How to Talk to Pincipal About Retention

Updated on July 10, 2018
A.W. asks from El Paso, TX
12 answers

My daughter( who has ADHD) is being recommended for retention in second grade. Her reading is behind, although she ended the school year only a few points from passing. We enrolled her in a summer tutoring program designed to get her reading level up to par in the hopes of her not repeating.

However her summer school teacher didn’t seem to think it mattered if we did tutoring, she told us it was up to the principal of the school to decide, and they typically go with teacher recommendations.

Does anyone have any advice on how to discuss this with the Principal? We are concerned that retaining her will damage her self esteem and have read that retention holds little to no benefit for children.

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So What Happened?

Thank you everyone for your responses :) We had a meeting with the principal, he was very helpful! He agreed with our assessment that retention was the wrong step for our daughter and agrees that a 504 plan plus tutoring is the way to go.

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answers from El Paso on

I would follow the teachers recommendations and hold back. Years ago I made the mistake of going against teachers wishes and I refused to allow my son to repeat 2nd grade. I too was worried about his self esteem. He struggled so much the following year and even after that. it Was very difficult for him to catch up. 2nd is not so bad to hold back. It would be terrible if you didn’t allow for her to be retained and she continues with her struggles and then she is retained in a higher grade level.

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answers from Dallas on

Her self esteem will suffer either way.

1. she knows she is failing and if she is in a group of children who are doing better than her she knows this and it will damage her self esteem.

2. yes it will hurt her self esteem if she is held back BUT... her esteem will likely improve once she starts to grasp the info and techniques being taught and she realizes that SHE CAN DO IT!!!

As a parent, we do not want our child to suffer a low self esteem, be a poor student (some children are slower to grasp the concepts and that is OK). It is our job to work with the school personnel to support our child and build that child up.

I've seen a lot of children held back up through 4th grade in my 17 years of regular subbing and I have seen those children gain a new confidence,, new friends and better self esteem. I've heard many parents who did not want to hold back say it was the best decision they ever made.

I do believe that retaining a child has significant benefits.

I don't know where you got your info that retention does not benefit a child unless you are worried for your own self esteem because you hold your child back and you fear judgment from others. Put your child first and do what is absolutely the best for her and put your personal feelings aside.

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answers from Houston on

Well, it terms of holding a child back I completely DISAGREE with whatever you read stating the retention holds little to no benefit. Why? We held our daughter back and it was the BEST DECISION EVER.

We held our daughter back in the 3rd grade. Why? She was struggling so hard. She was barely keeping her head above water. Her math were below par. She hated school because she wasn't successful. Yes we had a private tutor, we did Sylvan, we did everything possible to get her where she needed to be. She was one of the youngest in her class as well. Yes, her self esteem was affected. She thought she was stupid. She was not. She just needed more time. She repeated 3rd and ended up on the Honor Roll. When she graduated from HS, she was a member of the National Honor Society and she graduated from College with a great GPA. So yeah, success there.

Self esteem will be affected either way. It just depends on how you handle it. If your daughter needs another go at second grade then perhaps she does. Insisting that she move to the next grade could be setting her up for failure.

I would also suggest getting an IEP or at least discussing that with the school. Also, is she medicated? Perhaps that is needed during the school year. That should be addressed as well. Good luck.

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answers from New York on

That's crazy that a teacher would state that tutoring "wouldn't matter." Only good things can come from a child being brought closer to grade level in any subject - regardless of retention issues.

Speaking of retention, I believe although the school can recommend retention, they cannot force it. If you do not believe it would be helpful, then I'd push her through to 3rd grade. I, personally, am not a believer of repeating a grade, but that is just me (I believe the same as you - the blow to self-esteem is too great at this late stage).

I'd also be holding the school accountable for her not being prepared for 3rd grade educationally. If she has a diagnosis for ADHD, she should have an IEP or 504 Plan that addresses her lower level skills with supports in place to help her get caught up during the school year (or just continue to work at her level/her pace, whichever is more appropriate). That combined with summer tutoring should be all she needs. Either she will get caught up to grade level, or she needs to have an IEP and services that reflects that she has a disability that prevents her from doing so.

Good luck!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I suggest the teacher's comment that tutoring doesn't matter is in relationship to whether or not tutoring will matter in making the decision to retain her in second grade. Of course it matters when viewed as a help to your daughter.

If you're focused on self esteem, I suggest it's a draw. Either choice could affect her self esteem. How much her self esteem is affected depends on how the choice is presented to her ( being positive) and how much educational support is given. Two of my grandchildren have IEPs based in part on their ADHD symptoms.

My granddaughter had difficulty reading because she had trouble comprehending the meaning of the text. Extra support made a difference. I suggest tutoring is one piece of support. My granddaughter often worked one on one at school. She received help at school in math and reading.

