Repeating a grade

Parent Q&A

Experience repeating a grade in a new school (summer birthday) Dec 10, 2018 (2 responses below)
French child whose English is not proficient - 1st or 2nd grade? Aug 17, 2017 (6 responses below)
Repeating third grade? Feb 5, 2017 (5 responses below)
  • Hi all

    We are considering having our daughter who is in 4th grade repeat at another school. She has a summer birthday and is struggling to keep up. Are private schools open to this?

    Any experience or advice would be greatly appreciated? Thanks!

    We have not done this, but we've known several families who have children repeat a grade when they switched schools, between public to private (6th grade), or from private to public (kinder, 1st, and 2nd grade).

    The public schools don't seem to allow the kids to repeat a grade if they are doing fine (even if they struggle a bit), but when switching schools, there didn't seem to be a problem.

    Good luck. 

    We switched schools and repeated a grade (summer birthday) and have not regretted at all. It was a hard choice but it was definitely the right choice for us. (In our case it was from private to public school.) I would think twice before doing it at the same school because of the social impact however if you are switching schools, it's the perfect way to do it. Some kids just need a little more time. Give them the gift of time!

  • Hello,

    We are new to the Bay Area but are a West Coast family relocating from Paris, France.

    My children have been in the French school system the past 3 years. My 7 year old is bilingual and reads well in French. Reading in English has been more of a challenge. So this summer, we sent her to live with her grandparents in Seattle while we packed everything up. She's been receiving extensive professional tutoring in English reading there. After 6 weeks, we have to make a decision to enroll her in 2nd grade (which would be normal for her 2010 YOB), or 1st to catch-her up. The tutor feels that by current US standards she is reading at a late kindergarten level.

    She's strong in other areas like math (here in France anyway). What advice would you Bay Area parents give us as we make this decision. Is there a lot of support in Belmont schools for students with our particular language situation?

    Thanks so much in advance!

    Any public school should have a program for English learners, though it is more comprehensive at some schools than others. One thing I would be cognizant of is that math for second graders in California is quite dependent on word problems and reading, so her reading level may affect other subject areas as well. The fact that she reads well in her native language suggests that reading itself is not a problem, though, so she should catch up in English with added support. I'd talk directly with the principal of her new school to gauge which grade is the best fit for her (and hopefully they can move her if you choose one and the other seems better after a few weeks). Also be aware that the age cutoff in California is now September 1st, so there are many 2010-born kids who will turn seven this fall in first grade, plus some who turned seven in July or August who will also be in first grade because their parents waited to start them. Depending on when she turned seven, she may not be the oldest by much (or at all) if you do opt to do first grade. Welcome!

    I would go ahead and put her in 2nd grade. All children come to school with different levels of abilities, and the teachers are good at accommodating this. In both school districts I've been in (not Belmont, but still in the Bay Area), reading instruction is highly differentiated. She will catch up on her reading; you don't want her to not be challenged in other areas because she's repeating first grade. I think that schools in the Bay Area are very used to English language learners as well. Good luck!

    40% of California public school students do not speak English at home and many have some need of English language development. The school districts and the State of California are ready for this. Your children should enroll based in grades based on their age.

    Here is the state document on English-learner students:

    Here is are the educational services contacts for Belmont in case you want to check in with them:

  • Repeating third grade?

    (5 replies)

    My niece, who lives with me and has inattentive ADHD, is currently enrolled in a Catholic school. I received her latest progress report. She needs improvement in all subject and the teacher commented that she is not ready to go to 4th grade. Has anyone experienced or know of a kid who was retained to her/his grade level? My concern is that this may give her a negative impact as all her classmates are moving up to 4th grade and she is staying behind. Any advice is appreciated. Thank you.

    RE: Repeating third grade? ()

    Here is my two cents: 1. Certainly, get another opinion, it's a big decision. 2. Don't rule it out. I have an 8th grader and I wish, wish wish someone had suggested we hold her back in elementary school. Now it feels too late. She is not the youngest in her class but she feels developmentally unready for the work. My nephew was a November baby and repeated first grade -- he went from real 'problems' to being an academic star and he never looked back. Third grade is harder, but it's still do-able. You could also switch schools if it's too much to do at the same school

    RE: Repeating third grade? ()

    I have a 14 year old son with ADHD. I was in the reverse position. He was very far behind his peers and I argued for retention but was shut down. (He was maybe in the 2nd/3rd grade?) This was a public school and his IEP team indulged me with an inventory that showed it was inappropriate. Cannot recall what it is named now. Apparently research shows that retention does not remedy the issue as I thought. My son was not held back. I did start private tutoring and he is doing well!!! Here is a link that could help support your argument:

    Good luck.

