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Elementary Educators/Should I retain my 1st grader?


Hi, Just hoping to get an outside opinion from an educational expert.  Long story daughter is in the 1st grade, but is chronologically in the wrong age for our district.  The public school suggested putting her in 1st because she had completed K at a private school ( who did not have any age requirements) It was ultimately my decision what grade I wanted to put her in, and at first I wanted her to just do Kindergarten again but because the school felt her reading skills were right where they needed to be, they suggested 1st grade was the best placement for her.  She also had missed the cutoff by just a few weeks and socially is pretty mature for her age.  However, I was ALWAYS very uneasy about my decision and feared that she could struggle.  Well, half way through the year now, she is in fact struggling, mostly with comprehension and math overall.  She also doesn't like being the youngest!  And all in all, I truly feel that I made a mistake and K is where she should have been with her same age peers and feeling successful!  So, I have to make a very difficult decision now.....either to move her back to K (half way through the year) which the school did give me as an option or just let her finish off the year and then have her repeat 1st.  Of course I always have the option of moving on to 2nd grade, but I do no feel comfortable with that at all and would not want her to keep struggling to keep up!  I feel like if anything, this is the time to correct the fact that she is in the wrong grade, while she is still young.  So, I guess my question is what do you think in your opinion would be the least damaging to my daughter? Switch to K now or just repeat 1st?  I guess the only plus of having her move back to K now is to avoid a retention on her record.  What do you think?

Dear Grisel,

Since you have such strong feelings about this and have probably made them known to your daughter, as she knows she is the youngest in the class and can feel your tension, I'd move her back now.  

I had a similar situation, placing my daughter in first grade because of her advanced abilities,  but I never talked about age or abilities or anything to let her know, so she wasn't bothered by any of it until later on.  

By the time she reached sixth grade, her classmates were physically more developed and had  an interest in boys-- so they began to "ditch" her as a friend. When she told me about what was going on I moved her to a different school and put her back a grade so that she'd be with children her own age.  Although she didn't like the idea at first, I insisted and after her first day at her new school, could see that she was very happy with it, too, and I wished that I'd done it sooner.

She got onto the honor roll and stayed there through college and is now a lawyer.  I say this because looking back on it all now, I think that that one change made a very big difference in her academic life.

One other thing, as an aside, that made a huge difference in her school life is this:
When she started 7th grade, and I'd ask her everyday what she did in school, and she couldn't tell me of anything that she'd learned, I took her out and put her into a private school.  I applied for financial aid and got half off of the tuition (I was a single mother), and made the tuition the most important part of my budget.  She didn't want to make that change at first, either, partially because she had to take three city buses to get there, but once started, she could tell me volumes about her academic activities.  The year she spent in sixth grade at that other school was instrumental in getting her ready for the strong demands of her new place at the private school.  I'd never though about that before, until right now, answering this letter to you.

One other thing I'd like to mention to you.  Be careful what you tell children or let on how you feel, as they will take it on and suffer from the same things that you're suffering with.
At one point, our school went through many years of building and re-doing rooms as we kept getting more students.  My principal chose to move me every year to accommodate the school plans, as he probably figured that I was the least likely to complain.   One year I got put in the computer lab, another, in the library, another in a bungalow without an air conditioner, another in the worst room in the school, and each time I made the most of it.  I spoke only of the good points to my students and never reacted to being moved.  My students were always happy because I was happy. Other teachers would ask me, "Aren't you mad?  You should complain to the union."  But we waste time when we complain, and that same time can be used to build up and be further along on the road.

Anyway, I hope that this was helpful,

Marsha Cunningham

Elementary Educators

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Marsha Cunningham


My expertise is in 1st-3rd grade, I specialize in beginning reading and writing, but I teach drawing and painting first to help students gain confidence. I also use jigsaw puzzle strategy to teach concentration as a subject and enlist parents to keep their children away from scary movies,among other things,which cause nightmares, sleep deprivation and low test scores!


I have taught K-3 for 24 years, given in-service to parents and teachers and presented at reading conferences. To see my children's art work and examples of improved test scores go to

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