50. Retention. Explain why not.

Retention is one of the most difficult decisions to make and the one decision that carries very far-reaching consequences for the retained student.

Retention was a very common practice in the "factory" schools of the early 20th Century. Research, however, uncovered a very frightening statistical fact: While in the general population the ratio of retained to not-retained individuals was rather low –there were many more persons who had never experienced grade retention in their childhood, compared to the much smaller number of persons who had experienced grade retention in their childhood--, in the incarcerated population the ratio of retained to not-retained individuals was very high –there were many more incarcerated persons who HAD experienced grade retention in their childhood, compared to the much smaller number of incarcerated persons who had NEVER experienced grade retention. TO THIS DATE this frightening statistical correlation between grade retention and future incarceration remains true. In fact, for the incarcerated population the ratio of twice retained to not retained individuals was and continues to be extremely high.

This research, which continues to our days, suggests very strongly that retention –even retention in the first grade—has a potentially adverse effect on students. To retain students may mean to grant them a passport to incarceration.

Retention, however, is also correlated to other individual characteristics: sex, socio- economic status, color/race, and language. For students with limited command of the English language, grade retention can only legally happen for reasons OTHER THAN not knowing English. No English Language Learner (or "Limited English Proficient" student/"LEP" student) can be retained because the student does not have command of the English language.

There is another very important research finding that needs to be considered in the debate about retention. In general, students who eventually drop out of school at the 7th, 9th, or 10th grade, make the irreversible, irrevocable, unchangeable, final decision to drop out of school in the THIRD GRADE. Given this terrifying research finding, I must question what kind of educational environment and instructional environment would make a child think and decide forever that school is NOT a place to be, a place where (s)he could be, a place where (s)he should be. In retention decisions, I would require that the school, the classroom, the teacher, everyone in the school would CHANGE so that the child can successfully learn and continue growing BEFORE I would retain any child. FAILURE to learn is NOT the child’s fault and, thus, the child should NOT BEAR any embarrassment or harm for NOT learning. FAILURE to learn IS the school’s fault, the classroom’s fault, the teacher’s fault, and the fault of everyone in the school who failed the child. Thus, in my opinion, A PARENT SHOULD NEVER ACCEPT A RETENTION DECISION UNTIL (S)HE HAS BEEN SHOWN HOW THE SCHOOL, THE CLASSROOM, THE TEACHER, THE PRINCIPAL AND EVERYONE IN THE SCHOOL CHANGED TO MAKE THE CHILD SUCCESSFUL. To accept a retention decision is, almost literally, to condemn a child to incarceration. No parent should accept a retention decision in which the school, the classroom, the teacher, the principal and everyone in the school has failed to take responsibility for the child’s success in learning.




For more in-depth information, classroom demonstrations, and "coaching" of new and/or experienced teachers, Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK offers:

1. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
2. Cross Cultural Diversity - Multicultural Strategies
3. Effective Instruction for English Learners (L.E.P. students) Parts 1, 2, 3, 4
4. Promoting Academic Success in Language Minority Students
5. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
6. Oral Language / Literacy Skills / Higher Order Thinking Skills
7. 50/50 Dual Language Programs: design, planning and implementation
8. The Structure of English / The Structure of Spanish
9. Transition: Introduction to English Reading

Web Site Programs for Teachers: Numbers 1, 5, 7, 8, and 9.
Web Site Programs for
Paraprofessionals: Number 3.
Web Site Programs for
New Teachers:
Enhanced Cultural Sensitivity - The Challenge of Students Diversity
Identifying / Responding to Students' Language Needs
Phonemic Awareness: Teaching English phonics to L.E.P. students
Relationship Between Reading, Writing and Spelling
Improving Reading Performance -- Building Oral Language Skills)

Write and e-mail any additional questions you may have, and Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will establish with you, your school or district a Technical Assistance Service Contract. Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will answer all your questions promptly and to your satisfaction.


For information and credentials please click on the link below or contact directly:


Educational Consultant, Program Evaluator

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