Early grade retention is one of the most powerful predictors of dropping out of school.

The short-term benefits of retention appear to dissipate in the years following the retention, report researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Most parents and even many teachers do not know of this link between retention and dropping out.

Since there is frequently a gain in the year following retention, teachers often view holding
a child back as a way to give him an extra year to grow and mature. However, surveys reveal that teachers and principals believe retained students continue to be undermotivated and developmentally immature. Since most elementary teachers don’t follow their students’ progress into high school, they are not aware of poor later outcomes for retained students.

Research in the past decade suggests that the popular belief that it is better to retain
a child in kindergarten or first grade rather than in the upper grades is unfounded. Students retained early show no gains relative to their peers who received social promotions. These researchers encourage educators to consider both the short-term and long-term outcomes associated with all early-intervention strategies, including retention.

The current emphasis on accountability has led to increased pressures for retention of students who score below grade level. Although retention, by itself, is not the single event that leads to dropping out, it has a significant negative impact on children’s success in school. Researchers recommend that research findings relating to retention be clearly communicated to teachers and educational policy makers in order to inform decision making.

“Winning the Battle and Losing the War: Examining the Relation Between Grade Retention and Dropping Out of High School,” Psychology in the Schools, Volume 3, Number 4, July 2002, pp. 441-457.

Published in ERN October 2002 Volume 15 Number 7

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)