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Dr. Joanne Meier

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Retention attention

June 5, 2007

The Reading Rockets service Ask the Experts gets a lot of questions about a lot of topics. Grade retention is one of the most common question topics, particularly this time of year.

As a teacher, have you considered retaining a student? As a parent, has someone recommended your child not be promoted to the next grade?

The research on grade retention (sometimes called repeating a grade), even in the earliest years of K-2, suggests that retaining kids does little to help them. At least that's the case when students receive little more than the same thing the second year in the grade.

In some situations, a carefully planned and executed intervention delivered during the repeated year by a reading specialist or other professional may produce the types of results teachers and parents hope for.

Below I've compiled some resources that provide you with a chance to read more on the topic.
[*]The National Association of School Psychologists issued a position statement about student grade retention and social promotion. In it, they identify characteristics of students more likely to be retained, and the impact of retention at the secondary school level, late adolescence, and early adulthood. They provide a long list of alternatives to retention and social promotion. Published in 2003.

[*]Shane Jimerson's 2001 paper from School Psychology Review titled "Meta-analysis of Grade Retention Research: Implications for Practice in the 21st Century." From the abstract: This review encourages researchers, educational professionals, and legislators to abandon the debate regarding social promotion and grade retention in favor of a more productive course of action in the new millennium.

[*]A part of a larger study by the National Center for Education Statistics on Elementary Persistence and Progress. From the document: Between 1995 and 2004, the percentage of youth ages 16-19 who had ever been retained decreased; high school dropouts were more likely than high school completers to have been retained in a grade at some point in their school career.

[*]From the North Central Regional Education Laboratory: Beyond Social Promotion and Retention — Five Strategies to Help Students Succeed. This article takes the approach that if we avoid school failure in the first place, there might be less of a reason to consider retention. Specific "strategies" are described, including intensifying learning, providing professional development to assure skilled teachers, expanding learning options, assessing students in a manner to assist teachers, and intervening in time to arrest poor performance.


grade retention has long term psychological effects on leaners who do not receive remedial and differentiated learning and support the year after they have been retained. This usually results in school drop out and lowers the economy of the country as such learners will be facing a bleak future and wont be employed as they do not possess athe necessary skills and qualifications required for a well paying position. Interventions strategies and alternatives to grade retention should be considered.

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