Can You Get Held Back in High School?

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Are you worried about failing too many classes and being held back in high school? Are you concerned about the negative impacts of repeating a class in high school? If you answered years to any of the above questions, you are in the right place. This article will focus on everything you should know about being held back in high school.

Yes, you can be held back in high school. However, depending on your state of residence, failing one or two classes may not necessarily hold you back. Apart from academic performance, however, there are other reasons you can repeat a grade, and this article will review some of those reasons. Read on to find out the benefits of holding a kid back in school, as well as what can be done to avoid it.

What is it Like to Be Held Back in High School?What is it Like to Be Held Back in High School?

Otherwise known as grade retention or getting left back, being held in high school is a practice that has gained popularity over time. Simply put, it is a practice of holding students back in high school for different reasons. More often than none, students get held back for failing too many causes. There are also other reasons students get held back, and we will discuss some of them in another part of this article. Over time, we’ve experienced a dramatic change in what the term is used to represent.

Decades ago, schools held back students for failing two or more courses in a single grade. However, even that has changed. The concern for the negative impacts of this practice on students soon forced parents and teachers to change the outlook of grade retention. The solution was to promote students irrespective of their academic performance, leaving only frequently absent students to be held back. By 1980, the popularity of the practice surged throughout the school districts of the United States, and the practice of holding back students for their academic performance was reinstated.

The 2002 No Child Left Behind Act signed by the US government caused the retention rate to increase drastically. The bill’s original goal was to improve the standard of education, although it also focused on accountability and flexibility.

Despite staying this long, there are still some noticeable disparities between how the policies are interpreted by the state and individual districts. Some schools even prefer to send students that fail multiple courses to summer school as a way to avoid class retention. A student might also get held back if their parents and teachers agree that they do not meet up to speed with the required reading level. Such students would repeat the level to catch up with the reading level required of them.

3 Reasons Why Students Get Held Back in High School

3 Reasons Why Students Get Held Back in High School

Despite the popularity of grade retention, students still escape it with the right efforts. However, if your school is considering making you repeat a year, then there may be some reasons for it. One of the most popular reasons a school may recommend grade retention for a high school student is a perceived lagging behind in academic ability. This means that a school can recommend that you repeat a grade if you do not show the potential of doing well in the next grade. Beyond that, however, there are several other reasons why a school may recommend grade retention. Check them out:

A student’s academic struggle

A school will most likely recommend grade retention if a student struggles to keep up with the academic ability needed to get through the grade. The whole idea is that the extra year will help the student catch up in the areas that he/she is lagging behind. Going through the same academic works for a second time will help the students’ understanding capacity.

Age factor

Often, students repeat a high school class because they are perceived to be too young or socially immature to handle what the next class will throw at them. An extra year in a class will help a student catch up with the maturity level needed for the next class.

Excessively absent from school

Another reason why a school will recommend class repetition for a student is their continuous absence from school. Most schools have a fixed attendance percentage for students to move to the next class. Failure to meet up to the set percentage would often mean that the student would have to repeat the class. Some schools adopt summer schooling for students that do not meet the required attendance amount due to genuine reasons.

Some states also have retention laws that stop kids from moving to the next class if they don’t have certain skills. You can ask your school to be sure about how your state handles this issue.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Repeating a Grade?

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Repeating a Grade?

Don’t just focus on the negatives; remember that there’s a good side to it too. It can be depressing knowing that you’ll have to repeat a class in high school, but there are positives to it. Understanding the advantages of grade retention will help you leverage them for the best. Below, check out the advantages and disadvantages of repeating a grade in high school.


  • Enough time to make up for missed classes. Missing school work for long can have negative impacts on a student’s academic development. Schools understand that even if a student narrowly escapes failing the class, they’ll find it challenging to cope with the pace of the next class. However, repeating the class helps them to catch up with all the lessons they might have missed during their time of absenteeism.
  • Helps struggling students to catch up with school works. Different classes require different mental capacity levels to succeed, and without having the required level of mental capacity, a student may struggle in a class. Therefore, repeating the class for a second time when they are mentally ready will benefit them.
  • Helps developmentally immature students. Educational experts often recommend the average age for different classes. Failure to reach these ages might mean mental immaturity to handle the academic works of such class. However, for certain reasons, a student might get to a particular class before reaching the recommended age for that class. If the academic struggle is as a result of this, then such a student would need to repeat the class.

Grade retention offers students with behavioral issues enough time to make corrections and adjust to the required behavior before moving to the next class.


