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Tell your legislator to help kids in school go forward, not backward

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy  October 8, 2013 04:54 AM

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Having kids repeat grades is a bad idea. There's a bill that can help those kids--but we need your help.

It sounds logical: if a kid has trouble in a grade, have him repeat it--the second time around he'll get it. Except...it doesn't usually work out that way.

Not only does grade retention not actually provide any actual academic benefit to kids (it's not like they necessarily get any extra help when they are kept back), there are clear long-term consequences:
  • Holding students back has been show to hurt students' peer relationships, self-esteem and school attendance
  • Holding students back is linked to behavior problems in children, which get worse as a student reaches adolescence
  • Students who are held back are more likely to drop out.

In Massachusetts, children from low-income neighborhoods, and those who are racial and ethnic minorities are held back at a significantly higher rates than non-minority children from more "privileged" environments (check out this map from Kids Count). This means that the negative effects of being held back are seen and felt more in low-income, urban communities, a disturbing disparity.

There aren't any easy answers to this problem--but we need to do something. That's why my colleagues at Boston Children's Hospital worked with Senator Katherine Clark and other legislators to write a bill that would create a commission to better understand the issue and propose a statewide model policy. If we don't get all the right people together and tackle the problem, it will never go away.

Here's where we need your help. The legislation, S214, "A Resolve to Ensure Student Progression", is being heard by the Joint Committee on Education today, Tuesday, October 8th. Can you contact your legislator, let him or her know that you support it and would like the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Education to release it from committee? You can find out who your legislator is at wheredoivotema.com, and you can use the message created by the Child Advocacy Network.

Help kids go forward in life, not backward.


This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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