education Archives - Lexercise

Is Grade Retention Effective?

End-of-the-year parent-teacher conferences might reveal that your child is recommended to repeat their grade in the following school year. Grade retention has been a long debated topic in child education. It only makes sense that a child who fails to learn to read and write correctly should repeat it until they get it right…right? Wrong. Most research does not support the effectiveness of grade retention for struggling readers and/or writers.

There are many ways public schools struggle to help children with literacy issues. Notre Dame sociologist Megan Andrew studied and proved “that kids who repeat a year between kindergarten and fifth grade are 60 percent less likely to graduate high school than kids with similar backgrounds, and even 60 percent less likely to graduate high school than siblings in the same family” (Barshay, 2016). Her study didn’t even take into account children with learning disabilities! Can you imagine how much more damaging holding a child back with a learning disability could be? Grade retention will not benefit your child, especially if your child’s struggles are a caused by dyslexia or another learning disability.

Research has also shown “that promotedpicture of elementary school classroom students ha[ve] higher academic achievement, better personal adjustment, and more positive attitudes toward school than retained students d[o]” (David, 2008). Promoting your child forward will keep them with their friends and peers, make them feel capable and keep morals high. That doesn’t mean their struggles just disappear, though. So what do you do?

Instead of trying something over and over again expecting different results, try something different to begin with! Learning disabilities affect 1 in 5 people and those with a learning disability need to be taught using a very different approach than how normal readers are taught. Decades of research, The American Academy of Pediatrics, and The International Dyslexia Association all recommend a Structured Literacy (Orton-Gillingham) method.

Lexercise provides online Structured Literacy therapy that incorporates an expert therapist, daily practice, and parent involvement to guarantee your child’s success. If your child is still struggling and you suspect they might have a learning disability you can screen them in 10 minutes for free HERE.


Barshay, Jill. “New Research Suggests Repeating Elementary School Grades — Even Kindergarten — Is Harmful.” Education By The Numbers. Hechinger Report, 13 Oct. 2014. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.

David, Jane L. “What Research Says About… / Grade Retention.”Educational Leadership: Reaching the Reluctant Learner: Grade Retention. ASCD, Mar. 2008. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.


Davis, B. (2021). Holding Students Back – An Inequitable and Ineffective Response to Unfinished Learning, The Education Trust. 

Goos, M., Pipa, J., Peixoto, F. (2021).  Effectiveness of grade retention: A systematic review and meta-analysis, Educational Research Review,  34, 100401. 

Early Intervention is Necessary to Success

   5 Websites and Tech Tools to Motivate Reading PracticeA study by the University of California, Davis and Yale University suggests that the current emphasis on reading by 3rd grade may be too late. They found that dyslexia should attempt to be identified and addressed as early as pre-K. The research team used a sample from the Connecticut Longitudinal Study who had their reading skills assessed each year from preschool through the 12th grade. Seventy-nine of the sample children were identified as dyslexic based on their scores on assessments given in the 2nd or 4th grade, but the team found that the dyslexic readers had lower scores as early as 1st grade.

boy-and-girl-readingThis new information urges parents and teachers to pay special attention to reading and writing difficulties a child may be facing, earlier than previously suggested. As a dyslexic child gets older without proper intervention, their issues will only hinder them further in their educational performance not to mention their self confidence. Early intervention with children who show signs of dyslexia can make a huge difference later on in their lives.

Here are some tips from The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity for spotting dyslexia at an early age:

  • Observe language development. Pay attention to issues with rhyming, pronunciation and word finding.
  • Observe their ability to connect print to speech.
  • Look into your family history. Children are 50% more likely to be dyslexic if one of their parents is dyslexic.

Remember to focus on the strengths and weaknesses, do not let the weaknesses define your child’s life. If you suspect your child may have dyslexia, you can screen them here. Early intervention is key to your child’s success so please don’t hesitate to call if you suspect your child may have a learning disability: 1-919-747-4557.

