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Behavior & Learning in School/Should I retain my young 1st grader?


I am wondering if I should retain my 1st grader for this next coming school year and would like some advice.  It is a very complicated and specific I will try to keep my very long story as short as possible.  

Basically, she started school a year before the cut off for our public schools. We are in Florida and our cut off here is 8/31.  My daughter's b-day is 9/12.  Being that she just missed the cutoff by weeks, I chose to put her in a private school in K a year before they would have taken her in the public school, as I felt she was ready. After K, I transferred her over to public school, where they gave me the choice of putting her in K or 1st and after much, much contemplation about it, I put in her 1st.

So now fast forward...... I regret my decision terribly!  Halfway through the year, she really began to struggle with reading comprehension and math.  The teacher was very concerned, I explained her situation and I was even given the option by the principal of putting her back in K if I wanted to. However, the teacher and I both thought that doing that mid year would be too disruptive, so we did not do that and decided to wait and see how the year would end.

Now, at the end of 1st grade, she really has shown a lot of progress, to the point that the teacher no longer is recommending retention. However, her end of year test scores were a 78% in reading and a 65% in math. What she struggled the most with all year was with the math, which in my opinion she was not getting a lot of it due to developmental reasons (a lot of it was very abstract). She was also showing some signs of shutting down during math HW and has referred to herself many times as "not being good at math".  I did get her evaluated to rule out any kind of disability, and she performed average in math and above average in all areas of reading (according to her age).

So although the teacher is saying move on to 2nd, my problem is this.... 1) I fear that she may possibly always be playing catch up and be one step behind the other kids. 2) I feel that she really is such a bright little girl and that by being in the wrong grade, she will likely perform like a C average student at best in comparison to her peers. 3) What is the rush?

To complicate things even further....she is in a dual language program, which is challenging in itself already.  Most of the kids are above average, as they need to meet a minimum criteria to be in the program.  She met the very minimum to stay in it for next year(2nd), just like she did going into it this year.

So, given all this information, I'm not sure if keeping her in 1st again (and basically placing her in the grade she should have been) is really the best thing for her do OR should I just continue on the path she has already started.  I naturally worry about how retention would affect her emotionally and that is the biggest thing that stands in my way of retaining her.  I don't know how she would feel seeing all her friends move on.  However, she has always been aware that she is in the wrong grade by age since the very beginning, and when we discussed how she felt about staying in 1st again, she actually thought it was the greatest thing in the world. But I think that was basically because she would get to stay with her teacher, that she loves!  I'm not sure she quite gets what retention means at this age! Also, on a few occasions, she has mentioned that she does not like being the youngest.  

So given all of that, I need to make a very BIG decision for her!  and I only want to make the best choice for her in the long run. What would you advice in this very difficult situation?

Hello Grisel,
thank you for your question. It is indeed a complicated situation in some ways.
But please pardon me for saying this first, but it sounds like you are more anxious than your daughter about the situation. So I would encourage you to work on giving up some of your anxiety- not easy for any mother, I know. :)
But it sounds like your daughter is doing fine and coping. It takes some adjusting but if she is willing to do it then she should be allowed the challenge. Changing her again may not be the best thing for her right now, to adjust to yet a different situation.Perhaps during the summer vacation she can spend some time catching up in the areas where she may still need to improve or catch up; maybe a fun program that she can combine the academic and the social development that she needs to be ready for the new term.
You know we adults always say children are resilient, and in some ways that is true. So I think it would be good for her to face the challenge, as long as she has good support behind her. Give her the opportunities to talk about the experience as much as she needs, but try not to show too much anxiety. Let her see that you are confident that she is able to live up to the challenge; she will draw strength from your confidence.
The other important thing would be for her to have supportive teachers that she has a good relationship with. As long as she has that she will be eager to take on anything.
Hope this helps.
good luck

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Marilyn Robb


I am an educational psychologist and counsellor, with more ten years of experience in teaching, parenting, running support groups and workshops, teacher training and counselling. I would like to share my knowledge and expertise in issues particularly related to helping children cope with learning and the school experience.


My greatest credential (and perhaps my achievement too)is having two children and supporting them through school. In addition to my academic qualifications I have belonged to an international peer counselling organisation for the past 13 years. My other accomplishment is in setting up my own education and family resource centre.

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