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Texas parents can now choose to hold their children back a grade because of pandemic disruptions. The Legislature empowered families to have the ultimate say on retentions and “COVID redshirting.” See highlights below to learn about this new consideration and possibility, based on the personal life experience of commissioner, Mike Morath. From a testing standpoint, COVID redshirting could result in an influx of students repeating last year’s test.

The Option

  • Texas education commissioner, Mike Morath, recognizes how the pandemic has hurt kids’ learning.
  • Morath personally considered the possibility of having his child repeat a grade to make up for COVID-19 disruptions. 
  • Texas has a new law empowering parents to make that call.
    • Parents of elementary and middle school-age kids can alert their campus officials that they wish to have their children held back a grade.
    • High school students are allowed to repeat a course.
    • Should school administration disagree with the parents’ choice, they must convene a committee for a hearing.
  • The agency released guidance for parents on what they should consider, such as social factors, especially for the state’s youngest learners.


  • More children were missing from the early grades than in any other across Texas.
    • Roughly 75,000 fewer pre-kindergartners and kindergartners were enrolled in public schools in January 2021 vs. 2019. 
    • Some describe parents’ choice to not enroll their child as “COVID redshirting.”
  • Students who enrolled in kindergarten last year but had difficulty because of pandemic disruptions or struggled in virtual learning, may benefit from this option.
  • Repeating kindergarten would give students who need it more practice with interacting with other children in school and learning how to behave in a classroom.

The Risk

  • Some researchers warn of a potential “kindergarten bubble” that could cause larger class sizes, with a wide gap between students’ ages and academic readiness.
  • It’s unclear whether local schools will experience it as kindergarten is not mandatory in Texas.
  • Getting the word out to parents in a timely fashion is a fairly huge challenge.

What Research Shows

  • The equity implications of this policy are also unknown. Historically, researchers found that white boys from higher-income families are more likely to be “redshirted.”
  • The state education agency also acknowledges that research on repeating a grade is “mixed.”
  • 2018 study from the Texas A&M University College of Education and Human Development, for example, found that students who are held back in elementary school are more likely to drop out of high school. It can also lead to issues with self-esteem.
  • The research we know on grade retention isn’t very positive, but is in a much different context than what’s rolling out with the COVID situation.


  • Students who struggle academically next year are supposed to get much more support at school thanks to an influx of federal funding and mandated tutoring.
  • State officials don’t have an estimate of how popular they expect the choice to hold back students will be.
  • When making decisions, parents should keep in mind both the general research AND the specifics of their student’s situation.

Full article here.

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