Parents Plead: Hold them back a year, they haven’t learned a thing

By: | February 1, 2021

Holding kids back is typically seen by parents and schools as an option of last resort, a socially stigmatizing action that often has a negligible academic impact. But after a year of unprecedented disruptions, some parents ― particularly those of children with disabilities ― are asking their districts for a redo.

The families frame their action as an acknowledgment that the last year of schooling failed their children and that without repeating a grade, they could either fall further behind or graduate without the necessary skills and knowledge. For older students with disabilities ― those who are already in their late teens or 20s and relying on schools to prepare them for the transition to the workforce and independent living ― getting more time in the system after all the pandemic-related challenges feels particularly urgent.

Disability rights groups say such decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis and should involve the team that helps to manage each student’s individualized education plan (an IEP is a legal document outlining the accommodations the school system should be providing to the child). They caution parents to carefully consider the drawbacks. Unlike years past, all students have likely experienced learning loss this past year, meaning everyone will be going into the next grade at a disadvantage, though students with disabilities may face greater impacts. Students in the lower grade will be trailing too, potentially setting retained kids back even further in their race to catch up.

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