Letter from an 8th Grader

Z joined our 8th grade this year. She didn't pass. Despite much intervention, many meetings, etc. Y is a student who passed 8th grade this year. She was very proud. Last year she didn't pass and repeated the grade.

I noticed in the email traffic that Y had written a letter to Z, one 8th grader to another, just cuz she felt like it.

Dear Z,

I want to write this letter to inspire you for next year. I know exactly how you feel because I also got kept back. Last year, in the last days that I had with my friends I spent sometime crying and making cards for the new 6th graders.

I didn’t go to 8th graduation last year for two reasons. First, I wasn’t graduating so I thought there was no point for me to come. I didn’t want to celebrate with others. Second, reason is because that day was my birthday.

My advice is you shouldn’t do what I did. At least come to the graduation to support close friends and cherish the big day with them. I’ve seen you work in tutorial and you’re really smart and you should show that to people, teachers, and tutors. There is nothing wrong with showing people what you’re capable of. There is a reason for everything that happens. I just believe that if you put enough effort next year you will be happier and more successful.

What kept me so positive this year at MATCH and a reason for me to work hard, was my mom. She kept telling me how upset she was and that I had to be a role model for my little sister. Your probably thinking how can I be a role model for my younger brother ZZ? It doesn’t matter that he is a little boy, showing him that doing your homework is important and making your mom happy will teach him important values right there.

My advice to you is not to give up and put effort and most importantly “do you”! Don’t focus on drama/gossiping let everything happen and if it doesn’t involve you, you have no reason to care. Take this chance of repeating, as a 2nd chance to be better and improve.

Next year, I’m going to come to YOUR graduation and when they call YOUR name you’re going to be so happy because you know that you deserved that diploma.

Good luck. Take care.

Millions of kids repeat a grade at some point. It's never a happy moment. And new laws mean more kids will be held back.

From USA Today, via GothamSchools, Jessica Tully writes:

Ohio and North Carolina passed legislation in the past month requiring third-graders to pass a reading test before advancing to fourth grade. They join four other states — Arizona, Indiana, Oklahoma and Florida — with similar policies, said Jaryn Emhof of the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Emhof said more states, including Mississippi and New Mexico, are considering similar laws.


1. Research on this is mixed. One Chicago study by Melissa Roderick showed that retention hurt in Grade 3 and 6. But Brian Jacob also studied Chicago, found that retention there helped in Grade 6 but hurt in Grade 8. I like Brian and think he does good work.

Many older studies -- not controlled ones -- tend to describe harm. Marcus Winters recently published a strong paper showing that Grade 3 retention in Florida for kids who can't read has, in net, helped kids.

2. Anyway, in a small school, large scale research isn't the key determinant anyway. The team's implementation is.

Holds true, I believe, with all sorts of decisions -- class size, length of school day, approach to literacy, tracking, "advisory," dress code, etc. There are usually inherent +/- to any education decision.

Same true of holding kids back. Can be effective if teachers and principal and sometimes counselor work hard on obvious stuff -- massive parent and student communication, trying to tailor their next-year experience to be better, trying to help with September issues as they adjust to new social group.

3. Here is an idea.

Someone should make a movie targeted to students who repeat a grade. And their parents. A hopeful movie. With narratives like the one above. I'm thinking of a series of YouTube clips that would be easy for any teacher, parent, counselor, or principal to use. Many more kids will be held back in coming years. I'm just not aware of many resources to help.