    RE: Repeating third grade? ()

    If it's possible I'd change schools next year. I can't even imagine how humiliating it would be to repeat a grade at the same school.

Archived Q&A and Reviews



6th grade retention

June 2012

Has anyone had their child repeat 6th grade? jane

Unless there is a very drastic reason to repeat, I would not do it, just for the social reasons. Unless the child is switching schools, where his/her new classmates are unaware they are repeating, I would not do it. Kids at this age are sooo self conscious and worried about what others, especially their friends, think about them, I think it would be devastating to have to repeat 6th grade. If your child needs extra help, sign them up for Kumon or some other tutoring program, either this summer, next school year, or both. Mom of a 6th grader


Should 7th grade be repeated?

June 2009


My son has attention, focusing difficulty and auditory processing. He currently has speech therapy and tutoring every week. He is immature and small for his age. His teacher posed repeating 7th grade. He has a lot of difficulty writing-the whole process-topic sentence, gathering information, writing and understanding what he just read- all of it. We have him in Classroom Matters' writing workshop this summer but what else can we do?

Unless your son is failing all/most of his classes and needs to be with younger children for some reason, I would NOT recommend retention. If he is only struggling with writing, and has had interventions like tutoring, etc. you can request another evaluation to expand his IEP from speech only. Request that he be evaluated ''in all areas of suspected disability'' and outline previous, but unsuccessful, interventions like the tutoring. BUSD is notorious for denying assessments with a form called ''prior written notice'' but don't let them steamroller you. Get an advocate if you need to. They are bound by ed code to provide an assessment if previous interventions have failed. Once you get that, they still might deny services, like the Resource Specialist Program, so you'll have to be insistent. Can your speech/language therapist help at all? Good luck. Been There


Retention for ADD 1st grader

March 2004


After months of trying to figure out why our first grader is having a tough time in school, he has been diagnosed with ADD. And it makes sense now that I've learned more about the condition. He doesn't exhibit the hyperactivity, however he is incredibly distracted and simply cannot keep up with his school work in class, although he is testing ahead of his grade academically. He has terrible difficulty remembering his daily routine and sometimes just zones out for minutes at a time. The preliminary recommendations are retention or ritalin, and to me it's a no brainer to hold him back a year to let him ''grow up'' a bit more. His teacher is fully supportive of that option. He's small, not gifted in the gross motor skill category and not particularly socially mature. I am confident will benefit from the ''extended first grade program.''

Any advice as to what I can do to help him focus in the meantime (we have hired a tutor and he does very well with the one on one attention)? How have other parents handled the retention issue (my brother suggests positioning it as ''red shirting'' but my son isn't into sports enough to understand)? How can we help him explain it to his friends (or god forbid, prepare him for any teasing or is that likely)? How can I help him to remember his weekly routine? How can I keep things in check during his zone out periods? Are there any nutritional resources I should consider? What other resources should I be exploring? Recommend any books on this? Any advice in general? He's a very sweet, kind, bright kid and interested in just about everything (although not focussed on any one particular activity). It's a relief to have a diagnosis, but the work is just beginning.

I am deeply grateful for any help and insight. Thank you! Looking for Answers

Dear Looking for Answers,

I cannot comment on the retention issue as we did not have to go that route with our son as he started kindergarten on the older side. However, as you describe your son it sounds very familiar: attentional difficulties w/o hyperactivity, gross, fine and graphamotor delays, social immaturity, difficulty focusing, etc. In addition, my son has academic/learning difficulties.

