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Expert Q&A

How can I get my son effective reading instruction when the school says he should repeat first grade?

My son just completed first grade and the school is demanding that he be retained due to his struggles with reading, yet they do not have a plan for intervention; they say he just needs more time it’ll just click. The teacher has noted: “he is strong phonetically and orally.”

They originally did not want to test him — the teacher did not feel he had a learning disability. I requested in writing that they test him; the results they returned were that he did not qualify, as they suspected. I had him re-tested by an independent evaluator and she found that there was enough of a discrepancy that he would qualify for an IEP for a reading disability.

I’m trying to gather as much information as possible on the practice of retention. On a general basis, would it be better for a child to be retained in first grade to catch up on reading (he did not exhibit problems in any other subjects) or to continue on to second grade, with support from the school (IEP) and a tutor after school three days a week?

Dear Lynette,

I am not an educator, but you may want to check the following websites for research on retention: Taking Responsibility for Ending Social Promotion: A Guide for Educators and State and Local Leaders or Beyond Grade Retention and Social Promotion .

Best practices generally, based on current research, do not appear to support retention as a means to address problems such as you describe your son experiencing.

The discrepancy formula is no longer legally or educationally recognized as the primary basis for educationally diagnosing a learning disability. The new IDEA regulations provide for consideration of discrepancies in performance relative to age, state level standards or intellectual development. 34 C.F.R. § 307;34 C.F.R. § 309.

Equally important, the public school is required to consider, though is not required to agree with, the findings of independent evaluators. 20 U.S.C. § 1414 (c)(1); 34 C.F.R. § 300.502 (c)(1). If the school and evaluator disagree, you have a right to request a due process hearing if you believe your child should be made eligible for special education. 20 U.S.C. § 1415 (f).

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