A Way to Avoid Retention in Schools

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An Analysis of Retention

How can one excel in a university setting if they were unable to understand years of previous education? A tutor from our university writing center expressed their disbelief of a session in which a student was unable to read at an adequate reading level. This begs the question, how can students get so far academically if they cannot even read and comprehend their assignments? A student cannot do an assignment correctly that they do not understand, and they cannot be expected to do well in a more advanced setting than the setting in which they are currently unable to do sufficiently. Are schools, particularly early elementary schools, setting students up for failure by not giving proper aid? And what is the best aid? Retaining students by having them repeat a year of schooling is a possibility in achieving academic success, however there are also other ways to do such that do not require students repeating a grade level. In article’s addressing these questions, both authors Jimerson et al. (2006) and Cannon et al. (2011) argue that although retention is sometimes necessary, implementing interventions prior to retention can be much more beneficial to a student’s development, especially socially and academically.

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Socially, retained students are set back emotionally from their peers, “[displaying] poorer social adjustment, more negative attitudes toward school, less frequent attendance, and more problem behaviors in comparison to groups of matched controls” (Jimerson et al. 2006) such as students who were not retained. Social development includes a wide range of characteristics, and these all lead to a deficiency in academic skills. Cannon et al. addresses academic setbacks to retention by arguing that it does not improve the long-term success of students academically. While retention may aid a student in performing well in the following year, retention by no means “[improves] a students’ long-term performance” (Cannon et al 2011). Student’s who are retained simply learn how to do that specific grade level adequately by means of repetition and are not taught how to keep up with material the first time around. With this problem, students will need to have their schoolwork repeated to them twice for the rest of their academic career instead of learning how to understand material initially. Jimerson et al. touches on the fact that retention is a short-term beneficiary. While they both utilize similar statistics in their arguments that retention should be only a last resort to student success, they argue this in different ways, for academic and social success. Jimerson et al. focus more on the social aspects while Cannon et al. focuses on the academic development of students. Both articles also address similar interventions that can be implemented before retention is necessary.

A group of interventions with similar concepts are after school, Saturday, and summer school programs, which all similarly involve help by trained professionals working specifically with students’ needs. In addition to help with professionals, students will receive “time and exposure to master academic material” (Jimerson et al. 2006), ultimately giving their minds more time to process the information, as well as having a better comprehension of it’s meaning than they would if the material was only presented to them within the classroom. This sounds as if it is in conflict with my previous statement that student retention is ineffective because it doesn’t allow students to think and understand material initially, however, these situations are in agreement. Retention means an extra year is being spent on these school topics, as opposed to students being in extracurricular groups where they further go into depth of one topic at a time and not progressing until it is understood. Cannon et al. points out that “students who are repeating a grade often receive extra help through interventions” (2011) as such, so why not implement said strategies before retention, thus eliminating the necessity of repeating a grade and diminishing the student’s likelihood of social incompetency. Implementing extracurricular studying will help the students succeed within the classroom, lower the chances of having social deficiencies, and also save the state of California a significant amount of money by not having a student in the public school system for an additional year (Jimerson et el. 2006).

Other extracurricular used to avoid retention are early reading programs. These are typically for younger students in the grade range of kindergarten to first grade, which help students by “providing opportunities to practice reading” (Jimerson et al. 2006). Jimerson et al suggests educational professionals “consider the needs of diverse populations” (2006) showing that it is taken into account that not all students come from ideal family backgrounds. For example non-native speaking families or low income families with working parents who are unable to help with their child’s school achievements are thus more prone to falling behind (Cannon 2011). Early reading programs provide an instructional atmosphere where student learning is promoted in ways that students cannot be helped within their homes. Some parents are reluctant to accept that their child is not meeting the needed level of academic achievement, and thus do not accept the fact that interventions and retention may be necessary. Cannon et al. asserts that school officials have the ultimate say in whether or not a child needs retention, however, “ parental acceptance of the recommendation is an important consideration” (2011) when contemplating retention. A parent’s support in their child’s academic needs “may improve the outcomes of many interventions” (Jimerson et al., 2006). It’s difficult for a student to be taught effectively in a school setting if academics are not made a priority in the home, their primary discourse. Students, particularly those of a young age confuse what they learn at school with what they see at home, and will thus follow what they are more comfortable with, home life; by the time a noticeable gap in the students academic standing and where they should be is perceived and accepted by the parent, it is likely to be too late to avoid retention. Parental involvement in their child’s early academics is thus very beneficial to the coming years, however, circumstances do not always allow for this luxury, and early reading programs are an effective solution to avoid retention before it becomes necessary.

Across the board, academic interventions can be effective in student’s success for the long run. Making sure that students are where they need to be academically is key to avoiding retention, thus avoiding setting them back a year in school, lowering their self esteem, and creating various social issues in students. Both Jimerson et al. and Cannon et al. prove retention beneficial to student academics, however they also both find that this is only a short-term improvement (2006, 2011). It is a school’s job to equip student’s to succeed in their life beyond the classroom and interventions are effective tools used to accomplish this. With modern society advancing so fast, it is important to keep up with the best ways to teach students the necessary material. For example, it wasn’t that long ago that an earlier generation implemented cursive in classrooms because one day those students may attend college where said tools are used. Being a college student, I can say that I have not once used cursive in class. Times change, and retention is no longer the most effective or worthwhile tactic for students success.

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