There are so many things to try, in my opinion, before you resort to ritalin. First and formeost is educating yourself and the teachers who work with him, about his special needs. You must understand that he can't help himself and that it is up to the adults in his world to provide an environment where he can thrive. We have found that our child needs extreme consistency (much more so than a child w/o these issues), that we must adjust our style of parenting to accomodate his ability to focus and follow through. For instance, giving him one set of instructions at a time (i.e. go get you shoes and bring them here), while at the same time attempting to make eye contact and a gentle touch of your hand on his shoulder. The teachers can also accomodate his attentional needs in the classroom, and should. An example is placing him towards the front of the room or where he will have the least distractions (visual, auditory etc.). You may want to set up a meeting with all the teachers who work with him on a regular basis and discuss his needs and ideas for accomodating them. This will probably need to be done on an annual basis as teachers change.

Kids with this profile often have social difficulties. Their awareness and understanding of social cues are just not there. My son has been in a social skills class at his school. He enjoys it and it is a source of comfort to him. These classes are offered privately as well. I have a few names if you are interested. In addition, we started private therapy for our son as we noticed he was having some self-esteem issues related to his difficulties. The therapist is great and he really enjoys it. She helps him with socail skills and other areas where he has exhibited low self-esteem.

We have tried a myriad of other therapies with my son for a range of problems, but most recently I have made major changes to his diet. In short, we removed all packaged foods containing preservatives, corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, MSG, and any other ingredient that sounded suspicious. We eat only whole grains, a lot more fruits and vegis, and almost no sugar. Within a week of stringently adhering to this diet we saw our son's behavior level off, and he stopped having the extreme highs and lows. In addition, he seems better able to focus. He isn't like a kid w/o ADD issues by any means, but he is more in control of himself. The nice thing is that we are also teaching him good nutrition and setting him up for a lifetime of healthful living. Another area we are trying out is EFA supplementation (using flaxseed oil). There is a lot of info online that indicates there may be a link between low EFA levels in the American diet and a myriad of issues, including attentional, learning, skin, etc. A great book I just read on nutrition is Lean Kids by Dr. Sears. It is geared towards helping overweight kids but the nutritional advice is outstanding and applicable to any family.

As far as gross motor delays or difficulties we have tried a lot. We started out with Occupational Therapy. It did help. Then we went to Tae Kwon Do with a master who specializes in kids with issues. Our son has benefited by this more than anything else. In general, we know that he enjoys individual, non-competitive sports (swimming, biking, skating) and is not at all intereseted in team sports. The challenge, however,is to get him some sports skills so that he can feel competant on the playground with his peers. This is an area to be aware of, esp. with boys as sports are so big for them in the social arena. We have just started our son with a physical therapist who is helping him one-on-one with sports skills. He is just giving him some practice so he has the self-confidence to participate on the playground and feel good about himself in that area.

As far as books, Mel Levine is my favorite author when it comes to understanding kids with special needs. He explains the diificulties they have with a non-labeling approach and offers ways to help. Also, Rick LaVoie is great. I have watched some of his videos and would highly recommend them.

There is a great (and free) resource you can use called the RISE library. It is on the penninsula. They will ship you tapes, books, articles. You can find them online.

Good luck. It is a long road. But with your hard work, advocacy and loving and logical parenting your child can be helped. I would be happy to email back and forth if you like. Janis

There is so much to offer ADD/ADHD kids in the way of nutrition. Check out to find someone in your area who works with children. Basic suggestions from the literatures: check for heavy metals, clear them, and ensure the child has adequate good fats and proteins in the diet. Minimize or, better yet but almost impossible, eliminate the processed foods in his life. The school, if public, will with a diagnosis develop an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) upon request, but you need to keep reminding them in writing to do it. Nori

You must read the book ''Right brain children in a left brain world'' - very helpful. me too

I highly suggest checking out Dr. Mel Levine's work in this area. He has several books out, the most popular being The Mind that is Mine. His web site is He believes in not labeling the child but instead labeling the observble phenomena- where the breakdown is occuring. The weaknesses in attention that you described are very typical of attention weaknesses. There are many strategies to accomodate these, whether you chose to retain him or not. Do know though, that a weakness in attention rarely stands out alone. It is also usually accomponied by a weakness in the area of memory or language (processing or production). There are many resources and strategies that you can use to stregthen these areas, and a tutor should be providing just that. Good luck! wendy

My son was diagnosed with mild to moderate ADHD in first grade and we had a heck of a time getting him to do his homework and stay on task during class. Home life was equally difficult when it came to just getting the basics done on a daily basis at home. He is now in 3rd grade and amazingly better able to handle all of the above. We considered holding him back since he was young for the school year (Oct. birthdate), but decided against it for other reasons.

