Factors to Consider in Regards to Retention & Editable Parent Information Forms and Letters

I just read a Facebook post from a teacher stating: "This is the toughest time of year for Kindergarten teachers at our school. . .We have to meet with parents of students that may be retained in Kindergarten. . ."

She was seeking feedback to the following questions. I shared my thoughts on that post and decided to also share them here.

Please Note: This post does not advocate either for or against retention. It is designed solely to help teachers and parents through the process when retention is being considered. 

 What Is A Successful Retention? 

     A successful retention is one which gives the student time to mature and/or develop the academic skills needed for future success. This sheet is designed to help parents put retention into perspective. 
     A change of plans in not necessarily a bad thing. Taking time to re-calibrate before moving forward can lead to greater success in the long-run.

     This Parent Information Sheet is offered, for FREE, at my TpT Shop. You can download it by clicking here

Do you have to begin this process, actually using the word retention, this early?
 I think it's only fair to touch base with parents early on. It gives them the opportunity to think it over and prepare, and the chance to work with their child on areas of need if they feel being promoted to the next grade level is the best option for their child. (Working with their child on areas of need is more applicable in cases where academic skills are a driving factor. If maturity/general youngness is more the issue, that is a different situation.)

How do you determine which students may be retained?
 In considering the best grade level placement for the following year, I believe it's essential to look at the whole child.  Academics are a consideration. My school kept benchmark assessment results, so we could see how each child was progressing in relation to their peers and also in relation to grade level goals.
Your observations and notes are also essential! Does the child act young in comparison to the class?Also consider health issues - and whether an issue is likely to resolve - or whether there is a need to plan for the long-run. 
Please - Don't use being physically small as a consideration. . . Some kids will be 5 feet tall or under when they graduate from high school. It's not a matter of size!

What is the average number of students retained each year in your school?
 I have seen this vary through the years. There was a time at which retention was not an option at the school in which I taught. Now, a number of states have mandated third grade retention for students who aren't reading on grade level.

This is an individual decision, and truly should be treated as such. Focusing on the best interests of that particular child is always more important than considering the current trend, or where the pendulum is within its constant swing.

How do you tell parents, especially this early on?
First of all, I hope parents have already heard some of your concerns prior to this discussion.

As for how I approach the subject, I was lucky. . . I had waited a year before sending both of my own kids to school. They are grown now, and doing very well. So - I can tell parents the reasons I waited (related to time to mature, not rushing childhood, and letting them enjoy being young and carefree).  In our family, that definitely included playing in the mud, getting out in nature, long bike rides, enjoying stories each day, and lots of unstructured time. 

For the younger kids, I often mention to parents that - if the child continues with the current class and decides to go to college - he or she may well be living in a dorm at the age of seventeen.

It's essential to stress that this decision is, in no way, related to intelligence. Many of the kids who end up at the top of their class are actually among the older.

Over the years, I worked with a number of parents who struggled to make this decision - but, years later,  were thrilled that they had given their child the "gift of time." I approached a couple of these parents, and asked if they would be willing to chat with other parents in the process of making this decision. They were - and it was immensely helpful! (I'd highly recommend considering this.)

Always keep the focus on the fact that you want to work together, as a team, to do what's best for the child in the long-run. I have been known to start many sentences with, "If this was my son, I would consider. . . "

Talking With A Child About Retention: 
     It can be very difficult for a parent to talk to their son or daughter about retention. How a student responds to the news of retention can depend, in large part, on how the topic is presented to him or her. So, helping parents prepare for this conversation is important.
     It is always best if the child can ‘buy into’ the plan, realizing that everyone has his or her best interests in mind. Even young students know when they are struggling in school. If retention is presented with sensitivity, the child may actually be relieved to have the time to learn and grow.
This Parent Information Sheet is available, for FREE, at my Teachers pay Teachers shop. You can find it by clicking here.

I started out by creating the two parent information sheets shown above. But, this project soon seemed to take on a life of its own. I have since created a larger resource including the following resources:

Twelve Factors to Consider in Regards to Retention - This is a form for teachers, parents and child-study teams to use while considering retention. Over the years, I've found that using this form helps assure that all the important factors are discussed. 

Six Templates for Parent Letters for Use Throughout the Year - These fully editable templates are set up to systematically introduce and provide documentation regarding any concerns, starting early in the year. The letters in this series gradually introduce the possibility of retention, and continue through the notification of recommendation for either retention or promotion. 

This resource is now offered as an Editable PowerPoint, and is available for purchase here.

Funny Story: Years later, when my son was entering 8th grade, he randomly said, "If you didn't wait a year to send me to school, I'd be going into high school now." With fear in my heart, I asked if he wished he was going into high school that year. His answer was a resounding no.  Whew! 


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