Usually takes more than retention to help student find success

By Marge Eberts and Peggy Gisler

King Features Syndicate

Q: My daughter, a third-grader, has always struggled in school. She started kindergarten at 4 and was the youngest in her class. Last year, she went to summer school, but she still struggled all this year. The teacher wants her to repeat third grade. Will this help her do better in the future? How can she catch up to her classmates? — Always Struggling

A: Repeating a year rarely helps children catch up to their classmates. It usually takes more than retention to help a student find success in the classroom. First and foremost, you need to find out why your child is struggling in school. Frankly, this should have been done years ago. Does she have an undiagnosed learning disability? What are the specific areas where she has problems? What are her particular academic strengths? Work with the school now to find the answers to these questions.

Schools typically concentrate on teaching basic reading and math skills in the first three grades. In fourth grade, more emphasis is given to the content areas. Even if your daughter repeats third grade, she may not receive the help needed to improve any weak basic skills. Special help may be needed.


There are alternatives to retention. Summer vacation is rapidly approaching. Work with the school now to develop ways to help your daughter this summer. She should attend summer school only if it has a program to meet her special needs. She may need the individualized instruction a tutor or learning center can bring. Possibly, a local university has a reading or math clinic that could help her at a minimal cost. If she has a learning disability, plans must be made to handle it next year.

Depending on what the school says about why she is struggling and how she can be helped this summer and next year, you can decide whether retention is right for her.

Q: I’m a young, homeschooled student who has recently applied to a college, and I need to take the GED for admittance. I went to a GED test center and was told that in our state the law does not allow anyone younger than 17 years and 10 months to take the exam. I have just moved here from another state where the law is different. Is it possible to take the GED in a state besides the one in which you are a resident? — Homeschooled

A: States do vary in their age requirements for the GED. However, you can’t just take this test in any state. You must take it in the state where you are currently a resident.

We suggest that you contact the college where you have applied for admission and explain the situation. While many colleges still require either a GED or high-school diploma, the number is decreasing substantially every year. Colleges typically are relying on SAT or ACT scores and/or a portfolio for admission of students who have been home-schooled. Ask the college where you have applied if they will accept either the SAT or ACT in place of the GED.

Send questions to Dear Teacher, in care of the Post-Bulletin, Box 395, Carmel, IN 46082-0395; or e-mail:

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