Pondering your child’s academic future after school closures and remote learning?

Posted by Andrew Weller, Dean of Enrollment and Strategic Marketing on Nov 4, 2020 6:24:24 PM
Andrew Weller, Dean of Enrollment and Strategic Marketing

Wondering what you can do to fill in learning gaps to keep your child on a college prep trajectory? You are not alone. One solution to consider is reclassifying.

We anticipate a greater number of reclassifications to occur across elementary, middle and high schools grades this year. Each year, we have about a handful of students who choose to reclassify as they enroll. We are experienced with guiding students through transitions and setting them on a path for achieving their full learning potential. Many private schools are uniquely positioned and experienced to offer this extra support. Let’s take a look at why reclassifying versus repeating a grade is a good solution—perhaps even a gift—to solidify their academic aspirations or even accelerate them.

Why do some schools call it repeating and other schools call it reclassifying? Let’s first talk about definitions, because words matter.

MS boys Math class social distancingMany think of ‘repeating’ a year of school likely at the same public school versus ‘reclassifying’ at a new school—oftentimes a private school. For example, a ninth grade student with an original graduation target year of 2024 would be reclassified to the 2025 graduating class. Reclassifying is not unusual and does not have the same stigma as repeating implies. In fact, we know that reclassifying is often more about an external event that has impacted your child—the previous school’s lack of rigor, a significant family change, or extenuating circumstances. 

“Repeating” tends to have a negative connotation for both students and parents. “You didn’t do sixth grade well enough. You have to repeat that grade and do it all over again.” Meanwhile, your child watches their friends move on while they are left behind.  In public school for example, where the curriculum is set according to state standards, it would likely be an actual repeat of the year. Doing the same content material all over again—reading the same books, conducting the same science labs, going on the same field trips and possibly having the same teachers. Repeating may have merit for some students, yet comes with a set of challenges—notably, the stigma with friends, self-esteem, and boredom. It is difficult to get a child enthusiastic about learning by doing the same work over again. A reason to consider moving to a private school to reclassify is that the year would be different. It is a fresh start and a good reason to be enthusiastic about learning. A student can enter a new school in the same grade and have an entirely new and positive experience—new books, new labs, new teachers, and new field trips. You’re not repeating much of anything while also getting a fresh start to hit the ground running.

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MS Girls Math class in-person during CovidSo, when should parents consider reclassifying their child? Sometimes that conversation is initiated by the school but often by the family. Parents of young students with a late summer or an early fall birthday wrestle with when it’s right to enter kindergarten. Sometimes parents feel that they pulled that trigger too soon all those years ago when emotional maturity is less obvious than physical dexterity. When considering enrolling a child in private school, parents may want to discuss if this is the best time for the aforementioned reasons to address whether now is a good time to add the gift of another year. Sometimes it is your prospective new school who will make the suggestion to reclassify. While you know your child best, the school knows the demands of its program—whether it be in kindergarten, middle years or high school—and the peer group of other students your child will join. Be open to the idea if it’s raised and know it’s in the best interest of your child.  

When thinking about reclassifying as you enter a private school, it’s helpful to remember—and to remind your child—that they are choosing your child. A school that requires meeting admission standards doesn’t have to offer enrollment. No matter who initiates the conversation, if the school offers admission and welcomes your family to the community, the school is proclaiming that they believe in the ability and promise of your child and that the school will be better for having your family in it. They are choosing your child! No stigma there.

Reclassifying at a private school is often a good solution when external events have impeded your child’s ability to learn well enough to move to their next academic challenge. For example, the previous school curriculum was not rigorous, the learning environment was too distracting or other extenuating circumstances (such as health issues, a pandemic, or natural disaster). Reclassifying often means that your child’s previous school year did not fully prepare them for the rigor of the next grade in school. A child can actually have very strong grades and still may be invited to reclassify because the school did not provide them an equivalent experience that sets them up for success in a particular private school. As an example, if you’re considering a school where the math curriculum is Algebra II, your child will not succeed as well if their former school didn’t teach them Algebra I.  

In person learning on Middle School campusSo, other than setting up students for academic success (although isn’t that a good enough reason?), what are other benefits to reclassifying? In addition to just academic success, reclassifying can allow for academic acceleration. In areas where a student is strong, they can move ahead. The extra year of school then means, for example, making it to one level higher in a language than they would have otherwise, which always helps when applying to colleges! Reclassifying also means a more mature, independent and focused student, better ready to handle what’s next. For student-athletes, it means another year of training and being a bit bigger and stronger, both of which will serve them well in school and when considering college athletics.

Finally, while reclassifying is sometimes about the immediate next year, many times it is also about the future. While the typical child might not be able to imagine life beyond this year (or maybe even next Thursday!), as adults we can see that reclassifying is about setting them up for future success in the years to come. Often a parent need only ask themself, “Do I see my child ready to enter high school (or college) in two years from now?” The gift of an extra year and its long-term benefits becomes immediately evident! The idea of one more year before that next big step is often a great relief to a family.

Topics: become ready, Kindergarten, Looking at private schools, choosing a school, Upper School, Academics, Middle School

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