“It depends” is not the answer you want, but that’s the best I can do. Let’s look at some of the factors you should consider.
- Is your child doing poorly in reading only? Is he struggling to read but doing fine in math, for example? This kind of disconnect could signal a particular learning problem with reading. He might need a reading specialist or a tutor to work with him in first grade so that he can catch up to his classmates.
- Is he performing at a mediocre level in reading, math and most kindergarten skills? If so, he might not be intellectually ready to move on to first grade. Kids’ brains develop at different rates just like their bones do. An extra year to grow can make a great difference in a child’s ability to learn.
- Is your son one of the youngest children in the class? Younger children in a kindergarten or first grade class sometimes are immature compared to their classmates. Their attention span is less. They have more difficulty sitting still. They are more impulsive. If your son was barely old enough for kindergarten, chances are that he is barely old enough for first grade too.
- Is he showing signs of stress? Is he more babyish than his classmates, more apt to cry or sulk when things go wrong? Our emotions grow at various rates too. A student with good self-esteem will be better able to weather poor grades in reading and not blame himself compared to an insecure student.
- Did your son miss school often because of sickness, moving, or problems at home? Is he depressed? How motivated is he to learn?
- What are the expectations of the kindergarten curriculum at the end of the year? (You can go online to find out your state’s curriculum requirements.) Has he met them? Kindergarten reading skills provide a base for first grade reading skills. Will CVC phonics be taught in first grade or will it be reviewed quickly with the expectation that students already know that?
- Does your son’s school have a strong intervention plan and well trained teachers for outliers like your son? If so, how will it be determined if your son meets the criteria for this special learning? And when will the intervention begin—in September or in January?
- Does your state have mandatory third grade retention laws, so that if your son is still doing poorly at the end of third grade, he would be forced to repeat that grade?
- Do you have the time or the ability to work with your son to catch him up? If so, can you commit to this teaching, knowing your son will fight you? If not, do you have the money for a tutor to catch him up while he moves into first grade?
- Is there a younger sibling? Will both children be in the same grade if the older child repeats? If the older child continues to do poorly, will his family status be threatened? Will his younger sibling become a star in comparison?
- Are grandparents pressuring you one way or the other? If so, how knowledgeable are they about your son’s skills? Is their status threatened if your son repeats a grade?
- Can you talk to teachers who know your child well or who have taught kindergarten or first grade, educators who can give you first hand advice?
When you weigh all these factors, one is most important: What is best for my child?