Here are some tip for schools regarding Arizona Laws on Holding Students Back. The decision to hold back a student is often made in cases where a student is struggling to master basic skills, such as reading, at a rate well below their peers. Retaining a student will serve to allow a student more time to acquire these skills and to take pressure off the student related to the frustration of falling behind their peers in classroom work. Schools must be prepared for handling this issue effectively so as to avoid legal claims and to have a clear policy for handling these concerns across the board. Having an Arizona school attorney help you develop a policy can help significantly.

Basics of Decision-Making Power on Holding Students Back

Historically, this decision was made by the student’s teacher and other staff who would evaluate the student’s performance, in light of their potential for making gains or any other circumstances contributing to the deficiency. If it were determined that the student would benefit educationally from retention, the student would be retained.

What Records and Grades Matter Now?

Arizona law now makes the decision to retain a student subject to test scores attained in the third grade.   §15–701 of the Arizona Revised Statutes states that if a third-grade student who takes the Arizona reading assessment and “falls far below” what is considered the benchmark for satisfactory reading competency the student should be retained.  §15–701 makes the decision to retain one of meeting standards rather than a combination of objective measures and subjective observations of student performance. Students, parents, and administrators should approach this situation with care when it appears that holding someone back is in the student’s best interests.

Why Careful Statute Review is Beneficial

Schools are well advised to be aware of the exemptions contained in the statute, which allow a school to promote a student achieving very poor results on the third-grade Arizona reading assessment. Among exempted students are English Language Learner or Limited English Proficient students with fewer than two years of English instruction; or a student on an (IEP), given that the IEP-team agrees that moving the student on is the right decision.

Lastly, a student who may be currently receiving a referral or evaluation for special education services or a student who diagnosed with a severe reading impairment may not be retained for not meeting the reading benchmark. In the case of underperforming students, schools should proactively monitor students as to their status under this law.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Arizona Laws on Holding Students Back, or other Education Law matters,  please feel free to contact Phil D. Ortega at  480.461.5330, log on to,  or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.