When is it right to repeat fifth grade before moving on to sixth?

Fifth graders
What are some of the signs that a fifth grader should repeat the year?
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Instead of breezing through her homework, your daughter takes turns doodling on the edge of the page, staring out the window or teasing the cat with her pencil. You've reminded, cajoled and offered assistance. You've even threatened to ban her favorite television show. Yet she struggles to finish her assignments, becomes argumentative and bursts into tears. You both thought fifth grade would be easier than this. And now that enrollment for sixth grade is looming, you're having serious doubts about her progress and some very real concerns about sending her to the next year.

The good news is that you aren't alone in deciding whether your student should repeat fifth grade. Although the responsibility largely rests on your shoulders, most schools have a team of experts, including teachers, counselors and principals, who are ready and willing to make recommendations. In fact, a member of this team may even approach you first.


There are certain educational milestones most children should reach before moving on to sixth grade. During fifth grade, students are asked to read at a grade-appropriate level, and this means they should be able to identify plots, settings and character motivation. They'll also encounter frequent writing assignments for which they'll conduct research and follow grammatical rules to express themselves. In math, fifth grade students work with decimals and fractions, and continue to practice multiplication and division -- all of which are building blocks for algebra. Science assignments include learning about life cycles, and social studies focus on early American history [source: PBS].

If your student struggles in a certain area like reading, securing a tutor or creating a reading routine at home may be enough of a boost. However, if your child hasn't been able to master new curriculum throughout the school year in multiple areas, then it may be time to repeat the fifth grade. If you're unsure, some schools offer grade level testing that can determine your child's overall knowledge of fifth grade material. Keep in mind that there are some indicators best identified by a parent. For example, if your child seems emotionally fragile or immature when compared to her peers, an extra year may make all the difference.

While some emerging research debates the effectiveness of repeating a grade, there are other options. Many schools offer summer courses in key subjects, such as reading, math and science. In addition, private tutoring organizations can work with students to bring them up to speed before the next school year rolls around [source: Stump].

Whether or not your child repeats fifth grade, it will be important to have a plan in place to meet with her teachers and monitor her progress throughout the year. Identifying struggles early on can help you get assistance sooner for your child.


Author's Note

My daughter was the youngest student in her kindergarten class. Although she liked school and was an attentive student, there was just something about reading that didn't click -- and we didn't realize it was an issue until the very last parent-teacher conference of the school year. It was a conversation that changed our focus during the next several months. At home, the entire family wrote sight words on sticky notes and posted them around the house at our daughter's eye level. We set aside ample time to read together each evening and stocked up on early reader books. Above all, we tried to weave reading activities into daily life as we deciphered street signs and menus until -- like many children -- her reading skills seemed to fall into place. Now, at 9, she's an avid reader and shows no signs of stopping.

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  • PBS. "Grade-by-Grade Learning: Fifth Grade." (June 26, 2012) http://www.pbs.org/parents/goingtoschool/what_5.html
  • Stump, Colleen. "Repeating a Grade: The Pros and Cons." (June 26, 2012) http://www.greatschools.org/special-education/health/659-repeating-a-grade.gs?page=all