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Home : 2003 : Mar : 22

    By Carolyn

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    I understand your frustration with retention. Several years ago I taught second grade in a low-income school. The children who came to me had been promoted, although many of them could not read independently at the first grade level. There was tremendous parent pressure to promote kids. Also, our administration didn't want to retain kids to swell the ranks of that grade level. (Now isn't THAT a good reason to promote kids???) In addition, we had second grade teachers teaching first grade. Why should a second grade teacher teach first grade?

    At the end of the year, all of the second grade teachers said that the kids should be retained in second grade. Most of my students could only read at the first grade level by the end of the year. I had one who was only at the K level. I decided to be selective in who I was going to retain, because I knew that my thoughts to retain most of them wouldn't "fly." I provided a list of children I wanted to retain to my administration in the spring of year so that we could prepare parents. In May of that year, I was told I couldn't retain a couple of kids because they had already been retained. I was told that one boy's mother was a Pacific Islander, so I couldn't retain him. They found some other excuses not to retain: She's too tall to be retained, etc. Then there was the reason once again: We will have too many kids in second grade next year if we retain so many. My answer to that: You probably need to retain as many in first grade, so it won't make a difference in student population in second grade. They just didn't think of that. They just worried about parents storming in and complaining. I don't know why they worried so much about parents.

    When the time came, I retained several of the children. I also wrote this on their report card, so that the parents would know for sure. I had prepped the parents well in advance, but I wanted them to understand that I was not recommending their child for promotion. I had to be out on the last day of school, but I returned later to clean my room. When I returned, I found out, much to my consternation, that my report cards had been changed to promote the kids. I think I only had one student out of all retained. I still wrote on the permanent record (my stubbornness) that the child was retained in second grade, and I initialled it. That was my way of saying that the child was not promoted by ME.

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