Like every other thing, repeating a grade has its disadvantages. It’s also important to know the disadvantages of repeating a year in high school so that you’ll know how to handle it properly. Some of the popular disadvantages include:

  • It might feel challenging having to learn with a new set of students. Socially reclusive students would struggle more.
  • Grade retention increases the risk of dropping out of high school. Repeating classes more than once can discourage a student from continuing with school.
  • Failure to adopt a different learning approach can make the whole process counterproductive.

How Many Times Can You Be Held Back in High School?

Different factors combine to determine the number of times a student gets held back in high school. However, state policies play a significant role in deciding this. Most states recommend that a student be held back in high school until they decide to let them go. Therefore, most schools will hold back students if at least one of the following does not happen.

  • The child does not graduate from high school, therefore allowing circumstances to hold him/her back from earning a high school diploma.
  • For any reason, the student decides to drop out of school. We’ve seen several cases where students get discouraged due to several grade retention and decide to drop out.
  • The student surpasses the maximum age limit recommended for a particular class.
  • If the student does not measure up in terms of intellectual capacity needed to graduate from high school.

Apart from the above reasons, a school can also decide to hold a student back in high school if they think that they are yet to meet up to the standard set for graduating from high school. With the state playing a significant role in deciding how long a student can be held back in high school, it is difficult generalizing. Therefore, if you want to be sure about this, we recommend that you check with your district’s education board or make inquiries from your school to know.

How Many Classes Would a High Schooler Fail in Order to Get Held Back?

How Many Classes Would a High Schooler Fail in Order to Get Held Back?

High schools operate on a slightly different principle from middle school, so students will only be held back due to not earning enough credit to move on. Therefore, a student can escape grade retention, even if they fail one or two classes. Usually, such students would be required to attend summer school to retake the failed class or take it the following semester.

For a clear understanding, think of the credit system in this manner. If a school requires students to earn 42 credits over four years, passing all your freshman year classes would mean about 12 credits.

Now, assuming you fail seven classes during your sophomore year and earn five credits, your total credit will be 17. To graduate with your mates, you’ll need to use the remaining two years to earn 25 credits. But two years only allow you to earn a maximum of 24 credits, so you’ll need to either repeat a grade or take summer classes to make up for the missing credit. This clearly shows that the only time you might be liable for grade retention is if you need to make up more than a few credit in a semester.

However, as explained earlier, these policies differ slightly across different states. Some schools prefer to give one credit per year instead of the popular one credit per semester. Knowledge of your school’s particular system will help you know how to avoid being held back in high school.

How to Prevent Being Held Back in High School?

How to Prevent Being Held Back in High School?

Having answered the question “how many times can you repeat a grade in high school,” you’ll want to know how you can prevent being held back in high school. You don’t have to panic. You won’t be repeating grade levels in high school if you do what’s right.

The real way to avoid repeating a year in high school is to address any issues or concerns from the start. If you are struggling with understanding any class, then you’ll need to pay more attention to it because many subsequent classes will be built upon your knowledge of this one. Hire an extra teacher if possible, and pay more attention during classes.

Talk to your parents/guardians and make them see the reasons why they should support you more. If you are a parent, you also need to talk to your child and help them know why they should put in their best at all times. Additionally, you’ll need to work closely with their teachers to ensure that there is no problem beyond their capability. Most teachers are eager to help students succeed and would offer recommendations and advice that will work.

On the teacher’s part, he/she is supposed to contact the student’s parents when needed to discuss how they can help the student succeed. The primary aim of the conversation is to keep the parents abreast of a student’s performance and offer recommendations that will help motivate the student to study more.

At home, parents should learn to teach their children. If they can’t, then hiring a private tutor is highly recommended. Every effort should be based on a strategic plan that guarantees to address the student’s academic struggle. If parents are not sure about what plans they can develop, they should seek advice from the school or an education expert on steps to take.

Wrapping Things Up: Can You Get Held Back in High School?

Yes, you can get held back in high school based on specific reasons. However, you shouldn’t be paranoid, considering that you can avoid circumstances that lead to repeating grades. All you need is determination and dedication to hard work. The principles highlighted in this article would help you avoid grade retention.

Bear in mind, however, that the law on holding back a student varies from state to state, and the goal is generally to help a student catch up on knowledge needed to graduate from high school. With everything we’ve discussed in this article, you can rest assured that you are fully equipped to walk through high school without repetition. However, if you have to repeat for any reason, do not feel bad. Pick the positives and move on for the better.

If you find this helpful, you might want to check out our post that talks about getting held back in middle school here.

You’ll love our other high school study tips. Check them out below:

> How Do Valedictorians Study?

> How Many Hours Do You Need to Study in High School?

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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