If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you, for he is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask him; he will not resent it.
James 1:5 (TLB)
Prayer and Meditation
I have a child who should possibly be retained. I feel I have done everything I could to help her academic and social development, but still she is not ready for the next grade. I fear retention will have a profound effect on her future academic career, but so will retention. Lord, I ask for your wisdom and guidance in determining what is best for this child and in discussions with her parents. Grace me with an understanding and love for this child. Open my mind to consider alternatives to retention and lead me to the one option that is best for her.
The Actions of Prayerful Teaching
- Discuss with the parents why their child is being considered for retention or in the case of high school students, course failure. Present student artifacts, test scores, attendance records, interventions undertaken for the benefit of the child, and other concrete documentation. This is much easier if parent communication has been established throughout the year—not the cold, impersonal newsletter type of communication, but personalized one-on-one interaction. Talk of retention should never come as a surprise to any parents.
- Explain to the parents how their child’s learning was supported this this year. Why or why not did this support allow the child to achieve academic success? If the support options did not allow the child to be successful, how often and in what manner were they modified? This may be difficult to discuss and most likely the parents, out of concern for their child, will raise tough questions. These questions should be answered professionally and honestly. This is not the time to “cover-up” or blame. Stay focused on the issues.
- Identify specific intervention strategies that will implemented the following year to enhance the child’s academic and social development and promote successful learning experiences that will continue to have an effect throughout the remainder of the child’s academic career. It is important that the parents understand that their child will not just receive more of the same that led to retention in the first place. In other words, the child will have a new run at success, not a rerun of the previous year. Assure the parents that they will be invited to a conference within the first month of the next school year to assess these intervention strategies. During the September conference have student artifacts, not just test scores, ready to share with the parent.
- Discuss options other than retention or course failure. It is rare that any problem has only one solution. If an alternative action plan other than retention is determined to be in the best interest of the child, make sure all participants know who is responsible for what elements in the plan. Formalize the action plan by putting it writing. Include timetables as well as accountability factors. How will everyone know if the plan is successful? What are the specific goals of the plan? Before implementation begins, hold another meeting with the parents and present them with the written plan. Invite the parents to partner whenever the planned fine-tuning. Though high school students can make up credits in summer school, is summer school an option for the younger child? If summer school is an option for the younger child, an action plan is non-negotiable. Summer school cannot just be a place to “put in time” and move on. There needs to be a strong action plan in place to ensure that the student is prepared to meet the expectations of the next grade level.
- Listen carefully to the wishes of the parents. They will be present in their child’s life long after he has “graduated” from his present grade.
Challenge of the Week:
Familiarize yourself with the pros and cons of retention for your specific grade level. The pros and cons of retention are different for every grade. Research generally points to kindergarten and first grade as having more pros for retention and upper grade levels having more cons.
God Bless and Prayerful Teaching,
Elizabeth A. Wink