Here we are heading into the fourth quarter of what was once again one of the craziest years in the history of education. We finally have our students back in our classrooms, but we were left with the task of addressing social-emotional skills that were simply not developed. Now, as we are preparing to close out this year we have to take into consideration student retention.
To retain or not to retain, that is the question.
There are so many factors to weigh when student retention is a consideration beyond just the grades on the report card.
Before we go any further, I should share with you that I am not a big supporter of retaining students unless there is very solid evidence that this is the best service to the student. However, I will share what other factors should be taken into consideration when making this decision.
Retention Factor #1 - Age:
One piece of the puzzle you need to look at is the student’s age. Is this student young/old for the current grade or is he/she right where he/she should be for his/her birthday.
Age plays a huge part in social-emotional coping skills which can be a key factor in student learning. When retaining students, they have to make new friends and explain to some of their other friends why they didn’t move on to the next grade. As you can imagine, this can make quite an impact socially on the student.
Also, please pay attention to if there is a sibling in the direct grade level behind. If this is the case, now not only will this student have to face being with a whole new group of friends but also being in the same grade as a younger sibling. That could be a tough bit to swallow for not only your student but the younger sibling as well.
Retention Factor #2: Benefits for Student
This might be the MOST important factor when making this decision. What gains will the student make if you decide to retain him/her? What growth in subject areas will occur? Obviously, you don’t have a crystal ball to know for sure what will happen, but you really need to think if holding this student back will truly help the student’s learning to improve. If the answer is no, then I think you have your decision.
Retention Factor #3: Considerations
Another consideration you may want to think about is whether or not this student will have to pass any type of state testing. If he/she does, then maybe promote the student to the next grade and let the results of that test serve as the basis for future retention. I would definitely share your thoughts and concerns with the next grade level teachers so they know all that you did to help serve this student.
Retention Factor #4: Documentation
No matter what you decide on for this student, please be sure you have sufficient and appropriate documentation. As you know, this is not a decision to be made lightly. Hopefully, you have already reached out to your principal and expressed your concerns about the academic challenges your student is facing. Keep your principal in the loop every couple of weeks on the student’s progress and your continued concern. Provide concrete evidence of your documentation so your principal can see it firsthand. If you haven’t done this step yet, then you need to do so ASAP!
Retention Factor #5: Notifications
It is also my hope that you have been in communication with the parents throughout the school year. This is not a decision that you simply wake up one morning and decide to let the family know about. Each time you communicate with the parent you need to log the conversation either digitally or simply in a notebook. If this has all been done and you and your principal are on the same page, then it is time to call the family to invite them in for a conference.
Prior to having this conference with the parents I strongly recommend that you have a PLAN A and PLAN B in place in case things don’t go according to your plan. If Plan A is to retain the student, again be sure to have solid evidence as to why this is the best option. If the parent chooses not to retain the student, then Plan B might be enrolling the student into summer school and the family must provide documentation of this service.
Finally, if there are two parents indicated in your enrollment and custody paperwork, then you want to be sure that both parents are invited to any conferences about the student. If scheduling is an issue, then suggest having a parent meet over Zoom so all parties can be involved.
Pandemic or no pandemic, retaining students is never an easy conversation. Yes, we have our benchmarks for standards in place, but in the long run, once students know how to read and basic math concepts they can be successful in life.
We are so often stuck in the factory producing ideal students, that we forget many of our students can have successful businesses before they are out of high school.
Let’s start focusing beyond letter grades.
Let’s start fostering 21st-century learning skills.
Let’s start creating students that need to have a combination of social skills just as strong as their technical skills.
When these students are millionaire entrepreneurs they are going to hire people to handle their grammar and syntax, so let’s focus on problems they can find solutions to and begin sharing with the world.
In case you missed it…
In case you missed it here are some of the causes and prevention of teacher burnout.
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Until next week…