Should elementary students who fail be held back a grade?

He said, she said


He said

This is a tough one to answer because there are a number of arguments for and against holding students back when they don't reach a standard level of success in a school year.

Some people like to treat the school grounds the same way they treat the workforce. The argument is that people who fail at their jobs lose those jobs, so treating students any differently doesn't teach them any of those tough life lessons they should be learning before entering the workforce.

It's perhaps a little unfair to treat a 10-year-old the same as a working adult, however. Those lessons are maybe best learned when these students enter the workforce. That's what those part-time jobs in high school are all about. For me, I developed a work ethic as a youngster by playing sports more than through my academic activities.

We go to school for different reasons than we work. The responsibilities of work are best taught in those part-time jobs as a high schooler, when you're saving up to go away to school when you graduate.

If we aren't treating young students as working stiffs, the other argument is that it's best for a child's educational development. Certainly it's not good to just push a student along who isn't getting it. In most cases, they will only fall further behind as the years go on.

A struggling student probably isn't underachieving in all subjects, so some sort of extra education is probably more desirable than a student completing a whole year over again. Whether that means tutoring or extra help from a teacher, I'm not sure.

Even if it means hiring extra teachers who are available for one-on-one sessions that students can be booked into throughout a week, that would probably be cheaper than the cost of sending a child through Grade 5 for a second time.

There are lots of alternative ways to giving students help that don't mean repeating a whole school year. Repeating a year may actually be Einstein's definition of insanity by having a student do the same thing and expecting a different result.

She said

The way I see it, if a kid isn't getting the material in Grade 2, they aren't going to understand the material in Grade 3.

Obviously there's the argument that the next grade's teacher may be able to reach the child better, but I'm going to stick with my answer: Kids who fail should be held back.

If a child is failing his or her classes, having the chance to repeat the material will probably be helpful. And since schools are ultimately there to see kids succeed and learn, encouraging a child to wait a little longer isn't the end of the world.

Consider swimming lessons. It took me three tries to pass Level 5 because I hated the front crawl. But eventually I forced myself to figure out the stupid stroke so I could move on to the next level. Had I been allowed to continue on to Level 6 it would have made me a worse swimmer in the long run.

One thing that would suck would be being left behind the friends who are your own age. But I've seen it happen, and I honestly think that, more than ever, kids have friends outside of their grades and are totally capable of maintaining friendships with people they don't see every day.

Of course, we live in an age where kids don't even receive zeros for failing to hand in assignments, so how can we fail anyone, so long as they're trying their hardest? Because nothing teaches children the value of reliability and the ability to make a deadline like telling them they're going to get credit they didn't even earn.

In the world, if a person doesn't understand something, they have to take a little longer to learn it. You don't get promoted to a manager position unless you've earned the right to be there. People have to work hard to move up ladders. Children should be required to understand the material they're taught before moving forward a grade.

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