Retaining children in kindergarten is a decision usually made by parents after a consultation with the teacher in which she relays her concerns about their child's progress. Teachers recommend retention when they feel like a student's promotion to first grade would be detrimental to his academic achievement. However, parents and teachers should be aware of the potential effects that retention can have on the child before they make a final decision.
It sounds reasonable that an extra year of kindergarten would help a struggling student until he can master the skills that are required in first grade. However, research conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics showed that children who were retained in kindergarten did not fare any better academically than children who were promoted. Additionally, their scores on standardized tests were lower than their peers in first grade.
Behavioral problems are another reason teachers give for retaining a child in kindergarten. If a student has been so disruptive in class that his academic performance has suffered, he might benefit from another year in kindergarten. However, the National Center for Education Statistics also reported that 29 percent of the children in their study continued to have behavior problems like classroom disruption and inability to get along with peers -- a 40 to 50 percent increase when compared to non-retained children.
Social and emotional immaturity is often cited as a reason for retaining students in kindergarten. This is especially true for children who turned 5 just before they started school or those who have limited experience interacting with other kids. While this justification has some merit, retention could actually be detrimental. This happens when children who are already emotionally vulnerable have to deal with the reality that their peers have gone to the next grade. Teachers and parents might be surprised to learn that even very young children realize that something is amiss in their progress. According to research reported by Kid Source, retention does create a social stigma that some children may never overcome.
Kindergarten teachers usually have good intentions when they recommend retention. They hope that the extra year will help a child throughout school. Although there are a few short-term benefits like improved comprehension and handwriting, there is little evidence to support that retention has any long-lasting benefits. Research reported on Kid Source concludes that retention does not improve academic performance in later grades.
Karen Hollowell has been teaching since 1994. She has taught English/literature and social studies in grades 7-12 and taught kindergarten for nine years. She currently teaches fourth grade reading/language and social studies. Hollowell earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Mississippi and her Master of Arts in elementary education from Alcorn State University.