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Retention might not improve reading skills

Q: My daughter’s first-grade teacher has just told my husband and me that she is planning on retaining our daughter because of her poor reading skills. All of her other grades are satisfactory. Every night we work with our daughter, and to us her reading skills seem fine.

We have just hired another teacher in the same school to tutor our daughter; however, the classroom teacher feels that this is not enough. The tutor tells us that she tested our daughter and her reading scores are OK. I feel that we still have several months left of school and 10 weeks during the summer in which my daughter’s reading skills could improve. Should we just listen to this teacher and accept retention for our daughter? — Need to Make a Decision

A: You need to face the fact that children should acquire certain basic reading skills in first grade. You are doing several things that will help your daughter build her reading skills, like working with her nightly and hiring a tutor. Nevertheless, the classroom teacher does not feel this is enough.

Everyone needs to get on the same page here concerning your daughter’s reading ability. You, the tutor and the classroom teacher definitely need to talk to each other and share information about what skills your daughter has and doesn’t have. And you should visit the reading class and listen carefully to all the other children read so you get a good idea of how well first-graders are expected to read.

It definitely is too soon to make any decision about your daughter’s grade placement for next year. Also, since there are several months left in this school year, you need to quickly decide how to help her improve her reading now. Start by making a joint plan that spells out how you, the teacher and the tutor will help your daughter.

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Then request that the school corporation test your daughter. This often takes several months, and you really want to get her tested this school year. You need to find out if your daughter has any language-processing problems or other reading-related issues so that they can be addressed. Retention without thorough assessment will not help improve your daughter’s reading skills.

Q: My high school does not provide much information on colleges. I want to go to college, but I’m not sure what I need to do to get into college. — Sophomore

A: For college admission, you need to know what high-school courses and admissions tests to take. You also need to have an idea of what grade-point average and test scores will be required. If you have a counselor, that’s the place to start for information. First, consider finding out about state schools, as they are likely to have the same requirements as many four-year colleges.

School and public libraries often have sections with college catalogs that will let you study the admissions requirements of individual schools. Plus, it is very easy to go online and find out the requirements for admissions on any college’s Web site. If you have a major in mind, check out if it has any specific requirements. Also, try to visit local college admissions offices.

Send questions to Dear Teacher, in care of the Post-Bulletin, Box 395, Carmel, IN 46082-0395; log on to www.dearteacher.com; or e-mail: DearTeacher@dearteacher.com.

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