After seeking help through therapy and getting a diagnosis, we proceeded to use the techniques of HANDLE. They prescribe a series of physical exercises to enhance nueral transmission which is affected negatively in people with ADD/ADHD. You can read more about this on their website at www. The combination of strict routine and understanding that my son was not trying to be disruptive or ornery about getting certain tasks done changed many of the things that were disrupting our family life and most importantly gave him tools to help himself. It's easy for these kids to get labled ''problems'' at school, so I suggst you educate others as you educate yourself about the problem so you can help him manage his frustration at not being able to do what others do so easily. It's not easy. You have to be persistant, but it works. Good luck. Anon

Time and again I am amazed at how quickly teachers and schools rush to label a child as ''abnormal'' when he or she does not fit into the ''soldier like'' mold that could indeed make THIER lives a lot easier. It seems like ADD is the new fashion among teachers, and that instead of letting children come in all psychological shapes and sizes, there is an awfully popular attempt to depress their free spirit into disciplined little puppets, preferably on medication.

You say that your child is smart and kind, curious and life loving, and so why is it so wrong for him to be different. It is often the case that children diagnosed with ADD are wrongly assumed to have difficulty concentrating and organizing. However, if you observe your son more carefully you are very likely to notice that he actually has a tremendous, much better than average capacity to concentrate and focus his mind, thus allowing him to temporarily shot of the environment around him (thus frequently misinterpreted as being spaced out). In fact, those diagnosed with ADD are often incredibly smart, sometime brilliant people, who have been gifted with the capacity to ''zoom in'' on information in a way that most of us can not. Yes, it is true that this capacity might come on the expense of other, more superficial necessities of life, but what is wrong with that? Why do we all have to be the same? Why should all minds work and be alike?

Let your son be, and donUt let any lazy teacher exploit your temporary confusion and tell you that your son needs medication or isolation from his age group. Encourage him to be himself, the special self that he is...and accept the fact that his fantastically capable and unique personality and mind may simply not be interested in the mundane and practical tasks of us average people... Anon

It sounds like your son has Inattentive ADD without hyperactivity. The diagnosis is VERY important, so hopefully you are seeing an ADHD specialist. You may want to participate in a clinical trial. UCSF is currently running some ADHD studies. My son is in a study and it is a wonderful opportunity to get a spectrum of tests done for free, and have your child monitored by specialists who are devoted to the study of ADHD.

Often ADHD children are very bright and are easily bored in a typical classroom environment. They forget to turn in assignments, space out in class, leave books behind etc. They may be perceived as careless slackers, yet these kids really want to succeed and crave encouragement and approval. Teachers and parents may become annoyed with the ''spaciness, zoning - out, forgetfulness, and disorganization of the ADD Inattentive type.

Teachers still need a lot of education on this condition. Once you have a solid diagnosis, it's important to pursue an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) This is a plan that holds the school accountable for certain agreed upon accommodations and interventions. You can arrange for weekly progress reports, extra time for tests, modified assignments, etc.

You are lucky that your child is young, and you have a lot of time to help him with organization and adherence to routines. There are several interventions I would suggest.

1) Have a consistent study area where EVERYTHING is labeled- Buy many of those plastic boxes that have drawers and label each drawer: Pens, Pencils, Colored Pencils, Markers, etc. Work with your child everyday to put things back in their appropriate place. Kids with ADD have a hard time finding things - which distracts them from staying on task.

2) As much as possible, try to keep routines consistent

3) Identify areas where your child has hyper-focus. Almost all ADD kids are able to focus intensely on certain activities or subjects that they find fascinating. Encourage and facilitate these areas.

4) Give a lot of encouragement and praise when your child is successful and be supportive when he is struggling. Your child probably already knows he is out of synch in the classroom and this causes anxiety and worry. This stress will escalate every year as the homework increases and the demands on memory and attention are greater.

5) Work with an ADHD coach, so that as a parent you have additional support for yourself and your son. If you do a search on the web - you will find some ADD coaching websites, and info on what coaches can do. There are many helpful tips (too many to go through here) I do this work myself and have seen what a difference it makes. Best of Luck, Allison

Dear Friend, Our son is 22 and is a college senior engineering student. He is an Eagle Scout. He is doing great in college!