Years ago I was a school volunteer. I supervised a middle school student while he, in a room by himself, was helped by being able to take longer to finish the test and he could ask me questions.

One of my friends, as a volunteer, tutors first and second graders in reading. She treats her job as if she was paid. She worked to learn skills so she could improve her tutoring.

So, if your daughter doesn't have a 504 or an IEP, I suggest you consider getting her evaluated to see if she's eligible for one. There is a Federal law that requires school districts to evaluate and provide help to those having educational difficulty because of conditions related to learning disabilities.

I suggest you mostly listen to the principal. Ask why she is considered for retention. The answer is more complicated than she's behind in reading. Ask how retaining or not she will benefit her. Start with an open mind. Talk about reasons you want her to move to third grade. Listen to his answers before making your final decision.

I suggest that you make an appointment with the office that diagnoses learning difficulties and provides support to ask about retaining or moving forward. They see the results of both decisions in actual students. In my school district it's in the Special Education office that works with all schools.They may give you additional information based on their education and experience with students in all the district schools.

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answers from Washington DC on

damaging self esteem is an issue that is important. but good positive confident parenting will bolster self esteem far, far more than getting promoted to a grade she's not academically prepared to handle.

i'd work with the school on getting her whatever supplemental help she needs, and on putting her in the grade most appropriate for where she is now.

they're interconnected issues for sure, but when the rubber meets the road it's on schools to teach academics and on parents to teach character.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Failing will hurt her self esteem. I held child back in 2nd. Never looked back. Best decision of my life.

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answers from Boston on

No its not up to the school staff to decide to hold your child back. I would see how your daughter is doing with her reading by the end of summer to see if or how much she improves. If she makes enough progress to be able to be in 3rd grade I would contact the school and let them know. If she doesn't then you have to do what's best for her either keeping her back a year or continuing to work with her on reading through the next school year. You don't want to push her ahead and then have her struggle again.That, imo, would hurt her self esteem much more in the long run.

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answers from Norfolk on

So holding her back - would hurt her self esteem - but passing her into a higher / harder grade without the tools/understanding she needs to succeed would not?

I don't know what you've read but it sounds like nonsense to me.

She needs help - so keep up with the tutoring no matter whether she repeats 2nd grade or not.
To get her reading up to her level (and beyond) - keep reading to/with her - often - and make it fun.
Any topic that interests her - find a book about it and read it.

Perhaps it's the ADHD that needs to be addressed in a way that it hasn't been up to now.

With the right tools she should do well in any grade - and that will mean more to her self esteem than anything else.
Holding her back a year might be the best thing for her.
Doing it now would be better than at any later time.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Just a thought if it is an option for you to consider. What about retaining her in 2nd grade, but in a new school? Give her the benefit of time to develop her reading skills without the stigma of all her known classmates, friends/peers moving to 3rd grade without her. 3rd grade is a hard year, academically. I'd be looking into your school district for alternatives plus charter schools and/or privates if you can afford. Your daughter is still so young that if she changes schools, she will have plenty of time in elementary and beyond to make good friendships and bonds.

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answers from Indianapolis on

Passing her on to higher grades will hurt her self-esteem more than hold her back a year. If she is not keeping up then holding her back is the right thing to do. Each grade gets harder so if she is not doing well in her previous grade she will not do well moving on. She is at an age where holding her back won't be so bad. Sometimes we as parents are more embarrassed about our kids being held back then they are. Do what is best for her education. If you really think she will be ok then fight for her but if she could use more work in understanding reading and math let her repeat the grade. Good luck with your decision.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I started my kid early in school. She did kinder at 4 and it was a huge mistake. Huge. It turns out that extra year of development matters and awful lot. So we held her back in second grade and at 15 she's on track to potentially be valedictorian. I realized that in my reluctance to hold her back, it was my self-esteem that was in danger, not hers. Being in a class where she's always at the bottom, always struggling, that's what will damage her self-esteem. She needs more time to grow. Give it to her. In some models of developmentally appropriate elementary ed, reading isn't taught until they are 8. Not all kids are ready for it before then and studies show that at 8, symbolic decoding is easy for all kids. We manufacture conditions in which some kids will not succeed because they're just not ready. So give her time to master the skills instead of pushing her to be something she's not ready to be. It's so much better to hold her back in second grade than to have her fail 7th grade or to just feel behind everyone for the next 10 years. Your daughter will be fine. She needs to know that it's OK to take her time and master the second grade stuff before moving on. She really really needs to know that YOU are not embarrassed or thinking she's a failure. If it's so bad for her, think about switching schools, so no one knows she is re-doing second grade.

1 mom found this helpful
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