention. She also feels teachers needs to get to the underlying cause of a student's behavior. Some of the suggestions include mixed-aged classes, individualized instruction, home assistance programs, and guidance counseling.
From reading Robertsons article one can see she is against retention. As an educator I have to agree with that. I can understand how schools see the need to make themselves accountable for their students, though it has been my experience that the schools think they are making the students accountable. This is the wrong philosophy, when kids fail it is usually the parent's fault or the school's fault.
During my last year of teaching the school I was at was under an immense amount of pressure to be "accountable". Especially in having the sixth graders prepared for seventh grade. By the time the end of the school year rolled around 13 sixth grade students were going to be retained because they didn't have their work done. Luckily, they offered summer school to those students and only one or two students were really retained. I often wonder however, what they learned in that one month of summer school that made them ready for seventh grade?
In my eight years of teaching I have only failed one student. The reason I failed her is becasue she missed one-third of the school year and did not do the make up work. Was it her fault she missed all those days? I highly doubt it. Even today, I don't know if I made the right choice.
I like Robertson's alternatives to retention. These are programs that need to be added to catch students at an early age. Though I do believe more and more schools are doing the tutoring, counseling, and individualized learning sessions at earlier ages. This is an added plus, and this is what will make schools accountable.
-- Anonymous, February 22, 1999