We were told at the end of preschool that there might be learning problems but I chose to ignore that. They suggested we send our son to ''bridge'' class and I chose not to. Bad decision.

Our son was distracted and bumbled through elementary school even though he tested terrifically and was chosen for the gifted and talented. I spent a lot of time yelling and punishing him for ''not trying.'' After all his IQ was off the charts but his grades were not showing it.

Then they told us he was ADD and suggested medication. We chose not to do that. We didn't believe in medicating children.

We took him out of public school and put him in private school. Things got worse as he got older. His self esteem fell and fell and fell.

Yet he tested so high he got into one of the most prestigious private junior high - high schools around. And things were awful. Grades were low and self esteem lower.

In 9th grade as he entered high school, the high school counselor suggested we have him tested for learning disabilities (perceptual problems). Her son had been diagnosed with an unusual perceptual problem and specific exercises had made a huge difference for him.

We wasted no time. We went to Children's Hospital in Houston and had our son tested. Very expensive testing but insurance paid for most of it.

If we had had to sell our house to get the testing, it turns out that it would have been worth every penny. Our son had a distinct perceptual problem that was a ''learning disability''. Call it whatever you want. We called it a learning difference.

He cannot take notes. There is a ''short circuit'' or a ''time lag'' between when he hears something and his ability to translate it to his hand and write the words. Yet, a coach - which insurance paid most of, gave him exercises and he found a way to work around it.

He went into the honors program the next year! It took years to get over the ego damage. When the psychologist explained what had been going on, our 16 year old son sat and tears pooled in his eyes and said...I thought there was something really wrong with me. I thought I was crazy.

My advice:
1. Keep him back
2. Get him tested immediately for learning ''disabilities'' or learning ''differences''
3. Never yell at him. Never.
4. I don't know about the ADD. Our son does use medication in college if he has a major quiz but only then. That is too complex an issue for a stranger to know what to recommend.

My son turned out fabulously but he suffered when he never should have. I did a lot of things right. But I cannot forgive myself for robbing him of a lot of success. He and I have talked about this and we have a loving great relationship but only through tons of work afterwards.

PS: I was a teacher before I married. I had a student who had no auditory memory. I wrote down the class's assignments on the board so that she could read what to do. She went to ''enrichment class'' where she did exercises to help with this. She went from a D to an A student and I never had a second's trouble with her in class. That was 3rd grade. In 2nd she was identified as a trouble maker and her Mom was called to school constantly.

I would get him tested and rule out perceptual problems at least ... you may find out you have a child who just does things differently.

Been There


Should I have my daughter repeat the 7th grade?

August 2002


I have a 13.5 year old daughter who has been struggling in school. She was diagnosed with absentee seizure in the 2nd grade and given medication. In the 4th grade she was diagnosed seizure free and released from the medication. In the 7th grade my daughter became very frustrated with not succeeding in school when she tried so very hard to do the work. I called the pediatrician who had her tested and it was learned that she had irregular brain activitity/seizures. She was placed back on the medication. I have had my daughter tested for a possible learning disability. She has tested average in all the testing. I am concern with whether or not she was able to maintain enough information in the 7th grade to move on to the 8th grade. Please share your opinions and experiences. 7th grade again or 8th grade with continous tutoring. Thanks for the feedback.

Despite the State's get-tough policies on promotion, most studies show that children who repeat grades do worse, both academically and socially, than children who are passed on the next grade, even when their grades are marginal. That said, your child is not most children -- have you asked her what she thinks? How is she doing socially and how connected is she to friends in her grade? One compromise option, in addition to the tutoring, is to have her take 8th grade and take pre-algebra instead of algebra, if math was particularly difficult. Naomi

My son repeated sixth grade (he was graduating to middle school at the time and chose to repeat the sixth grade rather than going into the class that he had been accepted into.) It was the best decision we ever made. Fortunately he felt part of the decision making process, which helped. He was on the cusp developmenatally and blossomed after repeating the grade. There was about a month of awkwardness because there were former classmates at the new school who were in the year ahead of him. It never seemed to bother him after that. He had great support from his now-retired therapist in making the transition.