Why Public Schools Struggle to Help Kids with Dyslexia

Many parents expect public schools to provide their dyslexic children with timely evaluation and therapy, and these parents often delay getting their kids the help they need until the school acts. Unfortunately, this “wait and hope” approach is rarely effective and has a costly impact on children.

Challenges Parents Encounter to Diagnose their Children at Public Schools

  1. Navigating the public school bureaucracy to secure special attention often takes months or years. Meanwhile, children are falling further behind during the critical early-education period.
  2. Most schools are understaffed and ill-equipped to administer a complete language processing evaluation.
  3. Even if you are able to get your child designated for special education, he or she will typically be taught in a group of children with widely ranging learning challenges, making targeted and specific treatment for dyslexia unlikely.

Dyslexia Help in Public Schools

Every week scores of confused parents call us to discuss how to help their children who are struggling readers and writers. Many of them wonder, “It seems like my child’s school should help him overcome his reading and writing problems. Can’t I just ask them to test him?”

While this seems like an entirely reasonable approach, it just does not work very well in the real world of today’s public schools. In short, your child’s public school is very unlikely to provide the testing or treatment that your bright, dyslexic child needs—no matter how long you wait.


Why Schools Act Slowly—Or Not At All

  • Public school teachers, principals, and staff are well-intentioned, but the system is broken. Most schools don’t have the resources to diagnose and treat dyslexics. Waiting for the school to test and treat your dyslexic child is a “race to the bottom” and an enormous disservice to your language-challenged child.
  • If a teacher notices that your child is having difficulty, the teacher might just say that kids develop at different rates and yours will “catch up.”
  • The school might tell you that your child will be tested in the 3rd grade, so you should just wait until then.


The Risk of Delaying Evaluation and Treatment for your Child

  • By the time your child is far enough behind to qualify for a public school evaluation, you have a bigger problem on your hands. What was a manageable academic challenge for your 1st grader can turn into a significant emotional and social problem by the 3rd grade. You are likely to hear your child say things like, “I’m never going to get this,” “All my friends read better than I do,” “I hate this,” “School is not for me,” “I’m stupid.”
  • Children with dyslexia do not “catch up” without specialized and explicit instruction. Such children don’t “just need a little extra practice” or a tutor; they need a specific type of teaching designed for the unique learning patterns of the dyslexic brain. (This is known as the Orton-Gillingham method.)
  • Smart dyslexic students often treat every word as a sight word and memorize it, instead of using the word’s structure to decode and understand it. School reading assessments are unlikely to pick this up. Later, when these bright dyslexics are in middle and high school with dramatically increased reading and note-taking demands, this memorization strategy will fail them.
  • While you are hoping for dyslexia help from the school, your child is losing ground—falling behind with reading and writing skills that are fundamental to all learning. As the American Federation of Teachers explains in “Waiting Rarely Works: Late Bloomers Usually Just Wilt,” among children who do not get help outside of school “there is nearly a 90 percent chance that a poor reader in first grade will remain a poor reader.”


Common Limitations of School Evaluations

  • The instruments schools and school psychologists most often use to determine eligibility for special education seldom if ever give a diagnosis. Yet, only with a clear diagnosis can you create a roadmap to academic success for your dyslexic student.
  • The psychoeducational evaluation that schools provide looks at IQ and academic achievement to determine if there is a gap between the two. That gap is defined as a “learning disability.” This evaluation will not tell you what’s wrong nor will it suggest what treatment will work best for your child’s individual problem.
  • Intelligent students with dyslexia often test like typically developing readers in the early grades. They can get to third or fourth grade, still testing in the broad average range on psychoeducational measures, yet struggling mightily with basic language processing skills necessary for upper-level literacy. They may never qualify for public school services because their psychoeducational testing scores don’t show the arbitrary “gap.”

