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A child may be considered for retention if he has poor academic skills, is small in stature, is the youngest in the class, has moved frequently, has been absent repeatedly, does poorly on prescreening assessments or has limited English-language skills (Robertson, 1997). ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education.
Additionally, the typical profile of a retained child is more likely to reveal an elementary school-aged student who is a black or Hispanic male with a late birthday, developmental delay, attentional problems, low socioeconomic status, single-parent household with a parent who either does not or cannot intervene on behalf of the child (Robertson, 1997; Mattison, 2000).
Those rates could rise in the coming years, since 16 states and the District of Columbia have enacted policies requiring that students who do not demonstrate basic reading proficiency when they first take state tests in third grade be held back.
Florida has been the model for states adopting these policies; in 2002, it mandated that low-scoring third graders be retained and receive remedial services.
Does repeating a grade help — or hurt — a student’s long-term academic progress?
New research from Harvard Graduate School of Education professor Martin West tells a nuanced and evidence-based story about grade retention, finding that — contrary to critics’ fears — repeating third grade does not reduce students’ chances of completing high school.“At least in Florida, we can now definitively show the absence of negative effects."Test-based retention in third grade improved student performance in Florida.“It is important to note that we are not saying that the students who were retained in Florida were clearly better off as a result,” says West.For example, the results showed that third grade retention had no effect on the likelihood that a student would enroll in post-secondary education.But retention has been the subject of longstanding debate.Those in favor believe that low-performing students stand to benefit from the opportunity for more instruction and services.Such policies aim to provide incentives for educators and parents to help low-performing students improve their skills before third grade.More work is needed to understand the extent to which these policies achieve that goal, he says.Along with colleagues Guido Schwerdt and Marcus Winters, West used administrative data to study the causal effect of third grade retention under Florida’s test-based promotion policy on student outcomes through high school.They found that retention in third grade had large positive effects on reading and math achievement in the short run.The difficulties can be appreciated at the organizational level, as well as inside the classroom and, most troubling, within the individual students. The research evidence on the effects of grade retention. The consequences, both positive and negative, reverberate throughout the school system.