Question: The teacher told me that my son should repeat sixth grade instead of starting middle school in the fall. She feels that he is weak in many of the basic skills. I have fought with him all summer to do schoolwork, but we are not getting anything accomplished. He does not start school until after Labor Day, so there still is time to do some work. Or should I just hold him back? -- Worried Mom
Answer: A sixth-grader does not suddenly develop weak basic skills. This problem has been affecting your son's schoolwork for some time, and it will continue to do so until he gets the help he needs.
Since you only know that your son's skills are weak, it would be a good idea to have him tested to pinpoint exactly what his weaknesses are. Then you can begin to address these problems immediately. Testing could be done through a local university, learning center or a qualified tutor. Also, the school district might be able to help you find someone to test your son.
A tutor could definitely help your son this summer. Keep in mind, however, that your child will continue to need help next year to improve his basic skills -- whether or not he repeats sixth grade. You should also be aware that retention is not usually effective at this grade level.
Try to talk to a school counselor at the middle school before school begins this fall to get help on deciding what the best path for your child is. Your son should be part of this decision.