Common Limitations of School Intervention and Therapy

  • Your child may be offered special education. Special education typically takes place in a group that is made up of children with conditions as different as dyslexia and brain injury, all taught with the same methods, regardless of the cause of their difficulty.
  • Group teaching (including special education) is less effective than individual therapy since both explanation and practice must be adapted to each child’s level.

The Proactive Alternative to the “Wait & Hope” Approach

  • Your dyslexic child needs the attention of a professional to pinpoint and treat the root causes of his/her reading, writing, and spelling difficulties. Professionals who are qualified to identify dyslexia include specially trained psychologists, speech-language pathologists, and clinical educators. Unfortunately, the goal of public school psychoeducational testing procedures is eligibility for tax-funded services, not diagnosis or treatment planning.
  • It is rewarding to see how dyslexic children thrive and excel once they are properly identified and offered effective individualized treatment. The child who “hated” reading is now reading beyond her grade level; the child who refused to do homework is now eager to write reports. Have a look at what parents say about their child’s experience.

If you do decide to pursue the school route, please see Part 2 of this article which provides a visual for this process. However, here is a better way of helping your child.

If you are concerned about your child’s reading, writing, or spelling, administer the free online dyslexia screening test. And if there’s a risk,  call us so we can connect you with a qualified professional to determine the causes of your child’s struggles and start an individualized treatment plan. No matter where you live or how busy your schedule is, your child can be assessed and treated individually, online, and face-to-face by the clinical educators at Lexercise.


On Teachers and Teaching

When I attended the North Carolina Alliance for Public Charter Schools Conference this summer, I heard an informative talk by Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). Based in Washington, D.C., the NCTQ “advocates for reforms in a broad range of teacher policies at the federal, state and local levels in order to increase the number of effective teachers.”

Kate had a lot of interesting things to say about how teachers are not being preparedteacher-classroom to teach reading in a way that aligns with “the science of reading,” such as research-based practices and an “explicit, systematic approach” to reading instruction. An earlier NCTQ report, What Education Schools Aren’t Teaching about Reading and What Elementary Teachers Aren’t Learning, explains, “Over the last 60 years, scientists from many fields including psychology, linguistics, pediatrics, education, neurobiology, and even engineering have been studying the reading process. This science of reading has led to a number of breakthroughs that can dramatically reduce the number of children destined to become functionally illiterate or barely literate adults. By routinely applying the lessons learned from the scientific findings to the classroom, most reading failure could be avoided.”

In a subsequent exchange, Kate invited Lexercise to visit and share materials offered in the NCTQ newsletter and on PDQ, the NCTQ blog. Several weeks ago, Kate posted a blog entry, Loving children is not enough, in which she notes the generally low admission requirements for teacher education programs and the increasing public sentiment (as shown in a new PDK/Gallup Poll) for “more rigorous entrance requirements for teacher preparation.”

A couple of days later, NCTQ published another post in which teachers reflect upon What we wish we had known. While this post is entirely subjective, it suggests some of the shortcomings of training and the range of challenges met by teachers on their first day in the classroom. Significantly, the first comment comes from teacher Sandi Jacobs, who begins, “I wish I had known how to help kids learn how to read.” The next comment, from Katie Moyers, begins, “I wish I’d known more about how to diagnose and then address early literacy and basic math needs.”

In May, NCTQ issued What Teacher Preparation Programs Teach About K-12 Assessment, a report co-authored by Julie Greenberg and Kate Walsh. It emphasizes the importance of teachers learning to interpret student performance data on all kinds of assessments and examines the success of teacher training programs in readying teachers to do so.

While we know that classroom teachers are not trained or qualified to diagnose language-processing disorders such as dyslexia, they are often the first ones to notice when a child struggles to read, write or spell. The more skilled a teacher is at teaching reading, the more sensitive she or he will be to the problems encountered by reading-challenged children, and, we would hope, the more eager to find effective intervention.

If your child has difficulty reading, writing, or spelling, Lexercise can help. Take a look at our Online Dyslexia Testing and Treatment page or contact us at or 1-919-747-4557.