This is the time of year when some parents may be wondering: Should I hold my child back a grade? It is a difficult and challenging question for any parent to grapple with.
Back in June, I wrote a post about retention, and it has been by far, the generated the most commentary, questions, and dialogue. I thought it would be helpful to write a follow up that summarizes some of the points I have been conveying to individual parents who have contacted me.
NOTE: I do not unilaterally disagree with retention. While I generally do not support retention as an intervention to help students succeed, I do believe that every child is unique with his/her own circumstances and needs. Because I do not know the intricate nuances of each child’s situation, I do not, in good conscience, attempt to provide explicit answers so much provide guidance for parents to ask the right questions, look in the right places and seek the best direction for their child.
People often ask me, “Does school size matter?” In a nutshell…yes, school size matters.
Historically large schools (especially for middle and high school) have been the norm for many reasons. A school building, in and of itself, is expensive to operate and maintain. So the fewer buildings that a district has to pay for, the less capital outlay it is for the district. Secondly, the more students in one building, the more funding for that school. The more students in the school, the more likely it is that the school can offer a robust number of programs. In other words, the more students, it’s more likely that you’ll have a better football team, basketball team, and even math team.
Despite some of the positives of a large school, sometimes in a large school setting, it’s too easy for a student to get lost. Particularly, students who don’t fit the norm and are not well assimilated into school, for whatever reason. My high school graduating class was roughly 170 students. A high school that wasn’t too far away had 1,000 students per graduating class. Take a minute to think about that from a student to teacher/adult ratio. Of course, large schools have more staff members, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that fewer students fall through the cracks.
So why do I think school size matters?
While classrooms have evolved quite a bit over the past few decades, in many cases, classroom furniture has not. It’s a typical scene from a school classroom: children sit for hours at a time in hard-backed chairs from decades past, arching their backs at unnatural angles, writing in workbooks or reading at outdated school desks, which lack all the comforts of modern ones.
It’s also a scene that some parents have become concerned about, due to the toll this sort of posture exerts on children’s spines and backs throughout their childhood and in later years. Tips on ‘sitting properly’ from an ergonomics perspective tell us that how most children sit in classrooms isn’t correct:
• The lower leg should be vertical to the floor, the thigh horizontal.
• The lower arms should be resting on the desktop in a relaxed position.
• Desks and scholastic furniture should be height adjustable.
• The seat should tilt forward by approximately 2°.
• The seat depth should be positioned correctly: the thighs should not be in contact with the front edge of the seat.
• The backrest should be adapted to the back and support the lumbar region.
• A tilting desktop encourages an upright position that is better for the back.
Children begin to notice the difference in people’s skin color fairly early on. They innocently make comments that an adult would never get away with. Sometimes those comments about skin color are ironically spot on. This is the current understanding of skin color according to our five-year-old.
We watched the second presidential debate together as a family. Although my husband and I typically vote for opposing candidates every election and our kids are still very young (probably too young to truly understand the election process), we thought it’d be a good idea to try to watch at least some portion of the debate and use it as a teachable moment.
While we were watching, we explained the election process (very briefly and simply). We also explained that our last president was Barack Obama, the candidate running against him was Mitt Romney, and a debate was an opportunity for candidates to share their views.
I paused the debate when Barack Obama was on the screen.
The school year is in full gear, and by now, most schools on a traditional school calendar are hitting the halfway point of the first quarter. That means it’s about time for progress reports. Progress reports used to be mailed out around mid-quarter (or mid-marking/grading period) to students who were at risk of failing. However, these days progress reports are more and more common for all students, not just those at risk.
With the advent of online grading technologies such as Powerschool (my favorite) giving parents and students daily access to grades, attendance, and various other records, it may seem that there is less need for formal mid-quarter progress reports. On the contrary, I believe there is still a value add for official progress reports.
1. Even though online technologies offer parents and students a daily view of progress, not all parents/students access the records. So a paper progress report is still a useful tool for communication.