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Yael Cohen
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As a special education advocate (who also has a teacher's license and an MA in Special Education), I think retention should really depend on the individual child. The research on this issue is not clear and not always valid, and often pertains to particular populations. In recent years, I have found myself on both sides of this issue, depending on the needs of the child at that particular time and also looking at the whole child. Clearly it makes no sense to have a child simply redo a year of school without additional quality instruction. But, there are situations that merit retention. Let me give some examples: A child struggled for years with both dyslexia and other academics. There was decent intervention in and out of school. The family moved and the child was eager to repeat a year in elementary school before moving on to middle school. Parents report that this is the first time that the child comes home happy from school, feeling successful in the middle of the class instead of the bottom. (Intervention has continued in the new school.) A kindergartener with special needs struggled through a high-pressure kindergarten with special ed supports; he should have spent one more year in his preschool where he was making great strides but the district said they didn't allow it. (Obviously no advocate was involved when that decision was made.) Against a schoolful of "professional" advice based on research that no one but me had read, the child repeated kindergarten in a more traditional program, again, with special ed supports; he did so well, he transferred back to the original higher-achieving school for 1st grade -- again, doing well. A third child, misdiagnosed and misplaced, spent 2 years in a class for kids with emotional disturbance. They thought his screaming about not reading was emotional, but he really couldn't. He has dyslexia and ADHD. At the end of last year, we transferred him into a full day elementary school intensive research-based reading program that really takes 2 - 3 years to complete. Technically he is in sixth grade and will have to move on in the coming year. We left the decision until this spring to decide whether he should have one more year of the intensive program if he is succeeding and needs another year. The options are to go into middle school reading on or close to grade level, or going into middle school on time, but moving to a much weaker instructional model and having him struggle through middle and high school. He is also "very young" for his age. The decision will be made based on data. For a fourth child, there is now a question as to whether he should begin high school on time, or do an extra year of middle school (at another school). Tons has gone into this child -- from special ed (that has never been very strong) to a significant amount of quality research-based tutoring, to half-day 1:4 ratio quality programing for kids with learning difficulties to the current 1:1 he is receiving 30 hours/week (for 20 weeks). I am convinced this child may never recover emotionally should he be "left back." He is a very social young man and I believe that retention would slay him when other kids found out. I vote no although am willing to research options other than public school. Clearly, it is a tricky decision, but in my professional opinion, it should be made with a lot of careful thought about the child and the options. Yael Cohen http://www.getiephelp.com Get IEP Help (Facebook)
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Dec 14, 2011